Natalie Lui

Adya Parida ’25 has a curiosity, courage and attitude that we can all learn from

headshot of a student in a blue blouse

To be a freshman at a university is intimidating – especially on a big campus like Syracuse University. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, all of us can recall the feelings of being excited, overwhelmed, nervous and maybe even scared at times.

Adya Parida ’25 feels all these emotions. However, she doesn’t let these feelings stop her from creating a great experience for herself at Syracuse with curiosity, courage, and enthusiastic attitude.

Parida applied to Syracuse University through a scholarship program from her high school back in India. The Next Genius Scholarship program was partnered with Syracuse University for Indian students who wanted to study abroad. After a series of interviews, Parida came to Syracuse University with a full tuition scholarship to study Computer Science at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Parida has an elder brother who is a computer engineer. One day, Parida’s brother showed her a video game that he was making – instantly Parida was awe. Who wouldn’t be? Watching her brother apply the knowledge he got from school in a computer program to create his own projects fascinated Parida. The computer science bug was infectious. Since Parida’s brother got her interested in coding and programming, she started learning about it on her own and has been working on her own projects. Of course, all this is extremely challenging but is also extremely fun for Parida.

Recently, Parida participated in Cuse Hacks – a coding competition and hackathon, that was organized by Innovate Orange. She and her team created their own Syracuse Safe Zone Project and competed against other teams. The competitors include coders of all expertise – from freshmen to graduate students. The competition was a valuable experience for her. Within a day of the competition, Parida learnt how to use API to integrate into webpages and how to use different python library packages.

Parida has heard about the Blackstone LaunchPad at the Syracuse University Libraries, in the Bird Library, through the newsletters. When she saw the Blackstone LaunchPad space in person, she wasn’t quite sure if she could just go in. There were meetings going on in there and it felt exclusive. Regardless of feeling nervous, her curiosity prompted her to just ask! Parida was connected to the Blackstone LaunchPad, simply by walking through the doors of the LaunchPad and asking about the space! This admirable attitude is something a lot of people wished they had.

Although Parida loves computer science, she is also interested in business. She is excited to get involved, learn, hangout in the space to hear the exciting things people are working on as well as bounce off her own ideas.

Parida is loving Syracuse University – her courses, her friends, the activities on campus and more. She also loves that she gets to live on the same floor of the dorm with her classmates as a part of the living learning community.

“Syracuse has totally exceeded my expectations!” says Parida.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Damaris (Koi) Munyua ’22 is introducing sustainability to the wig industry

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Wigs have become extremely popular for the fun, fashion, and versatility. You can go from having blue hair to blonde, from blonde to red, from red to whatever color, length, and style you could think of.  That trend has also produced a market for wig caps. Although wig caps provide a great base for a seamless wig application, they also negatively impact the environment. As someone who loves experimenting with wigs, Damaris (Koi) Munyua G’22, worked to find a more sustainable solution to wig caps.

After taking the Opportunity Recognition and Ideation class for her master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, Munyua started thinking about the items she was using in her everyday life and the issues she had with them.

Wig caps came to mind. Since it was hundreds of dollars to get a wig installed by a hair stylist, Munyua experimented with it herself. Soon, she found that the wig caps on the market were irritable to the skin, did not match black women’s skin tones and were bad for the environment. Munyua had great solutions to these problems. After working through the ideas in her course, she was encouraged by her instructor to keep pursuing the idea outside of the class project.

The target market for wig caps are usually African American women, but the wig caps on the market are usually beige in color. Munyua’s first solution was to make wig caps that matches skin tones of black women to provide better options.

Her next solution was to make the wig caps out of hemp nylon instead of cotton nylon or other synthetic materials. Although cotton may seem sustainable, cotton is not sustainably sourced – with lots of water waste and chemical pollution. Synthetic materials are non-biodegradable. Since wig caps are one use items, the waste that comes from the wig industry starts to escalate very quickly.

Hemp became a perfect solution, with the additional benefit of hypoallergenic qualities that prevent skin irritation.

Munyua is still learning more about products and intricacies of the wig industry. She is inspired by black owned businesses like Rebounded that makes plant based braided hair instead of synthetic ones.

