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Forbes '30 Under 30' selects record 12 Stanford affiliates working in sustainability

In categories ranging from Food & Drink to Energy, the 2024 Forbes feature recognizes 11 Stanford alumni and one student for work related to sustainability.

The annual “30 Under 30” for North America feature from Forbes this year honors the early contributions of 11 Stanford alumni and one student to clean energy and other sustainability solutions. The 2024 group joins 20 Stanford scholars and alumni recognized by the magazine over the past two years. The Stanford affiliates were highlighted across six categories this year, topping the previous high of five categories a year ago.

The magazine applauds auspicious achievements in 20 categories, from healthcare to sports. Three alumni were recognized in the Energy category: Gurinder Nagra, Marisa Reddy, and Keeton Ross. Three alumni also made the Science category: Matthew Clarke, Aditya Grover, and Rachel Huang. Two were recognized in Social Impact: Aadith Moorthy and Caroline Spears. Manufacturing & Industry includes alumna and staff member Karen Baert and her startup co-founder Tristan Gilbert. Louis Stenmark was honored in the Food & Drink category, and Jack Hu made the Healthcare group.

A growing cleantech ecosystem at and around Stanford partly explains the growing number and breadth of sustainability entrepreneurs recognized by Forbes. Seven of the 12 are alumni of the Precourt Institute for Energy’s course “Stanford Climate Ventures,” which teaches students how to begin to commercialize their technologies. In addition, two won Innovation Transfer Program grants from TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy to begin their startups based on technology developed at Stanford. Both the Precourt Institute and the TomKat Center are housed within the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. A couple of the startups were further advanced with the philanthropic support of Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Fellows program, while Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund has invested in several other startups on the list.

30 Under 30 in Energy

Gurinder Nagra, PhD ’20 Earth Sciences

In the Energy category, Nagra was recognized as the founder of Furno Materials, which is developing a more energy-efficient way to make cement, which accounts for 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Cement is currently produced primarily with large flames heating a large furnace, producing a little bit of cement and a lot of CO2. Furno's much smaller furnaces use an environment of pure oxygen instead of air, resulting in lower emissions and capital costs. Backed by $9 million in funding since 2020, Furno operates a pilot reactor manufacturing up to half a ton of cement daily. It will begin sending samples to customers this fall. Nagra plans to build commercial-scale cement plants capable of manufacturing 20 tons per day by 2025. Nagra is an alumnus of Stanford Climate Ventures. He was a Breakthrough Energy Fellow through this past September.

Marisa Reddy, MBA ‘22

Reddy, also recognized in the Energy category, is a co-founder of Conduit Tech. The startup aims to shrink the carbon footprint of residential air conditioning and heating by making them more energy efficient. To do so requires the support of HVAC workers. Conduit Tech works to identify, isolate, and automate currently unbillable services like system design and installation planning, to make it easier and more profitable to upgrade to high-efficiency, low-emissions equipment. So far, they are working with more than 50 HVAC companies. "Since entering the field three years ago, I've been continuously motivated by the insane hard work and dedication that I see from contractors trying to do the right thing by their homeowner customers," says Reddy. Conduit has raised $5 million in funding. Reddy is an alumna of Stanford Climate Ventures, and Conduit Tech won a TomKat Innovation Transfer award.

Keeton Ross, MBA ‘23

Ross, president and co-founder of Holocene, is developing machines that use chemical processes to pull CO2 out of the air for permanent storage. The startup’s team claims their machines will do this at lower temperatures, with less energy and lower cost than other direct-air-capture systems. With support from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Holocene is manufacturing its first machines in Tennessee that the team expects to be operational in the coming months. Ross says the business plan is for Holocene to operate the machines and sell carbon removal services. Backed by sources like Breakthrough Energy Fellows and the Department of Energy, the company has received $6 million in philanthropic funding.

30 Under 30 in Science

Matthew Clarke, PhD ’22 Aeronautics & Astronautics

Clarke is now an assistant professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. There he focuses on the development of tools for the design, analysis, and optimization of non-conventional, supersonic, and electric aircraft than can take off and land vertically. While doing his doctoral work at Stanford, Clarke developed a design tool now used by more 10,000 aerospace engineering professionals, including NASA and Airbus. His new lab also explores the interaction between aircraft and the environment to make more sustainable designs.

