Meet the TEDMonterey 2021 Fellows whose ideas and innovations are creating meaningful impact.
Engineer Alicia Chong Rodriguez is founder of Bloomer Tech, a company transforming everyday bras into smart medical devices that gather often-overlooked data on heart disease in women, a frequently misdiagnosed and under-researched killer. She has dual degrees in electrical engineering and computer science along with integrated design and management from MIT, where she researched sex-specific, computationally generated, cardiac biomarkers at the MIT Computational Cardiovascular Research Group.
In 2014, Jim Chuchu cofounded the Nest Collective, which has created works in film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature. His film Stories of Our Lives celebrates the narratives of Kenya's queer community in the midst of pervasive societal censure. He's also the founder of the HEVA Fund, an organization dedicated to making capital investments in the creative sector and building financial infrastructure around creative pursuits in East Africa.
Daniel Alexander Jones exemplifies the artist as energy worker. His body of original work includes plays, performance pieces, recorded music, concerts, music theatre events, essays and long-form improvisations. Energy is his medium. He creates multi-dimensional experiences where bodies, minds, emotions, voices and spirits conjoin, shimmer and heal.
Jones's numerous plays and performance pieces include Black Light (Public Theater, Greenwich House Theatre); Duat (Soho Rep); An Integrator's Manual (La MaMa, etc. and Fusebox Festival); and Radiate (Soho Rep and National Tour). He has recorded five albums of original songs as his alter ego, Jomama Jones. He is recognized as a key voice in the development of theatrical jazz and has made a significant contribution to Black experimental theatre and performance. He is currently developing Altar no. 5, a commission of the Public Theater developed in partnership with New York Live Arts.
Jones creates his own distinctive dramaturgy. His roots reach deep into Black American and queer performance traditions, and his work explores ideas of the Afromystical (awakening awareness of the numinous in the everyday through ritualized performance). Over more than two decades of professional practice, Jones has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to civic healing through vulnerable presence, truth telling and collective critical engagement.
Jenna C. Lester is founder of the Skin of Color dermatology program at UCSF, which addresses the persistent issues that arise from the exclusion and marginalization of non-white patients in medical research and practice. She is combatting medical disparities due to racial inequality, working to fill education gaps in textbooks and curriculum about non-white skin and training a new generation of doctors. A graduate of Harvard University and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, she is an assistant professor of dermatology at UCSF where she practices and teaches general dermatology.
Lei Li is an engineer developing advanced photoacoustic imaging, a process that produces high-resolution images of the body's deepest internal systems. Much safer than other forms of radiation-based imaging, this imaging provides anatomical, functional and molecular information all at once. He obtained his PhD in electrical engineering at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and has applied for five US patents, one of which was acquired for commercialization.
Tom Osborn is founder of Shamiri, a youth-led organization committed to providing affordable, evidence-based mental health care to young people across Sub-Saharan Africa and especially Kenya, where 45 percent of young people report clinical depression. In a region where mental health professionals are scarce and disorders are stigmatized, Shamiri implements evidence-based, low-cost wellness interventions in Kenyan schools. When he was 19 years old, Osborn was named to the global Forbes "30 under 30 list" for social entrepreneurship.
Nithya Ramanathan is founder and CEO of Nexleaf, a nonprofit using data and technology to improve the health of people around the world. Nexleaf partners with countries to create data analytic tools to keep vaccines at the correct temperature and alert local staff when vaccines are in danger of becoming unusable. A computer scientist specializing in sensor technologies and data analytics, she is a leading thinker on global vaccine distribution. She began her career in Silicon Valley designing computer chips at Intel and Hewlett-Packard and continued as research faculty in sensor technologies at UCLA. She holds a PhD in computer science from UCLA and a BS in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley.
Germán Santillán is founder of Oaxacanita Chocolate, a chocolate company that's empowering Indigenous communities in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, one of Mexico's culturally rich but economically poor regions. The company draws on Oaxaca's rich history as the cradle of chocolate and partners with cocoa farmers, traditional cooks and palm artisans to spark economic growth. In 2016, former president Barack Obama and the US Government named Oaxacanita Chocolate one of the best social projects of Latin America and the Caribbean as part of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative. Santillán holds a business science degree from the Technological University of the Mixtec and a leadership diploma from the University of Notre Dame.