Three members of the U of T Engineering community — a PhD student who is transforming waste carbon into valuable chemicals, an alumna who catalyzes biotech startups, and a graduate who produces books that are equal parts funny and heartwarming — are among the rising stars named to this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 lists.
“It’s such an honour for me because it’s a sign to others that working on difficult problems that you’re passionate about is important,” says Phil De Luna (MSE PhD candidate) who was cited in the Energy category. “As a researcher, you are focused completely on your science and work. You never expect the world to take notice, and then it does.”
De Luna was recognized for his work with Carbon Electrolytic Recycling Toronto (CERT), a team that is developing new methods to capture waste CO2 and convert it into chemicals that could be used as fuel or industrial feedstocks.
“The technology has the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions and provide long-term renewable energy storage,” he says. CERT is one of only five teams left in the Carbon XPRIZE competition, an international challenge that will provide $20 million to the team that captures and converts the most CO2.
“Seeing this technology go from the lab to a plant would be the most fulfilling experience in my life,” says De Luna. “We see the value in what we’re doing, and while there’s still a lot of engineering to do, we believe we are the right people to make this vision a reality.”
De Luna wants to thank his teammates Alex Ip (ECE Phd 2015) and Cao-Thang Dinh as well as Professors Ted Sargent (ECE) and David Sinton (MIE) for their support in the creation of CERT. “Nothing would be possible without their trust in us to follow our curiosity,” says De Luna.
Two more alumni of U of T Engineering were included in this year’s Forbes list. Alumna Cheryl Cui (EngSci 1T1 + PEY) was honoured in the Healthcare category for her work with Nest.Bio, a venture fund that has close to $100 million under management, and has invested in eight life science startups. Earlier this year she also launched Nest.Bio Labs, a hub that now houses 12 biotech companies.
Jonny Sun (EngSci 1T1 + PEY) was honoured in the Media category. Sun’s contributions to the cultural scene are hard to categorize: he’s an artist, a writer, a comedian and a Twitter personality that Time magazine included as one of 2017’s 25 most influential people on the internet. Last year, Sun visited his alma mater to give a reading and sign copies of his book, “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too.”
i'm honored to be 30 and under 30 according to forbes. lists like these can mean a lot of different things to ppl and i'm trying to take this as a nudge to keep going, that this direction is ok, that this is always a road and never a destination. onward!!https://t.co/XjVyzAzixi
— jonny sun (@jonnysun) November 14, 2018
Check out the full list of Forbes 30 Under 30.