Alumna Perspective: Making Forbes 30 Under 30 List

November 27, 2018

Every year reporters at Forbes work together with a panel of top-notch judges and luminaries to pick 30 people per category who they think are game changers and the best and the brightest in their field. I was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the energy category. I’m incredibly honored and proud to be included with this group of innovators. Over fifteen thousand people were nominated, and 600 were selected for the final list. The list was very competitive this year with an acceptance rate of under 4%. My invention of a low-cost supercapacitor garnered my spot in this group.

I first got involved with science research during the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years during a summer trip to India. That particular summer, I visited several rural communities in India where local residents were facing a water crisis. People in these communities had to walk four miles every single morning to get water that wasn’t even clean. Wanting to help, I designed water filters using materials like sawdust and clay, which are both abundant in India. After designing, testing, and perfecting these filters, I mailed them back to India to be distributed among local villages. Upon receiving letters of gratitude from the residents, I knew that I had found my passion.

Using my science research to make a difference in a struggling community excited me. For the past five years, I’ve continued to do research in the environmental science field at various universities. This year, I decided to focus on the growing energy demand.

Supercapacitors are energy storage devices that are used in life saving technology like defibrillators. They are great in terms of their portability, long cycle lifetime, and high energy density. They are better than batteries and can keep up with energy storage needs very well. However, in order for a supercapacitor to work, it needs an electrode. The current electrodes that are available in the market are made from expensive materials like platinum and gold and cost up to $4000. My electrodes were made from natural materials, had 90% of the efficiency rates as platinum electrodes, and costed less than $1.

For my research, along with being named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list, I also won the 2018 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in May. I was also named an Amy Poehler Smart Girl and have had the opportunity to share my passion with like-minded individuals. Being named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list is a personal affirmation that all of my hard work and dedication over the past year has been worth it. Additionally, it has allowed me to join such an amazing network of talented individuals. Being part of such an amazing community and having access to these connections, I believe, will help me a lot in the future. The fact that I was named to the list at 17 could also potentially help other teens see that someone just like them was able to achieve great things and that they too should be persistent with their dreams.

Despite this, I still consider my biggest accomplishment to be finding my passion. A lot of people really struggle to find their field and discover themselves. I have been extremely lucky in the fact that I’ve found it at such an early age. All of the awards and recognition I receive are just byproducts of me doing what I love.

In terms of my current and future plans, I gave a TED talk last week at the 2018 TEDx Fayetteville. It was an incredible opportunity to share my research with a diverse audience. I am also currently in the process of applying to colleges. In terms of my research, while I am not starting a new research project this year, I will continue to expand my current project. Mainly, I will continue to do talks and speeches around Arkansas about the importance of a strong K-12 STEM education, which is something I am a strong advocate for.