Four Trojan Engineers Named “Forbes Under 30 Scholars”

| November 29, 2017

A painter who codes; a Colombian angel; a budding 3D printing entrepreneur; a Gates Millennium Scholar. Meet the four USC Viterbi students who received the opportunity to attend the 2017 Forbes Under 30 Summit.

USC Viterbi’s Four Forbes Scholar: (left to right) Yash Bharganwar, Arlene Aristizabal, Joshua Neutel, and Omar Garcia / Courtesy of Forbes Scholars

Forbes granted 1000 college students across the country the honor of becoming a Forbes Under 30 Scholar. The scholarship gives college students a free ticket to Forbes’ star-studded Under 30 Summit, in addition to networking opportunities. The scholarship honors them as bright young men and women, whose intelligence and accomplishments designate them as the leaders of tomorrow.

Over 60 USC students across a variety of majors seized this opportunity becoming part of the 1000 2017 Forbes Scholars. Amongst their ranks are four USC Viterbi students: Yash Bharganwar, Arlene Aristizabal, Joshua Neutel and Omar Garcia.


Yash Bharganwar / Courtesy of Forbes Scholar

Yash Bharganwar is a jack-of-all-trades: a double major in computer science and business, the former program manager for USC’s Aerodesign Team is also a talented painter.

He has an easel set up in his home and currently enjoys painting nature in the impressionist style of Monet. “If I’m ever stressed or need a break, I can take five minutes out and do something I enjoy, something relaxing,” said Bharganwar, whose paintings are also a self-reflective journal of his life as an engineering student.

“Especially when you’re at USC you get caught up in the many things you’re doing and the days fly by. When you look back a month later, you don’t know what each day looked like.”

One of Yash’s most memorable experiences at USC Viterbi was the Sidney Harman Academy of Polymathic Study. “I believe that the best of things happen at the intersection of different fields,” Bharganwar said. “It exemplifies and personifies why I came to USC.”

Bharganwar had an interest in engineering from a young age. “I started to learn how to code in Java when I was in the eighth grade,” he said, crediting his analytical outlook to his early days dabbling in programming.

At the Forbes Under 30 Summit, Bharganwar attended the Capital Stage, one of the four Forbes content stages the scholars had access to. Each stage had a different focus. The Capital stage had speakers and presentations about entrepreneurship from entrepreneurs. “I know it wasn’t as popular as the Tech Stage but I felt I could get the most out of learning from people who’ve run businesses,” he said.


  • My favorite speaker was…Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates. They’re the largest hedge fund in the world.”
  • What I want to be doing in five years is…in short, I don’t know. Travel. There’s a lot to learn from different cultures and people.”
  • My favorite scientific/technological accomplishment or advancement in history is… the printing press.”
  • My top three role models are…Mahatma Gandhi, every single person at USC – in their own way, everyone had something different to offer – and me in five years. ”


Arlene Aristizabal / Courtesy of Forbes Scholar

Arlene Aristizabal’s journey to the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston begins in Cali, Colombia; then to Los Angeles via Miami.

“All my friends and my family are still in Colombia,” Aristizabal said. “Only my mother and my sister are here with me.”

She completed her associate’s degree in biotechnology at Miami Dade College, overcoming a major language barrier. “Back in high school, I didn’t do so much English, so the transition for me to speak English all the time was a little bit hard,” she said, while bemoaning the fact that it took her three years to gain the confidence to transfer to a university.

But Aristizabal isn’t one to let language get in the way. Now, she’s a junior at USC Viterbi majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in entrepreneurship. Still connected to her mother country, Aristizabal founded the Angel Souls Project, a charity that gives holiday gifts to children in high-crime neighborhoods in Colombia.

“I would like to give more than gifts, do more than just raising funds,” said Aristizabal who looks forward to growing her organization. On her list of priorities is adding 3D printed prosthetics to Angel Soul’s projects. The poorest of the poor in Colombia’s barrios have minimal access to health care, and she’s encountered many children with missing limbs who can’t attend school or play due to disability. “I want to touch their lives in a different way,” she said.


This semester, Aristizabal has become active on the outreach committee of the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Diversity being the theme for this year’s Forbes Under 30 Summit, it touched upon many of Aristizabal’s goals. “I mentioned on my application that I’m Hispanic and that coming from my background it’s really important for me to get in contact with these powerful women in the industry,” she said.

She was also impressed by the number of young people who are going into STEM fields. At one of the summit’s networking mixers, she had a very interesting conversation with someone she believed to be a student, just like her. Not only did that “student” turn out to be the main speaker, but he was also a member of the LIGO team that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Arlene chose to attend the newest content stage, Discovery, because it featured people focused on advances in medical care. “They’re all really patient-driven,” she said. “They care about people. I want to follow in their footsteps. I want to help people – that’s why I’ve chosen to be a biomedical engineer.”

