Marin Sawa’s search for new functionalities for algae in the design area led her to establish close collaborations with several UK research groups studying cyanobacteria and microalgae. The development of Algae Printing was done in collaboration with the groups of Prof Peter Nixon and Prof Klaus Hellgardt at Imperial College London and the imaging of cells and analysis of photosynthesis was carried out in collaboration with Prof Conrad Mullineaux and Prof Alexander Ruban at Queen Mary London. The use of Algae Printing for producing bioelectricity also involved Dr Andrea Fantuzzi at Imperial College London and Dr Paolo Bombelli and Prof Christopher Howe at the University of Cambridge. All these scientists are engaged in fundamental aspects of algal or higher plant research ranging from the mechanisms of solar energy conversion to the production of algal biofuels.
Marin Sawa was based at Imperial College and used the lab facilities there to develop Algae Printing. Being a member of the scientific team gave the collaboration the time and space to develop mutual understanding. The laboratory provided a space for synthesis and blurred the boundary between the designer and scientists. The outcome was a true ‘two-way collaboration’ in which the designer helped shape scientific research, not just apply it.
More on the role of a designer in research – the article: Sawa – 2016 – The laboratory life of a designer at the intersection with algal biotechnology