ASU a perfect fit for biochemistry graduate

December 5, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Darian Takase always knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but where she would go to school to earn her undergraduate degree was another story. Takase had lots of options and decided to take an unconventional approach to selecting her college — drawing a name out of a bowl. A simple leap of faith brought Takase from Hilo, Hawaii to Arizona State University. Darian Takase Darian Takase Download Full Image

Initially she started off studying as a biology major, influenced by her grandfather who is a physician and one of the first OB-GYN's on the Big Island. It was during her second year at ASU that Takase discovered her love for chemistry and changed her major to biochemistry to accommodate both interests.

School of Molecular Sciences Professor Scott Lefler taught Takase in one of his biochemistry classes. Takase credits Lefler and the professors here at ASU with guidance and support in achieving her academic goals.  

"Darian was a pleasure to have in class with her high level of interest in biochemistry and her positive attitude,” Lefler said. “Whatever career path Darian chooses, she will certainly be successful. I look forward to seeing the results of her time at ASU impact the greater world."

Takase is very involved on campus at ASU. She is part of Alpha Omega Chi and was an intern in the Science is Fun class with Professor Jim Klemaszewski. The Science is Fun interns give hands-on demonstrations at on campus events like Open Door and Homecoming, as well going out to visit local k-12 schools and participating in community events.

“Darian was an outstanding ASU Science is Fun intern,” Klemaszewski said. “She has a positive energy and strong interpersonal skills that enhance her knowledge of and love for science.”

After graduation Takase plans to stay on as researcher in the Precision Neuro Therapeutic Lab at the Mayo Clinic and will be applying to medical school in 2019.

Takase answered some questions about her time at ASU, offered some advice for current students and what her plans are for the future.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, so I originally started off as a biology major. However, I started to realize around my sophomore year that I was far more interested in chemistry. I thought biochemistry would be a middle ground between the two and I ended up loving it!

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A:  was genuinely surprised at the relationships I was able to form with my professors. Going into ASU was intimidating just because it’s such a large school but at the end of the day, if you truly find the time to get to know your professors and ask questions, they will remember you.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: If I’m being completely honest, I chose ASU out of a bowl. I was accepted into quite a few colleges which all had something different to offer so me being the indecisive person I am, decided to write them all down on pieces of paper and just pick one and go with it. Although it might’ve not been the most educated way to pick my college education, I am so happy I chose ASU. The school spirit is unbeatable, the campus is gorgeous, and In-N-Out is 5 minutes away.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Lefler was definitely one of the most influential professors I’ve had at ASU. As far as class material goes, I can now recite the TCAtricarboxylic acid cycle in my sleep. However, outside of class, Dr. Lefler took the time to talk with me about my life goals and helped me grow as an individual. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: To those still in school, get involved! Currently, I am in Alpha Chi Omega, do research at Mayo (Clinic), teach chemistry labs at ASU, and have an internship at Honor Health Emergency Department. The amount of opportunities ASU has to offer is virtually endless and the connections you make along the way can really set you up for your success after graduation.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

My favorite spot on campus is the new student pavilion. It’s a great place to study and meet with friends. I love going on the balcony area around sunset and doing my homework outside.

A: What are your plans after graduation?

I currently hold a research position at the Mayo Clinic where I study MRI images of malignant brain tumors also known as glioblastoma multiforme. I hope to continue my research there while I study for the MCATMedical College Admission Test. I plan on applying to medical school this coming cycle but until then, I also want to do some traveling! 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I was given $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would tackle ocean pollution. More specifically, I would like to put funding towards cleaning up the Great Pacific garbage patch gyre. When I was growing up in Hawaii, I learned about the importance of conserving our marine ecosystems so that future generations could still enjoy it. However, I know that the Great Pacific garbage patch, which is located in between Hawaii and California, poses a huge threat to marine life. It’s pretty obvious that the marine life is being affected by it but we are also consumers of these animals, so the implications have the ability of coming back to haunt us.

Alumni and Special Events Coordinator, School of Earth & Space Exploration


Blending business and tech skills, ASU alumnus spurs innovation in cryptocurrency

December 5, 2018

Ryan Taylor describes his most recent career transition as “a journey into a strange new world.”

