Innovators Under 35 2020

Cathryn Virginia

In chaotic times it can be reassuring to see so many people working toward a better world. That’s true for medical professionals fighting a pandemic and for ordinary citizens fighting for social justice. And it’s true for those among us striving to employ technology to address those problems and many others.

The 35 young innovators in these pages aren’t all working to fight a pandemic, though some are: see Omar Abudayyeh and Andreas Puschnik. And they’re not all looking to remedy social injustices though some are: see Inioluwa Deborah Raji and Mohamed Dhaouafi. But even those who aren’t tackling those specific problems are seeking ways to use technology to help people. They’re trying to solve our climate crisis, find a cure for Parkinson’s, or make drinking water available to those who are desperate for it.

We’ve been presenting our list of innovators under 35 for the past 20 years. We do it to highlight the things young innovators are working on, to show at least some of the possible directions that technology will take in the coming decade. This contest generates more than 500 nominations each year. The editors then face the task of picking 100 semifinalists to put in front of our 25 judges, who have expertise in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, software, energy, materials, and so on. With the invaluable help of these rankings, the editors pick the final list of 35.


Their innovations point toward a future with new types of batteries, solar panels, and microchips.

  • Omar Abudayyeh

    Omar AbudayyehHe’s working to use CRISPR as a covid-19 test that you could take at home.

  • Christina Boville

    Christina Boville

    She modifies enzymes to enable production of new compounds for industry.

  • Manuel Le Gallo

    Manuel Le GalloHe uses novel computer designs to make AI less power hungry.

  • Nadya Peek

    Nadia PeekShe builds novel modular machines that can do just about anything you can imagine.

  • Leila Pirhaji

    She developed an AI-based system that can identify more small molecules in a patient’s body, faster than ever before.

    Leila Pirhaji
  • Randall Jeffrey Platt

    Randall Jeffrey PlattHis recording tool provides a video of genes turning on or off.

  • Rebecca Saive

    Rebecca SaiveShe found a way to make solar panels cheaper and more efficient.

  • Venkat Viswanathan

    Venkat ViswanathanHis work on a new type of battery could make EVs much cheaper.

  • Anastasia Volkova

    Anastasia VolkovaHer platform uses remote sensing and other techniques to monitor crop health—helping farmers focus their efforts where they’re most needed.

  • Sihong Wang

    Sihong WangHis stretchable microchips promise to make all sorts of new devices possible.


Their technological innovations bust up the status quo and lead to new ways of doing business.

  • Jiwei Li

    Jiwei LiIn the last few months, Google and Facebook have both released new chatbots. Jiwei Li’s techniques are at the heart of both.

  • Atima Lui

    Atima LuiShe’s using technology to correct the cosmetics industry’s bias toward light skin.

  • Tony Pan

    Tony PanHis company revamps an old device to allow you to generate electricity in your own home.


Their innovations are leading to breakthroughs in AI, quantum computing, and medical implants.

  • Leilani Battle

    Leilani BattleHer program sifts through data faster so scientists can focus more on science.

  • Morgan Beller

    She was a key player behind the idea of a Facebook cryptocurrency.

  • Eimear Dolan

    Eimear DolanMedical implants are often thwarted as the body grows tissue to defend itself. She may have found a drug-free fix for the problem.

  • Rose Faghih

    Rose FagihHer sensor-laden wristwatch would monitor your brain states.

  • Bo Li

    Bo LiBy devising new ways to fool AI, she is making it safer.

  • Zlatko Minev

    Zlatko MinevHis discovery could reduce errors in quantum computing.

  • Miguel Modestino

    Miguel ModestinoHe is reducing the chemical industry’s carbon footprint by using AI to optimize reactions with electricity instead of heat.

  • Inioluwa Deborah Raji

    Inioluwa Deborah RajiHer research on racial bias in data used to train facial recognition systems is forcing companies to change their ways.

  • Adriana Schulz

    Adriana SchulzHer tools let anyone design products without having to understand materials science or engineering.

  • Dongjin Seo

    He is designing computer chips to seamlessly connect human brains and machines.


They’re using technology to cure diseases and make water, housing, and prosthetics available to all.

  • Mohamed Dhaouafi

    Mohamed DhaouafiHis company’s artificial limbs are not only high-functioning but cheap enough for people in low-income countries.

  • Alex Le Roux

    Alex Le RouxA massive 3D-printing project in Mexico could point the way to the future of affordable housing.

  • Katharina Volz

    Katharina VolzA loved one’s diagnosis led her to employ machine learning in the search for a Parkinson’s cure.

  • David Warsinger

    David WarsingerHis system could alleviate the drawbacks of existing desalination plants.


Their innovations lead the way to biodegradable plastics, textiles that keep you cool, and cars that “see.”

  • Ghena Alhanaee

    Ghena AlhanaeeHeavy dependence on infrastructure like oil rigs, nuclear reactors, and desalination plants can be catastrophic in a crisis. Her data-driven framework could help nations prepare.

  • Avinash Manjula Basavanna

    His biodegradable plastic protects against extreme chemicals, but heals itself using water.

  • Lili Cai

    Lili CaiShe created energy-efficient textiles to break our air-conditioning habit.

  • Gregory Ekchian

    Gregory EkchianHe invented a way to make radiation therapy for cancer safer and more effective.

  • Jennifer Glick

    If quantum computers work, what can we use them for? She’s working to figure that out.

  • Andrej Karpathy

    KarpathyHe’s employing neural networks to allow automated cars to “see.”

  • Siddharth Krishnan

    Siddharth KrishnanA tiny, powerful sensor for making disease diagnosis cheaper, faster, and easier.

  • Andreas Puschnik

    Andreas PuschnikSeeking a universal treatment for viral diseases, he might leave us much better prepared for the next pandemic.


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