Currently, Munyua is doing market research – talking to hair stylists and wig cap users. Talking to hair stylists is a great resource since they go through a considerable amount of wig caps compared to the average person.

Munyua was connected to the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries at the Bird Library, to get more idea on how she should start on her ideas. She has competed in a business plan pitch competition at the LaunchPad before and plans to compete in more.

As an entrepreneur but a fashionista at heart, Munyua was working on a venture called Fitted before. Fitted would be a platform for up-and-coming fashion designers to find their client base. Although Munyua isn’t working on the project anymore, she keeps her passion for fashion alive by sewing during her free time.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo by the LaunchPad

Christine Wu’22 wants to bring your favorite Asian snacks to you

woman in a blue shirt

Many Asian students on campus, both international students and Asian Americans, have a special place in their hearts for the Asian snacks they grew up with. Oreos and Capri Suns are great, but mochis and boba are especially delicious.  However, Asian snacks are not as accessible around campus. Knowing this problem all too well, Christine Wu ’22 started Phantom Tea as a class project.

As an Information Technology, Design, and Startups minor at the iSchool she met classmate Stacy Kim who then joined Phantom Tea.

Phantom Tea is inspired from the lack of accessibility that predominantly white institutions have when accessing Asian snacks or drinks. Although you can get your favorite American snack in the school vending machines or your closest CVS, it is not easy to get a hold of Asian snacks. Usually, students will ask their families to ship their favorite snacks from home, wait to get it on Amazon or drive ten minutes to the closest Asian market. Sure, driving ten minutes away does not sound too bad, but a lot of students don’t have cars.

With Phantom Tea, it won’t be necessary to drive to your local Asian market – this Asian snack store will drive itself to you! The snack truck would park in areas on the campus for students to catch throughout the day – allowing students to get a quick grab of their favorite snacks, especially boba.

After entering a LaunchPad pitch competition that Wu’s professor encouraged her to take part in,  Wu connected to the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, located in the Bird Library and has continued to refine her idea.

When Wu isn’t busy studying for both her Psychology major at the College of Arts and Science and her Economics major at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, or running Phantom Tea, she loves catching up Netflix shows with her friends. Wu and her friends also started a side business one summer to make designs on Nike Air Forces.

Although Phantom Tea is a great idea, the actual business is on hiatus until Wu finishes navigating through her post graduate plans to work in the tech industry. Phantom Tea was a great project and Wu gained a lot of experiences working on it. Developing as many skills as one can and taking advantages of resources on campus like Wu is a very smart thing to do as student

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Patrick Prioletti G’21 is creating new wellness applications

young man in snowy woods

When someone says “wellness app” what comes up to mind? Yoga? Guided meditation? Tracking your calories? Counting your steps?

Patrick Prioletti G’21 is creating two wellness apps, but they are a little different from the wellness apps you have on your phone right now.

Prioletti began working on Your Perfect Dose by chance. Retired chief neurosurgeon at Upstate, Gary Rodziewicz, needed someone to make an application for the perfect system he had formulated. After years of being a consultant in prescribing people dosages of cannabis for medical usage, Rodziewicz’s system proved to bring the efficacy of his patients from 40% to 75%.

As a student in the graduate program at the School of Information Studies, studying Applied Data Science, Prioletti was the perfect candidate for Rodziewicz.

After the two met at the Blackstone LaunchPad at the Syracuse University Libraries at the Bird Library, where Prioletti mentors, provided tech support, and had launched his own tech platform as a graduate student, Rodziewicz and Prioletti started working together.

Prioletti wrote an automation system to replicate what Rodziewicz was doing in his office. Your Perfect Dose started off as a website, but there weren’t enough users. Now, Prioletti is working on the app version of Your Perfect Dose to make it more accessible to people. Users can input their problems and check in to see how the recommended cannabis works for them. Think of the app as less of a prescription, more of a guide – like your local dispensary guy. It’s only three months till the testing stages of the app will begin.

This work made Prioletti more curious about wellness apps. After coming across a subreddit called r/micro-dosing, Prioletti went down a rabbit hole of psilocybin and psychedelic studies, and how they can help with personal wellness when used it right amounts.