  • My favorite speaker was…Dean Kamen. He has over 400 patents and is part of BioFabUSA (an organ-building institute).”
  • What I want to be doing in five years is…being happy and fulfilled and doing great things.”
  • My favorite scientific/technological accomplishment or advancement in history is…the diabetes pump. For things they are doing now, I’m really interested work the eGenesis lab is doing with doing human organ transplants with pig organs.”
  • My top three role models are… Dean Kamen, Dr. Ellis Meng (chair of USC Viterbi’s Department of Biomedical Engineering), and my mother.”


Joshua Neutel / Courtesy of Forbes Scholar

Joshua Neutel’s intense drive stems from an unusual source: childhood obesity.

“In the eighth grade, at five feet and seven inches, I weighed 220 pounds,” said Neutel. “I lost the excess weight over a period of two years.” This instilled a strong work ethic in him and a need to overachieve, he said.

Majoring in chemical engineering at USC, he’s involved with numerous campus organizations on campus, including Engineers Without Borders and the university’s premier 3D printing club, 3D4E.

For Neutel, these student organizations bolster his ultimate career goal: owning his own company. “I’ve embraced my obsessive-compulsive personality,” he said. “I’m not one of those people that can just sit around.”

He already has some ideas about how to combine 3D printing and marketing to create custom insoles for people with flat feet. “Custom insoles are really expensive and with 3D printing we can make it more affordable,” said Neutel who is a student in Professor Andrea Armani’s lab.

He considers himself lucky to have the opportunity to focus on his own project in a world-class lab: researching microsphere drug delivery systems. In other words, looking into how to make drugs like ibuprofen last longer.

Due to midterms and all the things he is juggling right now, it is perhaps unsurprising albeit unfortunate from his point of view that he was not able to attend the summit.That didn’t lessen the impact the award had on him, especially on the theme of diversity:  “I grew up in a closed-off community and attended a Jewish K-12 school,” he said. “So when I got to USC Viterbi which is one of the most diverse schools, I was like, whoa!”

He hopes to attend next year.

  • The speaker I most wanted to see was…John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple.”
  • What I want to be doing in five years is…going to grad school. I plan on working for a couple years and then hopefully the company I work for will help me pay for it.”
  • My favorite scientific/technological accomplishment or advancement in history is…the Internet.”
  • My top three role models are…my cousin Bradley, my father and Kobe Bryant.”


Omar Garcia / Courtesy of Forbes Scholar

Omar Garcia almost didn’t make it to the Forbes Under 30 Summit because the scholarship didn’t cover transportation and lodging. Then, his sister came to the rescue, offering to pay for airfare as an early birthday present. An old friend at Boston University who lived near the summit venue offered to let him crash on his couch.

He had a similar experience with getting into USC. Just replace his sister and Boston buddy with Bill and Melinda Gates.

Omar grew up in a low-income community in Mesa, Arizona. He went to one of the largest and lowest performing public schools in his area. But that only left him determined to make the best of the limited opportunity.

“My parents never got the opportunity to get an education beyond high school,” he said. “Let alone finish high school. They always told me to do my best in school and be grateful for it. I wanted to make them proud.”

Getting accepted into USC Viterbi, was a big moment for his entire family.

“But when I got my financial aid package, I realized my parents couldn’t afford it,” Garcia said. His parents suggested he go to Arizona State instead. But Garcia’s sights were firmly set on USC Viterbi. “I knew I’d have to do something if I really wanted to go to USC.”

Enter Bill and Melinda Gates. Or rather, the Gates Millennium Scholarship. And another acceptance letter: “I remember getting that white envelope in the mail. At that point, I realized I was going to go to college,” he said. “I called my mom crying, ‘Mom! Mom! I’m going to California!’”

The Gates Millennium Scholarship not only pays for Garcia’s undergraduate tuition, it also pays for his graduate tuition as well.

Garcia majors in chemical engineering with a focus on polymers and materials. Set to graduate in May 2018, he wants to attend grad school toward a Ph.D. in materials science.

Another alum of the prolific Armani lab, Garcia works on developing a micro ultra-violet laser that can be integrated onto a chip. The laser has a number of applications, including detecting proteins in the body that could have a harmful effect.

“I’ve learned so much from Professor Armani,” Garcia said. “It’s changed the course of my undergraduate career and I got a really cool internship at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that would’ve been impossible without the previous work I’ve done here.” Andrea Armani is the Ray Irani Chair in Chemical Engineering and Material Sciences and Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Chemistry.

Garcia applied to be a Forbes Under 30 Scholar last year but didn’t get it. “I was really shocked when I found out that I made it this year,” he said. “The U.S. chess champion was there and I’m a huge fan, so I did some fangirling. It’s just a really cool environment. These people are going to change the world, and I’m a part of that.”

He attended the Tech stage.

  • My favorite speaker was…Kendrick Lamar.”
  • What I want to be doing in five years is…finishing my Ph.D. in material science.”
  • My favorite scientific/technological accomplishment or advancement in history is…Moore’s Law.”
  • My top three role models are…Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Taylor Swift.”

Published on November 29th, 2017

Last updated on April 8th, 2021

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