Grade 10 student, Naila Moloo '24. 

I'm a 15-year-old passionate about making impact in the sustainability sector. Last year I noticed that the applications for solar panels are very limited, mainly being confined to roofs. From there I began to wonder what a world would look like with transparent and flexible solar cells, as these could be placed on virtually any surface from a car to a phone to a window. In January 2021, I started working on this idea through leveraging nanomaterials like silver nanowires and graphene quantum dots, and I am now working in the MaRS Lab in Toronto to build it out alongside my mentor. My hope is to create a feasible design that could be implemented widespread. I am additionally developing a bioplastic from duckweed through an internship at Danish company Pond Biomaterials where I have been working in the chemistry lab at Carleton University. 

Plastic pollution is an enormous issue and duckweed is an ideal candidate for a bioplastic since it is the fastest growing and smallest species in the world, also having the potential to accumulate high percentages of starch. On top of this, duckweed is a second-generation feedstock, meaning we don’t consume it. The majority of bioplastics today come from crops like sugar cane and corn which cut into human consumption and compete for agriculture, and this is not scalable or sustainable. Therefore, duckweed, being superabundant and growing in water all over the world, could have incredible implications. Not only do I want to build within the sustainability sector but I want to get the word out. 

In March 2021 I spoke about the importance of women in STEM at Microsoft Ignite, I will be speaking at Reuters IMPACT this October, and I will be flying to Lisbon, Portugal in November to speak at Web Summit, the world’s largest technology conference. To increase my outreach I recently started The Curiosity Podcast with my friend Kristina Arezina which has the goal of bringing on people at the top of their fields surrounding exponential technologies like artificial intelligence, fusion energy, advanced technologies, etc. We have brought on/will be bringing on people like the UN Women Leader, an engineer at Neuralink, the Head of US Voice (Alexa, Siri, Google) at TD, the telecom director at Google, an AI developer at Facebook, a senior expert at McKinsey, an astrobiologist at NASA, and more. This is targeted at the younger generations to further equip them for the future and build skills not taught in school.

Outside of STEM, I love to write. I wrote my first book in grade three and attempted to get a novel published when I was 11 years old, which resulted in mass rejection. However, I went back to the drawing board, wrote another book when I was 12, and this time got a lot more interest. My debut novel, "Chronicles of Illusions: The Blue Wild" was published by Pegasus Publishing when I was 14 and is available around the world from Barnes and Nobles, Indigo, WHSmith, and Waterstones, both in-store and online. I am now writing a sequel and am hoping to get this out in the next year. My hopes for the future are to keep learning, being challenged, and building.

Naila was recently interviewed by CTV National News, you can see her interview here