The subreddit was full of people talking about studies and personal experiences of cases of depression – even end of life care terminal depression being helped with only one psilocybin trip. There have also been researches about people micro-dosing psilocybin and psychedelics under controlled environment with a therapist to treat their mental health as well.

Curious, Prioletti asked the subreddit if there is a website or application that they use to figure out how to micro dose properly. Since the answer was no, Prioletti decided he had to make one called Psily.

Prioletti’s goal with the application is not to guide people. The topic of psilocybin and psychedelics are still taboo and there is a lot of research to be done. Psily will allow users to track and record their usage, wellness, and other factors to help people find out what ideally works for their well-being.

The world of psychedelics and psilocybin may even likely become less taboo over the next decade with the data that Prioletti finds through his app. This would certainly be revolutionary for the world of health and well-being.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Yaoxu Zong ’22 is making independent travel possible for everyone

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Being stunned by the Great Pyramids of Giza, getting the best sushi in Japan and tanning on the beaches of Pattaya are on a lot of people’s bucket lists. In fact, when asked, people will say traveling is one of their favorite hobbies. Yaoxu Zong ’22, an Industrial and Interactions Design student in the School of Design, loves traveling as well, especially the experience of independent solo traveling.

With a shared love for travel, Zong and his teammate Emme Perkins used their hobby as an inspiration for the DES 400 Intelligence ++ program. Zong and Perkins came up with Rethinking Travel – an app that could help people, especially people with intellectual disabilities, to be able to travel independently.

Usually, people with intellectual disabilities travel with friends, family or someone who can provide them guidance. With Rethinking Travel, people can schedule a support group or a guide ahead of time in the areas that they would need help with. Most people do not need someone to help them all the time – it could only be to communicate or for getting to places. The help they need can be tailored to anything they need along the trip.

Zong has been talking to Micah and Augus from the Intelligence ++ program to give him insight on what people with disabilities really need and want. Rethinking Travels aims to empower people with disabilities and provide their worried loved ones a peace of mind.

Currrently, the team is also working with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries at Bird Library. Zong and Perkins also won a $500 Impact Prize – Intelligence ++ prize award recently for their work.

Rethinking Travel is now in the stages of prototyping and user testing. After it launches, Zong hopes the app the branch out to help elderly people or people with language barriers as well.

Zong says that the design school emphasizes on the importance of inclusivity in product designs and he is really enjoying learning more about the disability community and inclusivity through Rethinking Travel and Intelligence ++ class.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied


Eunice Boateng ’22 should be your new favorite hair stylist

student in a white dress

For many, one of their favorite personal experiences is having a great conversation with their hair stylist. This experience is not new to Eunice Boateng’s clients at The Hair Thairapist.

Boateng has been doing her own hair and her teammates’ hairs for some time, and now, thanks to Boateng, the members of her track and field team at Syracuse all have great hair.

Although she has been doing hair for fun, she started taking her vocation seriously during the coronavirus lockdowns. Hair salons shut down as the virus swept the country, so Boateng started doing her friends’ hair, and a business idea blossomed.  

Hair styling skills run in the family. Boateng’s mother and sister owns a hair salon in Ontario, Canada. Although she did not dabble in the salon business back home, Boateng can now do anything from wigs to cornrows for both men and women’s hair.

Now, Boateng is planning her own hair business like her mother and sister, but with a twist.

As a pre health psychology student at the College of Arts and Sciences who knows the importance of mental health and wellness, and as an outgoing person, Boateng loved getting into deeper conversations with her clients and get to know them well. She has a great bond with her clients and had a tear-jerking talk with her client a few weeks back. Having this kind of relationship with her clients, she realized that The Hair Thairapist is definitely the right name for her business.

Boateng was one of the students participating in the Startup in a Day event hosted by Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries at the Bird Library this semester.  She felt it was wonderful to see a variety of businesses involved, including those like hers that are not solely technology based.

She has a big future ahead of her. Soon after graduation, Boateng will be busy thinking about graduate school and running The Hair Thairapist. There might even be her own salon popping up in the future!

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Rich Jiang G’21 is working on a Venmo for cryptocurrency

student in a suit in a field of flowers

Rich Jiang G’21 has come up with quite a few business ideas throughout his time in Syracuse as a Computer Science student (both undergraduate and graduate) at the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences.

