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A.I.M. Interview: Dr. Tom Dempster Taking ATP3 Workshops on the Road

Submitted by on October 19, 2016 – 4:29 pmNo Comment

by David Schwartz (Algae Industry Magazine)  Dr. Tom Dempster works as a research professor – focusing on strain selection and development, biomass production, algal biofuels and high-value products, and air and wastewater bioremediation – at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at Arizona State University.

He also serves as the AzCATI laboratory manager, AzCATI Recharge Center manager, ASU safety and compliance manager, as well as the testbed site coordinator for the U.S. Department of Energy funded Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3).

Dr. Dempster began his algae research career as an undergraduate at Arizona State University in 1989, working on the Aquatic Species Program – a keystone research project in the history of algal biofuel development. He admits to being a bit “naive at the time regarding the significance of that research project. “All I knew was that I wanted to work in the biology field, he recalls.

“I wanted a job in a laboratory at that point in time. I didn’t care what field of research it was in. I just knew I wanted to be a biologist, didn’t know where to start so I walked into the Department Chair’s office. It just happened that Milt Sommerfeld was the Department Chair and resident phycologist on staff. He described a little about his research and what immediately caught my attention was the nature of the Aquatic Species Program. I had no knowledge about it at the time, but it impressed me that you could take microscopic organisms called algae and get them to produce oil that could be a renewable liquid fuel source.”

“From that initial discussion, real applications within biology became my primary interest. Any type of work I became engaged in I wanted to see an application for industry, for society, and the ability to illustrate that we can solve a problem or create a product that would help. That was the first time the light bulb went off where I saw practical applications of biology.”

“Folks within our organization had the foresight to have the ‘if we build it they will come’ philosophy. So we built an algae test bed before we had the customers, challenging ourselves to create a plug and play facility that would appeal to researchers that work anywhere across the algae value chain. The idea was for researchers to come onsite, plug in their technologies and work side by side with our researchers and technicians.

“We established quite an infrastructure, and we could accommodate almost anything that any customer wanted to bring onsite from a technology standpoint: harvesting and dewatering technologies, novel photobioreactors, being able to test people’s magic strains onsite, etc.    READ MORE  WATCH VIDEO

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