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Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan: Outstanding Graduate for Service

Published: 05-26-2016
Source: JILA Scientific Communications

Former JILAn Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan

Former JILAn Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan is one of two 2016 Outstanding Graduates for Service in the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. Gopalakrishnan graduated from CU on May 7, 2016, with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in engineering physics. As part of her 5-year program of study, she spent two years working with the magnetics group in the Kapteyn/Murnane labs.

“For my Master’s, I looked at ultrafast demagnetization dynamics in three different ferromagnetic materials: iron, cobalt, and nickel,” Gopalakrishnan said.

In her spare time, Gopalakrishnan started a new company, Surya Conversions. Surya Conversions has plans to develop, manufacture, and sell hybrid electric conversion kits for rickshaws and other small vehicles in India and developing countries. Her idea for the company came after multiple family trips back to India.

“I noticed that the pollution was getting worse each time I visited,” she said. “So I really wanted to do something about this because it was so sad to see the country where I was born and where my whole family lives to be so affected by pollution. I want to help solve this problem.”

Gopalakrishnan says it’s actually a two-pronged problem: the pollution plus the poverty of the rickshaw drivers, who can barely afford to pay for their children’s education.

The solution to both problems could be the new hybrid electric conversion kit for rickshaws. The kit is expected to cut a rickshaw’s emissions by 33 percent each day. A payment plan developed by Surya Conversions will allow the rickshaw drivers to pay off their kits in one year, with their payments offset by savings on gasoline. After the first year, drivers’ incomes should increase 33% because of ongoing fuel savings.

Today, Surya Conversions has five team members: Irfan Nadiadi, Samuel Winston, Matthew Minkler, Kimberlee Ott, and Gopalakrishan. The company currently works out of the Idea Forge on the southeast side of the CU Boulder campus.

“We do our mechanical engineering work there as well as having our meetings there,” Gopalakrishnan said. “We figured, why rent office space when we’re still a really small company. We don’t have any profit yet, so we decided to use the resources here.

“We plan to have a subsidiary company in India to do manufacturing because it doesn’t make sense to make the kits here and ship them to India.”

For more information about Gopalakrishnan’s efforts to solve global problems with entrepreneurism, see Class of 2016: Solving global problems through entrepreneurism.

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