26 engineers from 40 under 40 honorees (photo montage)

Celebrating 40 Under 40 Engineering Alumni

July 21, 2020

In a prestigious inaugural program launched by the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, 26 engineers make up the class of 2020

The Georgia Tech Alumni Association has released its first 40 Under 40 class, and 26 of the honorees are engineers! More than 250 individuals were nominated by colleagues, peers, and Georgia Tech faculty this April.The innovative work our engineers are doing spans every part of the world, and they are making an impact on many lives across a wide range of industries. Here is the 40 Under 40 2020 class of our 26 engineers, and we couldn’t be prouder.

Maithili Appalwar (photo)

Maithili Appalwar

Maithili Appalwar, IE 18 - CEO | Avana

After learning that inconsistent rainfall was the leading cause of suicide among farmers in a district in India, Maithili Appalwar used her passion for manufacturing and affordable design to address their situation. Through her company, Avana, 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%. “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. 
 

Dhaval Bhandari  (photo)

Dhaval Bhandari 

Dhaval Bhandari, PhD ChE 10 - Planning Advisor | ExxonMobil

Dhaval Bhandari 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. Dhaval has filed more than 20 U.S. patents and applications. And at 26, he became one of the youngest principal investigator of a federal grant, leading a 15-member team with a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy. At Tech, Dhaval was most inspired by those around him including his PhD advisor Prof. Bill Koros. “I learned from him that often scientific pursuits are a lonely journey and it takes time for the people to understand and appreciate your contributions. It is in tough times like these that one should keep faith in their work, choose happiness, and treat every day as a learning opportunity,” Dhaval says. 
 

Sheereen Brown, IE 13, MS HS 14 (photo)

Sheereen Brown

Sheereen Brown, IE 13, MS HS 14 - Senior Business Analyst | The Task Force for Global Health

Sheereen Brown likes to say that her work is about getting the right information (data) to the right people at the right time via the right tech to make the right decisions. As senior business analyst for The Task Force for Global Health, Sheereen travels the world from Johannesburg to Geneva to fulfill the organization’s mission to eliminate disease and protect populations. Working in partnership with WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sheereen helps bring innovative solutions to global health challenges. She supported the establishment of an outpatient care system at the largest national hospital in Tanzania to reduce patient wait times and implemented a cloud-based solution to equitably allocate government healthcare workers in sub-Saharan African countries. For inspiration, Sheereen looks to her two sisters, also Georgia Tech alumni, who have used their experience at Tech as launching pads to successful careers in the sciences and art. “Our parents raised us to be tenacious women. Tech reinforced that tenacity, and I’m proud of what my sisters have accomplished with it. I strive to be like them,” she says. 
 

Marcus Cappelli, AE 03, MS AE 04, PhD AE 07

Marcus Cappelli

Marcus Cappelli, AE 03, MS AE 04, PhD AE 07 - Chief Engineer, Black Hawk Modernization | Lockheed Martin

As the chief engineer responsible for modernizing the nation’s fleet of Black Hawk helicopters, Marcus Cappelli is well aware that he’s found his dream job. And, it’s not only the ultramodern upgrades like making the aircraft autonomous or equipping it with bigger engines to reach the peaks of Afghanistan for rescue missions that inspire him. (Although he and his team are making those upgrades, too.) Sometimes, the most meaningful changes are much simpler, he says. “The No. 1 request from our soldiers is for a simple battery charger under their seat, so they can stay in the field just a few hours longer,” he says. The result is a Black Hawk helicopter ready to fulfill any future mission. “Every day thousands of enlisted soldiers will get into my product and possibly have to do it putting their life on the line for my freedom. That is the very definition of committed, a commitment that we all need to match,” Marcus says.
 

Arnab Chakraborty, BME 13

Arnab Chakraborty

Arnab Chakraborty, BME 13 - Chief Technology Officer, Co-Founder | Flow MedTech International Corp.

Coming into Georgia Tech, Arnab 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. “Our team has found out how rare it is to find people who’ve grown their businesses from nothing and truly had to learn, experience, and assemble each piece of the business puzzle to succeed. I’ve loved learning from them,” he says. 
 