Aditya Grover, PhD ’20 Computer Science

Grover co-led the development at Stanford of a machine learning method to more quickly charge electric vehicle batteries. Now an assistant professor of computer science at UCLA, he develops artificial intelligence models for scientific simulation. Earlier this year, he spearheaded Climate+X, the first AI foundation model for weather and climate. Climate+X can be adapted for any predictive task involving atmospheric data, such as weather and demand forecasting, and estimating greenhouse gas emissions.

Rachel Huang, PhD ’23 Materials Science & Engineering

Huang is now a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Texas-Austin. As a materials scientist, she develops materials that contribute to a safer world. During her doctoral work at Stanford, she invented a non-flammable electrolyte for lithium batteries. Huang also founded Polymer X Battery to develop that technology for commercialization.

30 Under 30 in Social Impact

Aadith Moorthy, MS ’20 Materials Science & Engineering

Moorthy is the founder and chief executive of Boomitra, which uses satellite and AI technology to enable monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 removal credits around the world. The startup gets soil carbon increases certified internationally as carbon removal credits. Then it sells them to companies looking to meet sustainability goals. Most of revenue generated from the sale of the credits goes to the farmer, rancher, or landowner who sequestered the CO2. Boomitra has more than 50 full-time employees and has raised $6.6 million in venture funding. At Stanford, Moorthy was a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.

Caroline Spears, MS ’17 Civil & Environmental Engineering

Spears is the executive director of Climate Cabinet, which began as a volunteer-based team in 2018. Then a Texas state legislature candidate asked for climate talking points and policy solutions that were relevant to the candidate’s district. Climate Cabinet now identifies under-the-radar state and local races that have the biggest climate impact. In just under four years Climate Cabinet has endorsed more than 300 political candidates and supported 130 candidates with key early money to help them win.

30 Under 30 in Manufacturing & Industry

Karen Baert, MBA ‘22
Tristan Gilbert, PhD student

Baert and Gilbert, a doctoral candidate on leave in Mechanical Engineering, joined forces to co-found Ammobia. The world currently produces around 175 million tons of ammonia per year, mostly for fertilizer, accounting for 1 to 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Ammonia production uses an energy-intensive, century-old process. Baert and Gilbert are working to enable ammonia as a clean chemical, fertilizer, and enabler of energy storage. Their year-old Ammobia has raised $5 million. They began to develop the project while taking the Stanford Climate Ventures course. In addition to developing the startup, Baert works part-time for the Precourt Institute's Hydrogen Initiative, where she hosts a podcast, among other responsibilities.

30 Under 30 in Food & Drink

Louis Stenmark, BA ’22 Science, Technology & Development

Stenmark co-founded Windfall Bio, which is working to harness the power of microbes to transform the harmful greenhouse gas methane into organic soil nutrients. Windfall Bio has raised $9 million, including from investors Breakthrough Energy, B37, Bessemer Venture Partners, Baruch Future Ventures, SOSV and Cavallo Ventures, the MCJ Collective, and Dairy Farmers of America. Stenmark is an alumnus of Stanford Climate Ventures, though Windfall Bio is not the project he worked on in the course.

30 Under 30 in Healthcare

Jack Hu, PhD ’22 Materials Science & Engineering

Hu co-founded Pumpkin Seed, an early-stage startup developing a high-resolution, high-throughput protein sequencing platform. Its technology is using light to pull information from proteins and sequence them. Eventually, scientists could use the technology to understand pathways in cells and optimize an organism’s immunity. Farmers might lessen the troublesome use of antibiotics and pesticides as preventative medicine if they had an inexpensive test to get a snapshot of the immunity of a flock, herd, or crop to a broad range of diseases. Hu developed the foundational technology during his PhD research, and the company has raised $5.8 million in funding, including philanthropic grants and venture capital investors like NFX.

Read Forbes’ 2024 "30 Under 30 in Energy" report, or the entire “30 Under 30” feature.

The Stanford Climate Ventures course is funded by Tom and Johanna Baruch and offered through the Department of Energy Science & Engineering. The TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy was founded in 2009 with a gift from Tom Steyer, MBA ’83, and Kat Taylor, JD/MBA ’86. The Precourt Institute for Energy was founded in 2009 with a gift from Jay Precourt, BS ’59, MS ’60, and his family.

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