Rich joined the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries at the Bird Library during his undergraduate junior year as he worked on his ventures.  He initially joined to explore a business idea for a music application where you would be able to stream the same music with your friends. Rich’s next business venture was a mental health application. Now, as a graduate student, matured with past experiences from the ventures he tried to explore before, Rich has a new exciting business idea – Beam Wallet.

To put it in simple terms, Beam Wallet is the “Venmo for cryptocurrencies.” What is unique about Beam Wallet is how simplified it is compared to other platforms. The way that cryptocurrency moves now is through addresses and hashes. Rich is working a way around that by selecting a name and domain for your crypto wallet that could be substituted for the hashes. Currently, Rich is researching on how to provide affordable service to his potential users.

Rich came up with the idea when he was thinking of how to completely get rid of physical wallets. Phones can now replace debit and credit cards, but Rich is thinking of a future where his users will have the ability to replace traditional paper documents like identification cards, passports, driver’s licenses and house deeds with digital NFTs instead.

As an ambitious man, things can become overwhelming. Even though you are passionate about your venture, burn out can make you lose passion for your work. However, Rich has cracked a code. He has gamified his work life. He tries to see working on his business like a challenging game, so he never gets bored or tired of it.  Naturally, this idea comes from his past obsession for gaming.

 Rich has now moved on to other hobbies such as reading mangas and working out with his trainer. Always looking to better himself, coming up with exciting ventures and most importantly, being engaged in what he is doing, there is no doubt that Rich could really change how the cryptocurrency world works.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Nashon Ash ’23 and his self-made music production career

student in a blue jacket

Nashon Ash ’23 is an extremely busy student. He is a junior, majoring in Social Work at the Falk School of Social Work who spends his time working on school, at the school district for social work, and participating in seven different school organizations.

Ash is a man of multiple talents. Not only does he play the trombone, violin and a little bit of piano now, Ash has been playing the drum since he was three years old. Church definitely helped him spark an interest in music. Ash also played the drums at church sometimes.

“I always had something for music since I was young,” says Ash.

Eventually, the young drummer started listening to more and more music when he was in middle school and high school. One thing Ash noticed about himself was that he was listening more to the beat of the music instead of the lyrics. How the drums and the claps in the music are composed really amazed him.

High school sophomore Ash would then start producing music Ash started his production career by making beats on his phone for fun. As junior year rolled around, he upgraded and purchased an old used laptop to make his music using Garage Band and Logic Pro. These audio workstations shouldn’t be a stranger to music makers. Ash kept making more music and getting better at it. He learned through practice and “how to” YouTube videos.

As a college student, Ash produces music whenever he can. Music is Ash’s biggest hobby but he wants to make it his career. Getting to know more clients, making a consistent income through a music career is his goal. The Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries, located in  Bird Library, has been helping Ash connect to some connections in the music industry. Ash wants to make the most out of his opportunities and want to make more connections.

Ash knows a lot of artists, but he is aware that there are a lot of artists he doesn’t know yet. He knows a lot of local artists and work with a few of them. He’s also worked with artists from New York City, Atlanta and New Jersey. His history of production can be traced on his Beat Stars Page, Youtube and his Apple Music Playlist.

Ash grew up in the south side of Syracuse and absolutely loves the city. However, after he graduates, he has plans to move to a bigger city, either Atlanta, Los Angles, Charlotte or Dallas, where music thrives in the energy and creative scene.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Megan Perlman ’23 designs a snake -inspired sensory scarf

Inspiration can come from very unexpected sources. For Megan Perlman ’23, her inspiration, for the invention that could potentially provide an outlet to help soothe the wearer, came from snakes. 

Perlman is a bioengineering student in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Throughout her academic career Perlman learned many theories and concepts but had limited opportunities to put her knowledge into a hands- on project.

Luckily for Perlman, one of her instructors emailed her about the course DES 400 Inclusive Design, which is part of the  Intelligence ++ program. The course works with Inclusive U students as well as students across campus.  Through research and learning, teams have the opportunity to products, services and technologies that are accessible, inclusive and could be an immense help for the disability community.

