Tony Fung (’14) begins design studio at UCSD


Design for America members collaborate under the direction of Tony Fung.

This May the University of California, San Diego celebrated the one year anniversary of their Design For America (DFA) studio. Founded in early 2015 by myself, its success thus far is largely attributed to the desire for a design oriented infrastructure on campus.

“The beauty of the design process is that it is so interdisciplinary and ubiquitous in academia, entrepreneurship, and basic problem solving,” says former CEO of Apple’s division of technology and founder of the field of Cognitive Science, Don Norman. Don is the Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego and the faculty advisor for DFA. The goal of DFA is to create local and social impact through the power of design. This year, my project team is tackling a major environmental issue regarding the surface runoff pollution in the pacific coast.

“I once got an ear infection that lasted one week when I had to rescue someone who decided to practice rowing despite practice being canceled due to pollutant levels,” says a local lifeguard. In fact, a recent survey done by DFA at UCSD showed that the majority of beach goers are unaware that it is unsafe to swim at the beach for at least three days after a heavy rain.

“What we’ve discovered is that the major source of this pollution is surface runoff, which doesn’t go through the treatment system because the storm drains become clogged with detritus material,” says Prabhav Khandelwal, DFA co-lead for my team.

After examining several problem spaces in hopes of reducing the incidence of waterborne illness and death, we are now striving to redesign the storm drain system cheaply and effectively, while partnering with the university’s Mechanical and Aerospace design labs. DFA also helped add the Design minor to the school’s vast selection, and has already secured thousands of dollars in funding. DFA was the perfect way for me to bridge the field of Bioengineering, which my grandfather founded, and entrepreneurship.

Working at Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine and being an active member of Phi Delta Epsilon have warranted many sleepless nights. I would like to thank all the excellent faculty at San Diego and Central. If not for them, I highly doubt I’d had the confidence to pursue my dreams in this way.