Recent USC Viterbi Ph.D. Named Among “World’s Top 35 Innovators Under 35

Niki Bayat is the first USC doctoral student to have earned distinction as one of MIT Technology Review’s prestigious “TR 35.”

Niki Bayat, M.S. CHEM ENG ’14 and Ph.D. CHEM ENG ’18, has been named by the MIT Technology Review to the prestigious 2018 TR-35 list of the world’s leading innovators under 35. Bayat – who studied under the supervision of Professor Mark Thompson, a renowned chemist, and with collaboration of Professor Mark Humayun, the developer of the first artificial retina – is the first USC doctoral student to have earned the TR-35 distinction. In the past nine years, USC Viterbi has won 13 TR-35 awards, of whom nine are female engineers. “I am sure you all share my pride in this tremendous accomplishment from our faculty and students,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said.

During her Ph.D. studies, Bayat, the recipient of the 2018 USC Ph.D. Achievement Award, developed innovative biomedical devices, including an injectable hydrogel for sealing eye injuries. She also helped create smart hydrogels that can be inserted into tear ducts to time release medicine to treat dry eye and, in the future, glaucoma. “Nothing motivates me more than seeing that my research has resulted in improvement of a patient’s condition,” she said.

In 2016, Bayat cofounded AesculaTech to commercialize her hydrogels and drug-delivery technologies. She and her startup won third place among 29 participants from around the world in the 2016 Innovation Coast Conference & Competition; second place among 148 teams in the 2015 Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies’ New Venture Seed Competition; and second prize in the 2015 Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition, or MEPC. Most recently, AesculaTech was chosen to reside in the Y Combinator, a business accelerator consistently ranked as the nation’s best.