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ECE Alumna Akshaya Shanmugam Earns Spot on Forbes' '30 under 30' for Healthcare

Akshaya Shanmugam

Akshaya Shanmugam

Akshaya Shanmugam — a UMass Amherst alumna of our Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department and CEO and co-founder of the Amherst-based spinoff company Lumme Inc. — has been recognized in Forbes Magazine’s list of “30 under 30” entrepreneurs for Healthcare. At Lumme, Shanmugam has developed helpful and effective software for smokers who want to quit. See press coverage: Mirror Now, Zee News, Domain-b.com. See UMass News Office article. Shanmugam earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical and computer engineering at UMass Amherst in 2012 and 2015, respectively, both under the direction of Dr. Christopher Salthouse of the ECE department.

While at UMass Amherst, Shanmugam was one of the most highly decorated graduate students in College of Engineering history. She was the recipient of a host of awards and honors, including the 2012-13 Hluchyj fellowship, the 2013 Special Tang Award, and several prizes from the University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge (including the David Wolf prize and the Glass family demonstration award). She topped off all those accomplishments with the Eugene M. Isenberg scholar award for two consecutive years.

Lumme’s current focus is the development of an effective program for smokers to quit by combining wearable sensors, data analytics, and behavioral psychology. The company is currently conducting extensive clinical trials in collaboration with the Yale Medical School. Lumme is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
Besides smoking, Shanmugam’s company is also aimed at preventing other addiction problems, such as drinking and obesity. The technology developed at Lumme continuously analyzes sensor data from a wristband and a mobile phone to detect smoking and high-risk triggers for smoking lapses. The company says this approach allows smokers to detect triggers associated with their smoking patterns, while the technology predicts when the user is most likely to experience cravings and prevents a relapse by offering tailored, personalized intervention.

Shanmugam’s Hluchyj Graduate Fellowship was started by Dr. Michael Hluchyj, a 1979 alumnus of the ECE department, and his wife, Theresa “Terry” Hluchyj, a 1977 alumna from the School of Nursing. The fellowship supported Shanmugam with an annual stipend so she could do interdisciplinary research in the area of clinical healthcare.

Shanmugam won first place in the 2013 ECE Ph.D. Poster Session and congruently received the “Special Tang Award,” sponsored by the Shirley and Ting-wei Tang Endowment, for her poster entitled “Lenseless Fluorescence imaging with height calculation.”

Additionally, Shanmugam was a veteran of the Innovation Challenge, a year-long entrepreneurial competition extravaganza on campus. Shortly after she earned her doctorate from the ECE department, she was a prize winner in the spring of 2016 for her newly created Lumme company. In May of 2014, Shanmugam’s mDiagnostics also garnered $15,000 in Innovation Challenge prize money to support the development and marketing of her reliable, portable, single-use, low-cost, Hepatitis C screening device.

“The Innovation Challenge provides the opportunity for students to gain real entrepreneurial experience and learn the basics of starting a company,” says College of Engineering Entrepreneur-in-Residence Eric Crawley. “It is great to see how Akshaya has applied these skills and grown as an entrepreneur.”
Shanmugam’s Innovation Challenge winnings also included two special prizes. She won the $5,000 David Wolf Prize, established by the intellectual property law firm of Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C. and awarded to the team of innovators who demonstrate the greatest potential in the UMass Innovation Challenge. In addition, she won a $2,500 “demonstration” award from the Robert and Sandra Glass Innovation Fund, supporting the most promising team of competitors in the Innovation Challenge.

In addition to all those honors, Shanmugam was a two-time winner of an Isenberg scholarship, awarded to UMass Amherst graduate students who demonstrate academic merit and a commitment to the integration of science or engineering with management. These awards of up to $10,000 apiece are intended to prepare recipients for leadership roles in high-tech ventures, corporate R&D, technically oriented businesses, and other entrepreneurial initiatives.

All the evidence indicates that Shanmugam’s graduate career in the ECE department has launched her on an entrepreneurial career with unlimited potential.
As ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot says: “It is great to see the success of one of our department’s Ph.D. alumni who benefitted from the amazing campus opportunities that complemented her ECE experience.” (November 2017)