The Georgia Tech Alumni Association recently named 40 distinguished honorees who have innovated industries and positively impacted communities across the globe, in becoming the association’s inaugural 40 Under 40 class.

More than 250 individuals were nominated by colleagues, peers, and Georgia Tech faculty this April, with only 40, including eight Indian Americans, named as part of the first-ever cohort.

In its inaugural year, the 2020 class includes Maithili Appalwar, Dhaval Bhandari, Arnab Chakraborty, Kamil Makhnejia, Idicula Mathew, Samirkumar Patel, Arush Lal and Kabir Barday.

After learning that inconsistent rainfall was the leading cause of suicide among farmers in a district in India, Appalwar used her passion for manufacturing and affordable design to address their situation. Through her company, Avana, where she serves as the CEO, she’s helped more than 10,000 farmers conserve 50 billion liters of water with an eco-friendly polymer lining that helps harvest rainwater and create artificial ponds on farms.

After just one year using the liner, she found that income for the farmers increased by 98.7 percent.

“I want my legacy to be a world where every farmer lives with dignity and is empowered to create a world that they want to live in,” Maithili says in her bio.

Bhandari, the planning adviser at ExxonMobil, has contributed to significant advancements in sustainability as well as in addressing the world’s dual energy challenge. His research has been at two of the nation’s top energy-focused industrial labs: ExxonMobil Research and Engineering and General Electric Global Research.

He has filed more than 20 U.S. patents and applications. And at 26, he became one of the youngest principal investigators of a federal grant, leading a 15-member team with a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy. At Georgia Tech, Bhandari was most inspired by those around him including his Ph.D. advisor Prof. Bill Koros.

Barday was in the final stages of opening a pizza franchise before he switched his plans to a different dough-making endeavor—OneTrust.

He’s now the founder and CEO of the largest and most widely used privacy, security, and trust technology company in the world. After graduating from Tech, Barday became an early employee at AirWatch, a mobile security software company that was founded by fellow Tech alum John Marshall.

“I am not sure there could be a greater impact on my success than Georgia Tech,” Kabir said. “[Tech] is the reason I got my first job at AirWatch and learned what I needed to know to build OneTrust. Georgia Tech is the talent pool we hire from. It’s my network of friends. My investors are involved in Georgia Tech. And even my fiancé is an alum.” 

Coming into Georgia Tech, Chakraborty wanted to be a cardiovascular surgeon. But it was through Tech’s biomedical engineering program that he realized an even bigger calling. Now, he’s developing medical devices with the potential to save thousands of lives.

After graduation, he co-founded Flow MedTech, which led to the development of a heart implant that reduces the risk of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients. The biomedical startup has been recognized internationally for its innovations in the field. Arnab and his team decided early on to seek out and learn from other entrepreneurs.

With one of the largest global health challenges upon us, Lal’s experience in global health policy and pandemic preparedness (including with Ebola and Zika) have proved critical to Covid-19 response efforts.

Lal works at the WHO Americas Office where he supports Covid-19 efforts by procuring test kits and preventing stockouts of essential medicines and public health supplies worldwide. He’s worked across government and non-government organizations including the U.S. HHS Office for Global Affairs in the Pandemic and Emerging Threats division, IntraHealth International, and The Task Force for Global Health.

In addition, he was appointed the youngest member on the board of directors for Women in Global Health. Lal encourages students to embrace change and failure. “In a post-Covid-19 world where institutions and long-held beliefs are shifting, don’t be afraid to change paths and try new opportunities because falling down and getting back up again is part of the journey,” he said. 

Starting from an early age, Makhnejia saw his mother, a skilled nurse, selflessly care for her patients. She set the example for hard work and purpose that led Kamil into the healthcare field and inspired him to find ways to improve healthcare and make the industry safer for patients and staff.

In 2016, he helped start Jackson Medical, which grew out of the startup ecosystem at Georgia Tech. Their flagship product, GloShield, has made operating rooms safer for more than 15,000 surgeries and is expected to be involved in 30,000 more this year. With their offices located in Tech Square, Makhnejia has maintained close connections to campus as a mentor to Tech startups, a guest lecturer at BME Capstone courses, and as an employer offering students internships and full-time positions.

Mathew was drawn into Tech’s entrepreneurial community from the start. Although he was an engineering student, he spent much of his time at Tech at the Scheller College of Business soaking in the entrepreneurial spirit of like-minded students, the bio notes.

Nearing graduation, he took a senior class project and helped turn it into a medical startup with fellow Tech alumni.

As CEO of Hera Health Solutions, Mathew is bringing a first of its kind biodegradable implant for long-acting drug treatments to markets in the U.S. and abroad. The biodegradable implant does not need to be removed, thereby eliminating the expense and complications from removal procedures, which are an issue in the U.S. as well as in countries with fewer healthcare resources.

He and his team have already identified several areas where the technology could be useful including in contraception, cancer treatments, and veterinary care. 

Patel is in awe of the science and technology that powers break-through advancements in medicine.

As a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur, Patel is propelling the next wave of unimaginable medical advancements of the future. While obtaining his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech, he made a discovery in a GT lab that led him to invent a new way to deliver drug treatment into the eye to treat eye diseases, the bio notes.

With this technology, he started Clearside Biomedical in 2011. Two years ago, he started his second venture, Moonlight Therapeutics, to develop a treatment for food allergies by targeting drug delivery to the skin’s immune cells using a dermal stamp.

“I am amazed and humbled by the accomplishments of these innovators and trendsetters. They epitomize the focus that our Georgia Tech alumni have to make the world a better place,” said Dene Sheheane, president of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.

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