Challenges Round out Your Knowledge and Diversify Your Experience

Interview with IdeaConnection problem solver Judi Krzyzanowski
By Paul Arnold
Environmental scientist Judi Krzyzanowski is the owner and principle investigator of Krzyzanowski Consulting. The Canada-based firm specializes in air quality and cumulative effects, including climate change.

Judi was recently awarded $9,000 for a prior art citation search (PACS) with IdeaConnection. The seeker was after a particular type of plant imaging technology. In this interview Judi talks about how she located what the seeker was looking for.


They were asking to find a technology for imaging plants that would allow identification of certain diseases on soybeans. There was a patent they referred to in the challenge that mentioned a technology that use various wavelengths of light and was able to image particular parts of cells and moisture levels. But they did not know where the technology came from or what specific technology they were using. They had apparently searched the scientific literature and existing patents and had not found anything.

How did you go about looking for it?

I’m very good at searching and finding things and I started searching some of the thesis data bases, because they suspected it might be in a graduate thesis. I found a thesis from the University of McGills that seemed to use the technology that sounded a lot like the description in the patent.

Was that the end of the search?

Well, I searched for quite a while, but when I came across this thesis it seemed to me that it was fitting the particular challenge, and I wrote it up and sent it in. I continued looking to see if there were other technologies or more appropriate technologies, but I wasn’t able to find anything else. And I won the challenge which was a very cheerful occasion.

Did you do anything when you found out you had won?

I did a dance of joy actually. The money will be very helpful.

Let me just ask you about your background. What are you working on?

My work concerns air pollution and climate and I also conduct some independent agriculture research. I’ve been working on developing new organic systems for farmers to be able to get off the cycle of chemicals and things like that. That’s a pet project, but I mostly work in fields of climate change and air pollution, looking at impacts on the environment and human health of certain activities. I particularly work in the field of oil and gas quite a bit, and sometimes I work with communities and first nations as well as the government.

Doing what sort of things? If I worked for a government authority what would I be coming to you for?

Often, it's report writing or assessment methods. For example, how to set up a monitoring system for a new plant or how to steer policy in the right direction based on our current knowledge of nitrogen deposition, that sort of thing.

How did you get into the field?

My undergraduate degree was in environmental science and then I went to the University of British Columbia to do a master’s degree, and then I ended up doing a PhD on cumulative impacts of air pollution in northeast BC. And I continue to work with people in northeast BC quite a bit. I sit on a few boards and I work with communities there.

Also, I like the idea of being my own boss. While I was finishing my PhD, I actually started a food company to try to keep supporting my life through my PhD. I like the freedom of being my own boss, but then again you sacrifice freedom for security a little bit sometimes.

Getting back to IdeaConnection, have you been involved in any other challenges?

I have just worked on a team challenge and we’re yet to hear whether or not any of our solutions have been accepted. As a team we were able to devise four different possible solutions.

Did you find it a rewarding exercise?

Oh yes I think so. It’s always nice when you go a little bit outside of your field and try to develop something you haven’t thought of before. I love challenges and problem solving and things like that and it really does help to round out your knowledge and diversify your experience. I read a lot of literature on areas that I wouldn’t normally have read. It’s good once you have finished your formal education to keep learning new things and tackling concepts and issues that you wouldn’t normally do necessarily in your regular professional or recreational time.

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