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Two engineering alumni named to ‘Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list


Two Vanderbilt School of Engineering graduates — the co-founder of an alternative energy company and the co-inventor of a portable exoskeleton that helps paraplegics to walk — are among five Vanderbilt alumni who have been named to Forbes magazine’s  30 Under 30.

The third annual list recognizes rising stars across the fields of energy, education, entertainment, marketing and more.

Forbes editors and reporters worked with panels of expert judges to choose the brightest stars under the age of 30 in each of 15 categories. “These founders and funders, brand builders and do-gooders aren’t waiting for a proper bump up the career ladder,” according to the magazine. “Their goals are way bigger—and perfectly suited to the dynamic, entrepreneurial and impatient digital world they grew up in.”

Miles Barr, 29, is the co-founder of Ubiquitous Energy, which creates a transparent coating that converts light into electricity. Barr’s invention allows any surface to become an energy producer without impacting its appearance. According to Forbes, “This means one day soon, your smartphone could charge itself with just a little bit of light.” Barr majored in chemical engineering, mathematics and music, and received a bachelor of engineering degree from Vanderbilt in 2006.

Ryan Farris, 29, co-invented the first lightweight and portable exoskeleton along with Michael Goldfarb, H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt. The pair’s Indego is an exoskeleton packed with sensors that allows paraplegics with severe spinal cord injuries to stand up and walk, as well as enhances rehabilitation for people who have suffered a stroke.

Farris now works as an engineering manager for the motion control technology company Parker Hannifin, which has licensed the technology and hopes to bring a mass-produced exoskeleton to rehab facilities and then to consumers in the next few years. Farris received a master of science degree in 2009 and a Ph.D. in 2012, in mechanical engineering both from Vanderbilt.

The other Vanderbilt alumni are Matthew Rubinger, 25, director of luxury accessories at Heritage Auctions; Zakiya Smith, 28, strategy director at the Lumina Foundation; and Danielle Snyder, 28, a jewelry designer and the founder with her sister Jodie, 31, of Dannijo.

Five alumni named to ‘Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list

Learn more about the “30 Under 30 on Forbes’ website.