Pittsburgh notables make Forbes ‘30 under 30’


Courtesy of Inma Hernandez, Shinjini Kundu, and Erica Roney

(From left) Inma Hernandez, Shinjini Kundu, and Tyler Benson.

By Mary Rose O'Donnell, Staff Writer

From manufacturing to health care, from computer science to cuisine, Pittsburgh holds its own when it comes to sending new products and ideas into the world. This year, three young innovative Pittsburghers have made it onto the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 list for contributions to their respective fields, including two Pitt researchers.

Inmaculada Hernandez – Age 28, Healthcare List

Inmaculada Hernandez was raised in a STEM household — her mother is a pharmacist who owns her own independent pharmacy and her father is an economist. Both had a hand in curating her passions.

“I have always loved science and math with all of my heart,” Hernandez says. “I knew I was going to do something, probably medical-related, but my final decision on pharmacy was because it was a family tradition.”

Hailing from Soria, Spain, Hernandez has recently made great strides in pharmaceutical research, in addition to fostering and educating the next generation of pharmacists.

She has been working as an assistant professor at the School of Pharmacy for two and a half years after receiving her doctorate in Health Services and Research from Pitt in 2016. After graduating from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, she chose to pursue her doctorate at Pitt for its emphasis on research and its commitment to training its students and supporting their work.

She is currently pursuing three topics of research. The first involves the use of blood thinners in preventing strokes — finding which blood thinners work the best with the least side effects.
The second topic involves looking at the effectiveness and safety of drugs used in anti-dementia therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The last topic involves trends in drug prices in the last few years in the United States, specifically what is driving increasing costs, which is why she thinks she is being recognized by Forbes.

“Pharmaceutical pricing is something very hot in the United States, specifically now,” Hernandez said.
For Hernandez, coming to the United States was one of the pivotal moments of her life and career and she felt welcomed in Pittsburgh since her arrival more than two years ago.

“I have a strong accent and I think it’s lovely when I talk in Ubers or in other places, people ask me where I’m from. People will say, ‘I’m so happy that you are here in the USA.’ It makes me feel very welcome. I think that attitude is very positive and is necessary to keep attractive talent, students and researchers in the City,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said her doctorate faculty mentor Yuting Zhang, an associate professor of health economics, had a large impact on the way she approaches her research today.

“I really appreciated her time and her mentoring. She taught me that it was important to do high-quality work and that the point of research is to welcome solutions to the world, not just to get published,” Hernandez said. “At the end of the day, as a researcher, that’s what we are here for — to contribute to society and knowledge.”

Tyler Benson – Age 29, Food & Drink

For Tyler Benson, being recognized by Forbes was a surprise — but having his business recognized was not.

“The Forbes recognition was definitely a surprise, but where we are in our business is not a surprise. To build something from scratch is just a daily exercise. It’s getting up every day and putting forth that 1 percent that is going to compound over time. Then you wake up and you think, ‘Wow, we have four locations,’” Benson said.
Born in Seattle, Benson has been the co-CEO of Galley Group, a food hall development company, since 2015. He received a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Michigan in 2011 and a master’s of business administration from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2015.

Benson said he and his fellow co-CEO Ben Mantica’s — a native of Sewickley, who did not make the Forbes list due to being more than 30 years old — interest in the restaurant business came from their experiences in the Navy a few years earlier. Upon traveling to East Asia, they were intrigued by the open-air food markets and casual dining halls they went to.

Both agreed the Rust Belt cities of America would be a good place to start their own business modeled after these.

“We looked at [the Rust Belt] and thought, ‘This is a way-undervalued market that we can start our business [in] for much lower cost [than] in coastal big cities,’” Benson said.

The two launched Smallman Galley in the Strip District in 2015, featuring several different rotating restaurant concepts under one roof. Galley Group now owns and manages three other food halls and licenses its kitchens out to culinary teams on a weekly revenue share structure, meaning they collect 30 percent of weekly food sales and the tenant keeps the rest. Benson said this gives chefs the opportunity to start their own businesses.

“The goal is to provide a unique opportunity for culinary teams and chefs to run their own restaurants in our space for very low cost and very low risk,” Benson says. “The idea is that they stay with us for a period of time and then they rotate out and rotate in and so on to give someone else a chance.”

Besides Smallman Galley in the Strip District, Benson also now co-owns Federal Galley in the North Shore, as well as halls in Ohio City, Ohio, and Detroit. Each location can house four different budding restaurant concepts at a time.
Benson said opening Smallman Galley is one of his favorite moments of his career so far.

“It was a really long road to get that location open. We pulled together investments from friends and family and some local lenders came into the project. To see the first one come to fruition and have it actually work was a unique experience,” he said.

Shinjini Kundu – Age 28, Healthcare List

For Shinjini Kundu, an Amherst, Massachusetts, native and current resident doctor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, her interests in STEM date back to as early as when she was 3 years old.

“My parents used to joke that I would experiment with the toilet paper and see if one-ply sheets or two-ply sheets were stronger,” she says with a laugh. “I guess I’ve always been interested in coming up with new solutions and new ways to solve problems.”

But it wasn’t until high school when she had her first experiences with research, working in a research lab in chemistry on protein folding.
“I thought the process of going through and tackling an important problem with the methodical approach by which you have to think about the problem and operationalize your ideas into practice and apply them to actual products was really interesting,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in this, and medicine is where I decided to apply this interest.”

Kundu attended Stanford University for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, and according to her, this is where her specific interest in medical imaging began. This led her to an internship at GE Healthcare, where she worked with medical imaging devices and tried to improve their function.
“That’s when I realized that I am definitely interested in innovation and technology, but I’m also interested in the other side, which is the human aspect and seeing if this technology is actually benefiting patients,” she said.

During her junior year at Stanford, she decided she wanted to pursue medical and doctorate degrees, continuing with her engineering career as well as going to medical school to become a medical doctor.

She completed her doctorate at Carnegie Mellon in 2016 and her medical degree at Pitt in 2017. While at CMU, Kundu created a new artificial intelligence system for the purpose of analyzing medical images and detecting disease.  

“While studying engineering, I got interested in imaging. In particular, I took a few classes in medical imaging covering the engineering side of how these images were generated,” Kundu said.

At the moment, she is focused on the clinical aspects of the medical field and day-to-day care of patients. In her free time, she researches artificial intelligence to detect evidence of disease that humans may not be able to see.

“I’m interested in the patient-care aspect, as well as how we can improve the patient care that is available and improve outcomes,” Kundu said.