Allen Chang, BME 08

Allen Chang

Allen Chang, BME 08 - Project Engineer | NuVasive

The bionic man of the future may be closer than we realize thanks to Allen Chang. Allen co-founded Vertera Spine, the first company to develop a patented process for creating a porous biomaterial similar to bone. In 2017, Vertera Spine was acquired by NuVasine. Since then, Allen has continued his work as a project engineer. To date, three spinal fusion product families have launched featuring the synthetic bone that he created. He is continuing to develop the technology with new products that are transforming spine surgery and improving patients’ lives. 
 

Braxton Davis, EE 06

Braxton Davis

Braxton Davis, EE 06 - Patent Attorney | Amin, Turocy & Watson, LLP

Georgia Tech is often a springboard for successful careers in law. Braxton Davis, who leveraged his electrical engineering background for a career in patent law, could have simply stopped there. Instead, Braxton used his experience to start the Patent Institute of Training to teach promising engineers how to be successful patent agents and attorneys like himself. “Because a law degree does not translate into practical knowledge, many law graduates in the patent field have difficulty finding employment,” he says. Braxton’s training has helped numerous students translate their engineering and law degrees into successful careers. Braxton also established the National Council on Patent Practicum and founded a tech startup, Metric Mate, where he’s applied his background in electrical engineering to develop connected devices in the fitness space. 
 

Robert “Bobby” Henebry, ME 03, MBA 06

Robert “Bobby” Henebry

Robert “Bobby” Henebry, ME 03, MBA 06 - Partner | DM Capital Management, LLC 

After a successful 11 years with SeaBridge Investment Advisors, Bobby Henebry decided to step away to reinvent himself and found new opportunities he couldn’t have imagined at the time. As an early adopter in cryptocurrencies, Bobby started his own mining operation in 2016. He has since become an internationally recognized speaker on blockchain and cryptocurrencies. He volunteers extensively including at the Middle East Leadership Academy and Central Eurasian Leadership Academy, the Wounded Warrior Project Odysseys, The Global Good Fund, and Girl Power Talk, a women’s empowerment organization working in India and Nigeria. “I have an abundance mindset and I test my entrepreneurial limits to live an impactful life,” Bobby says. Inspired by the universal language of music, he founded the YouTube channel Chord Savvy and has brought his Martin Backpacker travel guitar with him to more than 40 countries. “This guitar ran the songwriting clinic at First Step Academy in Jaipur, India, and played Imagine on a bus in Bulgaria to inspire people from 10 countries to ‘be as one,’” he says. “I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to share music globally and feel the hearts of people through it.” 
 

Christopher Hermann, BME 06, MS ME 11, PhD BioE 12

Christopher Hermann

Christopher Hermann, BME 06, MS ME 11, PhD BioE 12 - Founder & CEO | Clean Hands-Safe Hands

Christopher Hermann knows that engineers and healthcare providers don’t always speak the same language. The result can be a well-intentioned medical product that gets lost in translation and fails to deliver for the end-user. The first example that Christopher saw of this was as an undergrad at Tech. He was working closely with a surgeon to develop a new technique for a total knee replacement. “I remember the first time he performed the new procedure and quickly discovered the surgical implants that the engineers designed would not even fit in the incision,” he says. Christopher became a physician with an engineering background to help him provide solutions to bridge that disconnect. In 2008, he turned to healthcare-associated infections and learned that hand hygiene was a major contributor. He started and led a multi-intuitional research consortium (Georgia Tech is a member) that developed the core technology used in Clean Hands – Safe Hands. Using sensors in badges and on sanitizers and soap dispensers, the technology gathers data about handwashing and helps improve hand hygiene in healthcare facilities. Over 10 years, the research team has secured more than eight state and federal research grants totaling more than $3.2 million. 
 

Shawna Khouri, BME 12, MBID 14

Shawna Khouri

Shawna Khouri, BME 12, MBID 14 - Managing Director, Biolocity | Emory University & Georgia Institute of Technology 

Shawna Khouri helps unlock the potential of innovative medical technologies by ushering them from idea to commercialization. As the managing director of Biolocity, a joint incubator from Emory University and Georgia Tech, Shawna has screened more than 250 technologies in devices, diagnostics, therapeutics, cell manufacturing, and health IT. Under her leadership, the organization has funded 42 technologies resulting in 22 startups, two licenses to industry, and three products currently on the market. She also coaches national clients in commercialization including the National Institutes of Health, and she has mentored NIH-backed projects in business development and strategy. “For every project and startup I work with, I get inspired by the patients…whose lives will be saved, and pain alleviated by bringing these innovations into the clinic,” she says.
 

