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Doctoral graduate develops toolkit for culturally sustainable design

May 7, 2013

Tejas Dhadphale is discovering how to merge disciplines and ideas to help businesses compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace.

One innovative trend in a world of emerging markets, shorter product lifecycles and increasing worldwide competition is “sustainable product development.” Download Full Image

Yet even sustainable products can lack a key element that will ensure the success of a new product, says Dhadphale, who is receiving his doctoral degree in Design, Environment and the Arts from Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“Sustainable product development focuses mainly on environmental issues, and to a certain extent on social and economic aspects,” he says. “Unfortunately, companies often fail to deal with the cultural dimension.”

The goal of culturally sustainable design is to develop products that embody and enrich a particular way of life or culture, says Dhadphale.

While doing his dissertation research in India, Dhadphale was surprised to see limited penetration for modern and multinational retailers in India.

“Modern retailers fail to resonate with the cultural practices of daily shopping, specifically among Indian women. India consumers equally value personal relationships, trust, and informal communication with retailers.”

Since many cultures resist homogenization or the one-size-fits-all sameness of mass-produced products, Dhadphale’s goal is to create a toolkit for designers to develop culturally appropriate products and services. In his studies, he drew from multiple disciplines, including design, anthropology and sustainability.

“Apart from design, I have taken classes in socio-cultural anthropology, material culture, justice studies, visual ethnography and education,” he says. “I have also shared my work with faculty from diverse disciplines, including communications, social justice and education, and received constructive feedback.”

“I feel that the interdisciplinary nature of my program has helped me to develop an empathetic relationship with other disciplines. Over the years, I have made some wonderful friends across different disciplines."

After growing up in Pune, India, Dhadphale received a bachelor degree from B.K.P.S. College of Architecture in India. When he decided to acquire a graduate degree, he applied to and was accepted at two design schools in India and three U.S. universities, including ASU.

When it came to a decision, Dhadphale chose ASU because of its highly ranked programs in the Design School, as well as the quality of faculty research.

“I was looking for a research-intense degree rather than a drawing skill,” he says.

Dhadphale credits Prasad Boradkar, an associate professor in The Design School and director of Innovation Space, as a mentor who gave him exceptional support and guidance. His other committee members reflect the variety of input he solicited for his project, including Jacques Giard, a professor in industrial Design, and Benjamin Broome, a professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

“The entire faculty at The Design School has been extremely supportive of my work,” says Dhadphale. I am also extremely grateful for the support I received from the Graduate College, which awarded me a Completion Fellowship for my final semester, and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) for their continuing support. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their unwavering and unconditional support.”

As he graduates with his doctorate, he plans to pursue a career in academia that will allow him to express his passion for design, research and teaching.

“I want to open the world of design to a multitude of perspectives and disciplines.”

Editor Associate, University Provost

Algae researchers partner to create health products

May 7, 2013

The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at Arizona State University and the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3) are working with Health Enhancement Products, Inc (HEPI). to advance the science behind algae-based health and wellness products like vitamins and food chemicals.

HEPI, headquartered in Michigan, investigates and licenses high-value bioactive molecules derived from algae that benefit human and animal health. Algae photobioractors at AzCATI Download Full Image

AzCATI serves as a national testbed for research, testing and commercialization of algae-based products – including biofuels, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and other algae biomass co-products. Located on the ASU Polytechnic campus, the center provides open test and evaluation facilities for the algae industry and research community. The center can assess the performance of individual and combined unit operations across the algal value chain. AzCATI is embedded within ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation and is part of the LightWorks initiative, supported by ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

AzCATI leads the ATP3 consortium with support from national labs and academic and industrial partners including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Sandia National Laboratories, Cellana LLC, Touchstone Research Laboratory, Valicor Renewables, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, and Commercial Algae Management. 

ATP3 is funded by a competitive grant from the Bioenergy Technologies Office within the U.S. Department of Energy. The ATP3 collaborative is a network of regional test-beds designed to empower knowledge creation and dissemination within the algal research community, accelerate innovation, and support growth of the nascent algal fuels industry.  

For many years, algal technology has focused on lipids such as DHA and EPA for health applications, and on oils for use as biofuels. To date, only a handful of high-value bioactives are farmed from algae, astaxanthin in particular, and affordable biofuel remains elusive. After a decade of sustained investment and scientific progress, a wealth of technology and expertise has been created. That expertise is perfectly positioned to vault algae to the forefront of high-value bioactive production.

HEPI, realizing that algae is an optimal platform for developing high-value bioactive molecules, established a grow and test facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., that for the past several years has been developing unique, proprietary algae-derived substances. Many of those substances have been studied to confirm safety and health benefits before being licensed to manufacturers. Once those substances were isolated and validated, the Scottsdale facility was relegated to research feedstock production. The newly formed relationship with AzCATI has rendered the Company’s internal grow facility redundant, and it has been closed as of April 30, 2013. The company’s proprietary cultures were transferred to AzCATI, and representative samples have been sent to one of the ATP3 partners, the University of Texas at Austin, for cryogenic preservation. Viable cultures have also been transferred to the National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA) for metabolic studies. The NCMA is a research institute organized under the auspices of the Bigelow Laboratories, located in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

“These partnerships give us access to world-class algae experts and facilities,” said HEPI CEO Andrew Dahl. “Moving the cultures to the AzCATI/ ATP3 site and to the NCMA labs opens up a vastly broader range of  scientific  capabilities and expertise and provides access to a  tremendous network of development and production partners all while realizing substantial cost savings. The AzCATI/ATP3 partnership in particular helps us accelerate the process of going to market.”

“There are a several key steps in the algae value chain that build on AzCATI’s work in biofuel development. Scaling up production for HEPI in a commercially viable manner is the sort of activity that we are equipped to do here; assisting companies in bringing their product to market on a larger scale,” said Thomas A. Dempster, a research associate professor at ASU’s AzCATI and the ATP3 testbed site coordinator. “The unique substances that HEPI has already isolated have tremendous potential, and we look forward to working with HEPI in moving their process forward.”