University of Chicago Big Ideas Generator

Our Team

Elena Zinchenko

Director of Research Innovation

Research Development Support, Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories

I love research for its systematic capacity for surprise and beauty. It is also a framework for how to challenge the status quo - something that I have been engaged in my whole life.

Growing up in Northern Siberia, I tried to change the way things were done – I did it by co-founding some of the first non-profit organizations in the area. After coming to the US on a scholarship, I worked with hi-tech startups to push forward the adoption of new technologies. I went to graduate school because cognitive science is reframing some age-old philosophical views about the relation between the mind and the brain. For my doctorate, I studied abstract thinking development in children, and in my post-doctoral studies I worked on determining the brain activation signatures that support metaphoric thinking across lifespan.

The Big Ideas Generator is a novel way to support fledging research ideas that are ambitious and iconoclastic. It speaks to my intellectual passions and my impatience about making things better and more fun.

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science, Booth School of Business
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Chicago
  • Ed.D. Human Development and Psychology, Harvard University

Sarah Kirstine Lain

Assistant Director of Research Innovation

Research Development Support, Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories

A lifelong learner, I came to research because I found inquiry to be a rich foundation for generating programs that inform society, industry, and human thought. My passion is process-oriented development for projects that drive connections in creative, scientific, and computational thinking. For the past decade, my background has entailed development work in academia, software development, and simulation engineering industries. Formerly at Canadian Aviation Electronics, I managed global defense industry proposals for flight, ground, and emergency simulation training systems. I have also been a technical writer in learning and enterprise resource management software industries and have taught business, technical, and creative writing courses at the Art Institute of Tampa. Most recently at the UChicago Research Computing Center, I managed NSF, NIH, and NIJ research proposals for Principal Investigators in Molecular Engineering, Chemistry, Radiology, Geophysical Sciences, Linguistics, Social Sciences, and the National Labs. I hold a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University, and in my (theoretical) downtime, I edit a poetry publication called Poems2go, located in over thirty strategic public spaces across the U.S.