Gregory Kolovich, EE 04

Gregory Kolovich 

Gregory Kolovich, EE 04 - Co-founder & Chief Medical Officer | OXOS Medical

As an orthopedic surgeon with a background in engineering, Gregory Kolovich launched himself into the burgeoning mobile telemedicine field in 2016 with the invention of the world’s first handheld X-ray device. Gregory and fellow alumnus Evan Ruff, CompE 03, founded OXOS Medical to bring digital radiography to the world. The company proudly employs 24 Georgia Tech engineers. “Georgia Tech is deeply rooted in the startup, entrepreneurial world with countless successful alumni, which provides a huge advantage for us,” he says. In addition to running OXOS Medical, Kolovich is an active orthopedic hand and microsurgeon in Savannah, Ga., and currently serves as the elected president of the Georgia Hand Society.
 

Chris Lee, PhD BME 12

Chris Lee

Chris Lee, PhD BME 12 - Founder | Woodbridge Foundation & Chairman & CEO | Huxley Medical, Inc. 

Early in his career, Chris Lee turned down a six-figure consulting job to work at a startup. In the short-term, he says it was a terrible financial decision. But in the long-term, the learning experience was exactly what he needed when he started his first company, Vertera. Now, Chris is a serial entrepreneur in the medical technology field with two successful companies (Vertera and Huxley Medical), which he started with Georgia Tech professors. Beyond his ventures, Chris mentors others who aspire to start their own companies. He serves as an advisor and seed investor for seven healthcare technology startups, four of which were founded by fellow Tech alumni. After the acquisition of his first company, Chris founded Woodbridge Foundation to support students and researchers with starting their own healthcare companies. His advice for students is to study what interests them. “My success started when I ignored the expectations for me and focused only on the opportunities that excited me. It has made all the difference in the world,” he says.
 

 

Xiaohang Li, PhD ECE 15

Xiaohang Li

Xiaohang Li, PhD ECE 15 - Assistant Professor | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Xiaohang Li has made significant contributions to the semiconductor field including in the development of highly efficient and robust ultraviolet LEDs and lasers, which have become critical technologies for killing pathogens amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Among numerous contributions to the semiconductor field, Xiaohang developed the first machine learning software for compound semiconductor devices. The software is being used by more than 60 universities, research institutes, and companies. As a student at Tech, he received the Edison Prize, the highest award for graduate students. Fittingly, Thomas Edison has been an inspiration to Xiaohang since he was a child. “I’ve longed to be an exceptional engineering inventor like him,” Xiaohang says.
 

Kamil Makhnejia, MBID 15

Kamil Makhnejia

Kamil Makhnejia, MBID 15 - Co-Founder, COO | Jackson Medical 

Starting from an early age, Kamil 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, Kamil 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.
 

Idicula Mathew, BME 17

Idicula Mathew

Idicula Mathew, BME 17 - CEO & Founder | Hera Health Solutions

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

 

Matthew McDowell, MSE 08

Matthew McDowell

Matthew McDowell, MSE 08 - Assistant Professor in the G. W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering

Matthew McDowell’s research focuses on next-generation battery technologies used for electric vehicles and electrified aircraft. With his team at Georgia Tech, he specializes in developing innovative experimental techniques that provide a window into the world of how batteries transform and degrade during charge and discharge. This knowledge is critical for engineering batteries that last longer and hold more energy. Since joining the faculty at Georgia Tech in 2015, Matthew’s prolific research has resulted in 72 peer-reviewed publications and more than 50 talks and seminars. In 2019, Matthew received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest government honor bestowed on an early career scientist or engineer.
 