He entered the cryptographic territory of the blockchain two years ago when he joined the team at Dash, an innovative open-source digital currency payment network. ASU alum Ryan Taylor is spurring cryptocurrency innovations at Dash Ryan Taylor, CEO of the Dash Core Team. Download Full Image

The move took Taylor somewhat beyond the realm of his previous jobs and into the emerging but potentially volatile cryptocurrency industry.

Yet the transition can be seen as more of an evolutionary step rooted in a redirection Taylor took about two decades earlier as a student at Arizona State University.

Taylor entered college as an electrical engineering major but eventually found himself more attuned to business and economics — though, he emphasizes, still retaining a strong interest in new technologies.

That mix of motivating factors has played out in the years since graduating from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in business management in 1999.

He spent the next four years in Honeywell’s Global Business Services in Tempe, Arizona, where he cycled between technical and business roles, before going to Columbia University in New York to earn a master’s degree in business administration with a finance and economics concentration.

Taylor went on to the business technology office of McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, where his clients were senior executives with some of the world’s largest financial institutions.

Next came a job as a hedge fund analyst for a major investment company, focusing on investments in the payments industry and fintech — computer programs and other technology used to enable banking and financial services.

It was the expertise Taylor had gained in the payments industry that would eventually arouse his curiosity about the potential of what entrepreneur Evan Duffield was doing with a startup cryptocurrency for payments he had founded, called Dash, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I saw features that made Dash unique,” Taylor said.

Instant point-of-sale transactions, privacy protection that made Dash safer and easier to use, a high-capacity network that can operate faster than most digital currency operations — those things and more attracted him.

In 2016, he joined the Dash team as director of finance but soon began shaping and solidifying Dash’s overall business strategy and professionalizing its operations.

Before long, Taylor was named CEO of the Dash Core Team, which is entrusted with developing the software that underpins the cryptocurrency network, as well as business development and marketing activities.

“So, again,” he said, “one foot in business strategy and one foot in technology.”

The drive to elevate Dash brought Taylor back to his alma mater. He made connections with ASU leaders and faculty, mostly within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“We identified a lot of common interests and areas where we could collaborate and benefit from each other’s resources and expertise,” Taylor said.

In fall 2017, Dash supported the startup of ASU’s Blockchain Research Lab, directed by Fulton Schools Research Professor Dragan Boscovic. The blockchain is a decentralized, digital ledger system that is the foundation on which cryptocurrencies operate.

Later came funding from Dash for development of an online graduate-level blockchain course and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate research fellowships.

The partnership “has already demonstrated its value for both sides,” Taylor said.

He points, for instance, to ASU research that provided solutions to keep blockchain transaction systems from slowing down and to help prevent network instability.

“We have an accredited research university working with us. I think it brings a lot of credibility to our project and our blockchain technology,” Taylor said. “ASU has quantified things for us. We now have evidence that we can scale our business up much larger and do it safely, without putting our users at risk. That has tremendous value.”

ASU can look forward to some of its students getting internships at Dash, he said, while Dash’s investment in ASU will help provide a well-trained talent pool from which it can recruit future employees.

Recalling his undergraduate experience, Taylor says he liked that as a large university offering an expansive array of studies, ASU provided a big landscape of potential career paths for students to explore.

“I also liked that I got to interact with people from different places and different walks of life and was able to create a sense of community within this huge place by joining student organizations,” which is where he began developing leadership skills, he said.

Now Taylor likes that the university, particularly the Fulton Schools, “is taking a very pragmatic approach to how they educate students and the research they are conducting and focusing on how that research can have an impact on business and society.”

His advice to today’s students is to take advantage of the well-rounded education universities like ASU offer, and not focus solely on studies in your career field.

But all college students should be acutely aware “that we are entering a world where everything is being digitized, even our money,” Taylor said. “Every industry one-by-one is becoming digitized, and in a short period of time there won’t be any industries that aren’t tech industries.”

Students in all fields “need at least a base-level understanding of technology, computer science and programming and hardware,” he said. “Those things are going to be profoundly important, no matter what industry you are going into.”

To those who share his entrepreneurial bent, Taylor says they need to be prepared for a business environment in which the pace of disruption is accelerating.

That environment is rife with threats, he says, but wherever there is disruption, there are also tremendous opportunities.

“If you have a really good idea and can execute it well, then you can find success faster than at any point in history,” Taylor said. “So, I don’t think there is a better time to be coming out of school than right now.”

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering