Being a scientist myself I lean hard toward the Vernian tradition of Science-Ficiton. I spend many hours and day researching the smallest details. Some were fairly easy to track down if not apply. There is a vicious alien virus eating the iron out of the hero's blood? Call up the local ND/MD and ask what the symptoms would look like. Faster than light travel is still trickier of course. I copped out of the more complex tech and went for wormholes but was still able to find current research that allowed me to hypothesize a functional wormhole generation device.
Over this series of articles I will detail where I got the inspiration for many of the science points in my book "Dying Embers" and where I just wave my hands and let the fiction part of Science-Fiction do it's work.