 

Jennifer McKeehan, IE 05

Jennifer McKeehan

Jennifer McKeehan, IE 05 - Founder | Smith and James LLC & Former Vice President Supply Chain, The Home Depot

Jennifer McKeehan’s trailblazing career at The Home Depot over the last 15 years has been nothing shy of extraordinary. In 2016, she was named vice president of inventory for all 2,000 U.S. stores and online businesses, responsible for leading a $15 billion portfolio and 250 associates. It’s worth mentioning that at the time she was also the youngest officer and was a working mom with two children. Most recently, she founded Smith and James LLC, a retail consulting firm. But, perhaps even more noteworthy than her professional career is her commitment to service. She’s a member of CHOA’s Emerging Leader Committee, which recently raised $639,000 for pediatric cardiology research. She also serves on the Cobb Health Futures Foundation Board. “What I find most energizing, hopeful, and inspirational is when some of the biggest mountains are moved or seemingly ‘impossible’ problems are solved,” Jennifer says.
 

Ignacio Montoya, MBID 18

Ignacio Montoya

Ignacio Montoya, MBID 18 - Executive Director | HINRI Labs

Ignacio Montoya wants to find the cure for paralysis and get every person in a wheelchair walking again. And, he’s starting with himself. Seven years ago, Ingacio was in a car accident that caused a total spinal injury leaving him physically paralyzed. He woke up three months after the accident determined to walk again despite a bleak prognosis. But, Ingacio has beaten the odds before. At 6 years old, he escaped from Cuba with his family and nothing but the clothes on his back. He beat the odds again becoming a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. And now, with a biomedical engineering degree from Tech, he’s leading HINRI Labs in the research of spinal cord injuries and testing, experimenting, and developing biomedical devices using his own body as a test subject. Ignacio recently became the first person to walk 650 miles in an exoskeleton-orthosis device suspended over a treadmill. He also recently drove the first-ever wheelchair adapted Ford Explorer with a one-handed double-piston joystick from Atlanta to L.A. Through his own body and indomitable determination, Ignacio is proving that recovery from a total spine injury is possible. 
 

 

Evren Ozkaya, PhD IE 08

Evren Ozkaya

Evren Ozkaya, PhD IE 08 - Founder & CEO | Supply Chain Wizard, LLC 

Dealing with the end-to-end operations in today’s global supply chain requires a true wizard like Evren Ozkaya. As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Wizard, Evren is making pharmaceutical supply chains more secure, and ultimately safer for patients, by reducing the risk of counterfeit drugs with track and trace technologies. But Evren didn’t fall into his consulting career easily. During his last year at Georgia Tech, he forgot to register for an internship course that put him just shy of the full-time requirement for his international student visa. He lost his right to work on campus and in one day, lost his three part-time jobs. “That was probably the worst day of my life at the time, but unbeknownst to me, it created an opportunity,” he says. He studied for consulting interviews every day that month while his visa was reinstated. “I ended up getting multiple offers from top consulting firms and accepted an offer from McKinsey & Company in Atlanta, which forever changed my life and propelled me much faster in my career.”
 

Samirkumar Patel, PhD ChE 11

Samirkumar Patel

Samirkumar Patel, PhD ChE 11 - President & CEO | Moonlight Therapeutics 

Samirkumar Patel is in awe of the science and technology that powers break-through advancements in medicine. “It’s truly amazing what we can now do for patients,” he says. “These advances give me encouragement on what can be possible, but somehow the tools we have still seem inadequate.” As a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur, Samirkumar is propelling the next wave of unimaginable medical advancements of the future. While obtaining his PhD 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. 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.
 

Nashlie Sephus, MS ECE 10, PhD ECE 14

Nashlie Sephus

Nashlie Sephus, MS ECE 10, PhD ECE 14 - Applied Science Manager | Amazon AI 

Nashlie Sephus focuses on fairness and identifying biases in artificial intelligence for Amazon’s AI initiative. Previously, she was the CTO for Partpic, a visual search for replacement parts, which was acquired by Amazon in November 2016. The technology from Partpic can still be found in the general camera search feature in the Amazon shopping app. Nashlie’s work at Amazon has improved the accuracy and fairness of machine learning services like Amazon Rekognition, which uses machine learning for image and video analysis. Customers like Marinus Analytics are using the service to fight human trafficking. Nashlie is also the CEO and founder of Jackson, Miss.-based nonprofit The Bean Path, which aims to bridge the technology gap by offering free tech office hours at local libraries, scholarships and grants, and youth workshops.
 

