ASU’s chief research and innovation officer, Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, loves to toss these impressive figures into casual conversation: Between 2001 and 2016, ASU more than quadrupled its research output from $110 million to more than $500 million annually. It’s a nice icebreaker, but the “why” behind those figures, he asserts, is what really moves a conversation.
Panchanathan knows bright research minds can’t live in silos. They need an entrepreneurial environment that arms them with insights from other disciplines. How does this work? A cybersecurity researcher, for example, benefits from a sociologist’s input to help identify a hacker in a dangerous dark net underworld. This “transdisciplinary” approach also lives in ASU’s solar and renewable energy research.
“We can’t just care about ‘how to produce a high-efficiency [solar] cell’ and put all the science and engineering into that,” he says. “We need to factor in the economics, policy impacts, social, behavioral and cultural aspects that influence the design, implementation and deployment of the solutions. That’s why ASU is unique and why we have seen more than our fair share of success.”