Two WPI professors—one new and one incoming—have been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Class of 2022. The magazine’s annual feature highlights 30 people under the age of 30, this year from 20 different industries, whom the publication identifies as “the new guard, the young innovators, trailblazers, and disruptors remaking our world.”
Making this year’s list are entertainers, entrepreneurs, technologists, and scientists including Christina Bailey-Hytholt, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Bashima Islam, who will soon join the university as an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This is the first time two members of the WPI community are represented on the annual list.
“Christina and Bashima are both really exceptional people, and I’m excited to have them as members of the WPI faculty,” says Bernard M. Gordon Dean of Engineering John McNeill. “They appreciate what’s special about WPI and are coming here to be a part of an institution that values balance between research and teaching. I’m sure they will uphold and contribute to those values.”
Bailey-Hytholt’s research is focused on biomaterials, and on drug and gene delivery, particularly in relation to women’s health. Her research seeks to design new therapeutics to treat conditions that impact prenatal and women’s health, as well as to develop tools to better understand how molecules, such as pharmaceuticals and environmental toxicants, interact with the placenta. She says, “There are many challenges facing women’s health that can really benefit from an engineering perspective and approach.”
Bailey-Hytholt was recently awarded a $237,542 grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) for a two-year project to develop lipid-protein models that could be used to study how pharmaceuticals interact with the maternal-fetal interface. The grant was one of 10 awarded by the MLSC for women’s health innovations with the potential for translation into commercial opportunities.
Her faculty appointment is also something of a homecoming. Bailey-Hytholt was an undergraduate student at WPI, earning a BS in chemical engineering in 2015. Her return to WPI in this new role is “a powerful testimony to what WPI offers both its students and faculty members,” says McNeill.
Islam’s research is also focused on solving problems that could have an immediate impact on people’s lives, although she is doing so through the Internet of things (IoT). Islam’s work is centered on next-gen IoT devices that are both sustainable and scalable, and incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning. These devices run the gamut from health wearables to smart agriculture.
One such wearable device Islam is developing uses acoustic sensing to warn pedestrians if cars are approaching. She also plans to explore ways to make these devices run on alternative energy sources that will eliminate the need for batteries. “What’s exciting about Bashima’s work is she doesn’t even want or need a battery,” says Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Head Rick Brown.
Islam will direct the Bringing Awareness through Systems for Humans (BASH) Lab at WPI. She’s also looking for students to join the lab when she officially becomes part of the WPI faculty in the fall of 2022. With the 30 Under 30 award, her official start date comes with added enthusiasm and anticipation. “I’m absolutely thrilled for Bashima, my department, and the School of Engineering. It’s just really exciting,” says Brown.