David Sotto, BME 09, PhD BioE 15

David Sotto

David Sotto, BME 09, PhD BioE 15 - Senior Strategy Officer | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

At the Gates Foundation, David Sotto has helped shape the design of new and existing strategies across $6 billion in annual investments in service of the world’s most vulnerable populations. David’s focus has been on shaping the design of global health systems in areas of the world with the greatest need and advocating for policies and practices in the U.S. that create upward mobility and economic opportunities for the working class. David offers this advice for students: Learning for the sake of learning or doing for the sake of doing can only take you so far. “I often struggle with striking a healthy balance between seeking knowledge and taking action. However, my proudest moments in life have been when I've learned just enough to be dangerous and did something about,” he says.
 

Graham Thorsteinson, ChBE 06, MS ChE 07

Graham Thorsteinson

Graham Thorsteinson, ChBE 06, MS ChE 07 - Chief Technology Officer | Energy One Consulting 

With a passion for analyzing covmplex problems, Graham Thorsteinson has devoted his career to one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: reducing energy use. After leading General Mills’ energy program for nearly 10 years, leading to a reduction in overall energy use by 20% and delivering $25 million in annual savings, Thorsteinson co-founded Energy One Consulting. In 2018, The Association of Energy Engineers awarded Energy One with National Project of the Year for its work improving energy efficiency at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. Thorsteinson’s low capital approach focuses on optimizing existing systems without requiring significant capital upgrades. For instance, at Hartsfield-Jackson, they were able to optimize over 20,000 tons of chillers, 300 large air handlers, and 100,000 lights leading to a reduction in electricity usage by 11% and water usage by 17%. The project has resulted in $11 million in energy cost savings. “Energy efficiency is still one of the most untapped opportunities for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has quick financial paybacks for companies,” he says.
 

 

Lauren Troxler, BME 12

Lauren Troxler

Lauren Troxler, BME 12 - Staff R&D Clinical Engineer | Abbott

In five years, Lauren Troxler has already made a significant impact in the healthcare industry as a whole and in thousands of patients’ lives. In just that time, Lauren brought four life-saving products to the market that have led to treatments for more than 100,000 patients worldwide. Her work focuses on developing non-surgical treatment options for patients with leaky heart valves. When a diseased heart valve doesn’t close properly, it can allow blood to flow in the wrong direction causing life-threatening symptoms. At Abbott, her team works to bring devices such as a transcatheter device for patients who cannot undergo surgery and needs treatment to the market. She’s responsible for connecting real-life clinical needs to the product’s design and intended use. Lauren’s interest in cardiovascular health started at Georgia Tech as a researcher in the cardiovascular fluid mechanics lab. “Those four years gave me the confidence and expertise needed for my role at a leading healthcare company. They carved the path towards patenting designs and helping people in need by bringing about some of the world's first non-surgical treatment options for the forgotten tricuspid valve,” she says.
 

 

Jacob Tzegaegbe, CE 11, MS CE 2013

Jacob Tzegaegbe

Jacob Tzegaegbe, CE 11, MS CE 2013 - Senior Transportation Policy Advisor | City of Atlanta

While a student, Jacob Tzegaegbe was aptly named Mr. Georgia Tech. Not only was he given the title his senior year by his peers, but Jacob’s service at Tech and after graduation has embodied what it means to be a Yellow Jacket. Jacob was the first of his family to attend college. While at Tech, he liked to stay busy competing on the Swimming and Diving team, serving as senior class president as well as president/CEO of the Student Foundation Board of Trustees and president of his fraternity. He’s been just as busy post-graduation working to address Atlanta’s infrastructure needs and streamlining the city’s transportation divisions.
 

 

 

Emily Woods, ME 10

Emily Woods

Emily Woods, ME 10 - COO & Co-founder | Sanivation 

Emily Woods and her co-founder of Sanivation had a bold idea for global sanitation. “If we could treat feces more efficiently than traditional means—turn the treated waste into a product we could sell, we could make a profit from poop,” Emily says. She co-founded Sanivation to do just that. The social enterprise tackles the sanitation crisis in Kenya by partnering with municipalities to turn feces into a sustainable fuel. “We use our proprietary treatment technology to treat waste and transform it into an in-demand fuel,” Emily says. “Then, we sell the briquettes back on the market, creating a financially sustainable and replicable model for sanitation services.” The fuel also helps combat deforestation saving 88 trees per ton. “I would encourage GT students to think outside of the standard box of what people think success is,” she says.
 

*All copy repurposed with permission from the Georgia Tech Alumni Association