Two Game Changers on Forbes "30 Under 30"

Two Columbia Engineering professors made the Forbes 30 under 30, the business publication’s annual listing of the best and the brightest stars “impatient to change the world.”

Both Christine Fleming, assistant professor of electrical engineering, and Changxi Zheng, assistant professor of computer science, were listed on the 30 under 30 List for Science and Healthcare, among innovators doing breakthrough work in synthetic biology, brain mapping, Alzheimer’s, and aging. Forbes editors and reporters worked with panels of expert judges to select the “entrepreneurial, creative, and intellectual best of their generation” across 15 categories from tech and energy to music and media. Columbia was the only institution that had two representatives on the Science and Healthcare list.

“It is my distinct honor to be listed together with those fantastic and amazing people,” says Zheng, 29, who was thrilled to get the Forbes news. “I think this recognition reflects my good fortune for tackling interesting scientific problems in the past years and encourages me to go further along the way.”

Fleming, also 29, says she was overwhelmed and humbled by the honor. “I've been fortunate to have great mentors, and I am looking forward to developing my research further at Columbia,” she says. “I am extremely excited about my new position, not only to continue advancing research, but also to mentor new scientists and engineers.”

Fleming, who joined the School in July, focuses on developing tools for imaging the muscle tissue of the heart, to give heart surgeons a more detailed view to help diagnose disease and guide treatment. The optical imaging catheters she is developing will provide real-time monitoring of radiofrequency ablation therapy, a procedure to treat abnormal rhythms of the heart.

Before Columbia, Fleming did her post-doctoral work at Harvard where she developed signal- and image-processing algorithms to identify cholesterol deposits within optical coherence tomography images of coronary arteries.

Zheng’s research is focused on creating immersive virtual realities via a computer, which, he says, “require generating a full spectrum of human senses, from visual effects to audible sounds.” He studies the physical principles of sound phenomena, builds mathematical models, makes necessary approximations, and weaves practical computational algorithms to synthesize the sounds.

“I just want to recreate our physical world in computers,” Zheng adds. “So everything we see, we hear, we touch every day sparks my research.”

Zheng joined Columbia this year after completing his PhD at Cornell University. While his main research focus is on sound, Zheng is also working on building fast, cost-effective algorithms to create realistic virtual environments — both visible and audible — for a wide range of applications, from computer graphics to robotics.


-Melanie A. Farmer

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