The MIT Technology Review recently announced its 2019 “35 Innovators Under 35” list, with five Indian Americans among the group.

The Technology Review said in its report that it’s part of its ethos that technology can and should be a force for good.

The annual list of 35 innovators under 35 is a way of putting faces on that idea, the publication said.

Among the group includes people employing innovative methods to treat disease, to fight online harassment, and to create the next big battery breakthrough.

Additionally, there are people using AI to better understand neurological disorders and to make cities more livable.

“This year's list shows that even in our hard, cynical world, there are still lots of smart people willing to dedicate their lives to the idea that technology can make a safer, fairer world,” Technology Review said.

Indian Americans named to the list – which is broken up in Inventors, Entrepreneurs, Visionaries, Humanitarians and Pioneers categories – include Abhinav Kandala, Ritu Raman, Archana Venkataraman, Anurag Bajpayee and Himabindu Lakkaraju.

Kandala, Raman and Venkataraman were all named in the Inventors category; Bajpayee was named in the Entrepreneurs category; and Lakkaraju in the Humanitarian category.

Raman, 27, of MIT, has developed inchworm-size robots made partly of biological tissue and muscle.

Raman’s robots are made out of both polymers and muscle tissue, and are capable of sensing their environment and recognizing temperature, pH and mechanical pressure. 

“I’m a mechanical engineer by training, and I’m honestly a little bored building with the materials we’ve been building with for the past thousand years. So I’m making robots and machines that use biological materials to move and walk around and sense their environment, and do more interesting things—like get stronger when they need to and heal when they get damaged,” she said in the MIT Technology Review report.

Raman has built 3D printers capable of patterning living cells and proteins, injecting those into a mold where the cells self-­assemble into dense muscle tissue.

The tissue is then transferred to a robotic skeleton. The robots, powered by living skeletal muscle, move in response to light or electricity, the Review said.

Kandala, 32, an innovator at IBM Research, is “paving the way for quantum-computer-powered drug and material development,” the magazine wrote.

More accurate computer models of molecules could help predict useful properties for everything from new drugs to better batteries. But simulating the behavior of the atoms and electrons they consist of means calculating huge numbers of possibilities, so even powerful computers use approximations, it wrote.

Kandala is solving this problem by using quantum computers to simulate molecules. In 2017 he simulated three-atom beryllium hydride, the largest molecule modeled on a quantum computer to date. This was a crucial step that laid the groundwork for precise simulations of larger molecules, which could lead to the discovery of new medicines and materials, it said.

The Technology Review notes that the 33-year-old Venkataraman of Johns Hopkins University is using AI to change the fact that “we still don’t know much about neurological disorders.

Venkataraman is using artificial intelligence to better map the human brain—and to develop entirely new ways to diagnose and treat neurological disorders. 

Informed by data from existing imaging technologies — including the electroencephalogram, or EEG, and functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI — Venkataraman develops mathematical models designed to unlock the “black box” of the brain’s function and provide the building blocks for treatments that are less invasive and far more precise, according to the publication.

Gradiant’s 34-year-old Bajpayee’s approaches can treat dirty wastewater and can make desalination more efficient, the publication said.

Bajpayee built a one-stop shop for cleaning up the world’s most contaminated water. And after just six years, his Boston-based company, Gradiant, has more than 200 employees and operates more than 20 treatment plants around the world, the report said.

Bajpayee started Gradiant with lab-mate Prakash Govindan, who like him was working on desalination techniques.

The oil and gas industry was at the peak of the shale boom thanks to advances in fracking, where rock formations are fractured using pressurized fluids to extract oil and gas trapped inside. They quickly found customers keen to use Govindan’s technology to extract water from fluids contaminated during the process, which reduces water requirements and minimizes how much toxic brine needs to be stored in deep disposal wells, according to the report.

This year Gradiant will launch its first commercial system based on a new technology that can be installed in seawater desalination plants to increase recovery of fresh water by up to 85 percent, according to the report.

The Technology Review said that Harvard University’s 29-year-old Lakkaraju’s AI program aims to weed out bias in decision making.

Lakkaraju designed an artificial intelligence program that serves as a bias check for decision makers like judges and doctors.

Machine learning and AI are increasingly used in law enforcement to make decisions about which defendants get bail, in health care to determine medical treatments, and at financial institutions to determine who gets loans, the Technology Review notes.

But making decisions by automation can have pitfalls, the report said.

Lakkaraju’s system doesn’t rely solely on human choices or on machine learning but uses a combination of the two. Most of her work deals with data sets in which she could see the expected outcomes from both AI and the human decision makers, and spot where bias might occur, it said.

Her work is now being used by schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, to help them identify at-risk students and predict the likelihood that a child might need extra tutoring or mentoring.

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