The members of the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 Science list are turning science fiction into reality.


“My father was a founder, my uncle has a logging company and my grandmother is a botanist,” says Maddie Hall, founder of the startup Living Carbon, which is growing genetically modified trees that take more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and offer greater durability and faster growth. “So there was a destiny for me to be a founder of a plant biotech company.”

Enlisting genetically engineered trees to fight against climate change may sound like science fiction, but Hall, 28, is just one of the members of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Science with inventions that sound straight out of a sci-fi novel. 

Take Jelena Notaros, 27, for example. This assistant professor at MIT is designing augmented reality displays that produce real-life holograms. Recently, her team developed a chip that can fit on an eyeglass lens, producing such holograms solely for the person wearing it. Then there’s Danqing Wang, 28, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley who, inspired by the way chameleons change their colors, is developing low-powered, nano-sized lasers that can be used for a variety of applications, including medical devices. 

Another researcher at Berkeley, Basem Al-Shayeb, 27, helped discover the largest known virus, which infects bacteria and could help scientists improve Crispr technology. Also doing work on the microscopic scale is Zibo Chen, 29, who’s designing molecular computers that can modify cells. Doing almost the exact mirror image of this is Chanyeol Choi, 29, who’s developing large-scale computing devices using artificial versions of the synapses in human brains. 

Speaking of large scale computing, Carl E. Fields, 28, is using supercomputers in astrophysics, developing simulations of the life cycles of large stars, which has revealed new understandings of the inner workings of supernovas. Meanwhile, Julia Gonski, 28, is using machine learning techniques to crunch the millions of terabytes of data being produced at the Large Hadron Collider in order to better understand the workings of subatomic particles. 

Many of the members of this year’s list are also taking the wonders of science to the general public. Melissa Márquez, 27, for example, is a shark researcher who has also appeared several times on the Discover Channel’s “Shark Week” (including a memorable time when she was attacked by a crocodile) and has a children’s book about sharks coming out in 2021. Reptile researcher Earyn McGee, 26, is better known as the creator of #FindThatLizard on social media, which highlights some of the amazing ways these animals can camouflage themselves.

This barely covers the incredible research and outreach being done every day by this year’s list members. Be sure to read up on all of them.


“I wish more people would be willing to take the risk to leave a cushy tech job to see how they can contribute to solutions to climate change.”

Maddie Hall, Founder, Living Carbon

The Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science list was created using nominations from a variety of sources. It was edited by Healthcare staff reporter Katie Jennings, Healthcare & Science assistant editor Leah Rosenbaum and Healthcare & Science senior editor Alex Knapp.

The judges for this category were Kaitlyn Sadtler, an investigator at the National Institutes of Health and an alumna of the 2019 Under 30 list; Tory Bruno, President & CEO of United Launch Alliance; and Alan Sachs, Chief Science Officer of Thermo Fisher Scientific. Thanks to all of them and to everyone who nominated candidates.

For a link to our complete Science list, click here and for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here.