UBC grad Michelle Kunimoto named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list

Michelle Kunimoto woke up Thursday morning to a link to the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science list with a simple message from her friend: “congrats!”

Seven months after finishing her undergrad with the discovery of four new exoplanets, the graduate student found herself alongside fellow UBC student and 19-year-old inventor Ann Makosinski on the list.

“I feel very honoured — It's very humbling. Looking back two years ago, I never would've imagined [it]. If someone told me, ‘You're going to be on Forbes 30 Under 30,’ I wouldn't believe them. I'd think they were crazy,” she said.

Since she finished her undergrad, Kunimoto is headfirst back into her research as she's begun her master's degree. She's still working with her mentor, Dr. Jaymie Matthews, a member of NASA’s Kepler executive council who she says gave her the opportunities to succeed.

“I'm looking for even more planets. Now that I have the experience that I have, and I kind of have everything set up more efficiently, hopefully I'll be able to find even more. So that's exciting,” she said.

Once she's done school, Kunimoto plans to “send the elevator back down,” in the words of Kevin Spacey, either through formal teaching or mentorship.

“Whichever path I go, I'd like to be able to help out young students — undergraduate, high school students, anyone who shows interest in this. It's really important to foster that kind of interest.”