After tagging along for a day to learn about the day-to-day life of her teammate Andrew, who is sensitive to sound, Perlman started to think about an invention that could help Andrew.

Perlman herself is sensitive to light and wears tinted glasses to help her eyes. After brainstorming eyewear and earbuds to help Andrew, Perlman decided on a scarf design that would help comfort Andrew with his sensitivity.

The inspiration? Therapy snakes. Andrew loves snakes. His dream is to breed and train snakes as therapy animals to donate to people who need them. After all, we can imagine how snakes could give really good hugs. This prompted Perlman and her team to design a snake inspired scarf.

Andrew does not like things that make him feel hot. Coming from Florida, Perlman knew too well that a normal scarf would not be the ideal product for everyone. This product is all about comfort and sensations. From her own experience, whenever Perlman was stressed, she would put a wet towel behind her neck. This idea brought about installing a piece of fabric near the neck that could be wetted. There would also be textures on the scarves that the user could interact and fidget with to soothe themselves. Soothing scents could also be installed  in the scarf for comfort.

Perlman and her team (Rabia Razzaq and Andrew) are already starting a prototype but they are doing more research to improve the design.

Through the course, Perlman was also  introduced to the Blackstone LaunchPad at  Syracuse University Libraries, located in the Bird Library. The team will be working with the LaunchPad to help compete and raise funds for the idea.

Perlman really enjoys the videos and discussions that happen in the course, which are about topics that are not generally explored in everyday life. The course has definitely increased her knowledge on inclusivity and accessibility.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied

Nikita Chatterjee ’20 continues her entrepreneurial journey with PAANI

student at a computer

Nikita Chatterjee ‘20 saw her grandmother boiling buckets and buckets of water when she visited her in Mumbai, India. Confused, Chatterjee asked her what she was doing. Her grandmother explained that she was purifying the water since water there does not have the same health safety as in New Jersey, where Chatterjee grew up. That was when Chatterjee realized that water contamination is a reality for millions of people in India. She continues to work on solving that challenge — first as a student at Syracuse University and now as a young alum pursuing a career in public health.

Water in India is often contaminated with industry pollution or body contamination. The experience impacted Chatterjee to the point that she wanted to be a part of the solution, in helping women in India, and people in developing countries, help access clean drinkable water.

Chatterjee believes that clean water is a human right.  As an Economics student in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, as well as premedical student, Chatterjee was focused on both business strategy and healthcare.  As she developed her skill sets, she focused on creating a solution that could have an impact, while being sensitive to local culture.

First world solutions are not always the best option for a developing country.  Water filtration devices can be expensive to purchase, cumbersome to use, and often abandoned over time because of complexity and cost.

Chatterjee noticed that women in India and Bangladesh have been using their saris to filter their waters for a long time. With this concept, Chatterjee had an idea for PAANI – an affordable and culturally sensitive refined water filtration system embedded in a sari.

The filter is made of georgette. The fabric is used in Bangladesh to filter water already and research has proven that the process helps prevents against cholera up to 50%. The porosity and longevity of georgette is what makes it the perfect fabric for water filtration.

As an added advantage, since PAANI uses natural fabrics, there are no artificial dyes to leak into the water.

An updated design of the filter that be featured on the PANNI website soon. There will be pod-sized pockets that are inserted in the georgette filled with different disinfectants.  They are arranged so that when the fabric is folded over, the built-in filtration fits together like a puzzle. The fabric can then be placed over a water collection vessel and water could be poured over it to be filtered.

PAANI is targeting specific bacteria that causes waterborne illnesses like cholera, typhoid fevers and dengue fevers that comes from mosquito eggs.

Chatterjee joined the Blackstone LaunchPad, located in the Syracuse University Libraries at the Bird Library, during her junior year of school. The Blackstone LaunchPad has been a resource for her especially by connecting her to many people who could help achieve her vision for PAANI. She was also a part of Invent SU and won the first prize for PAANI in 2019.

She has continued her journey after graduation and has remained in touch with the LaunchPad as a young alum still working on her venture idea.  She is also working full-time in the health care industry in a role that bridges business, health and health care training, the goal she established during her academic career.  Being a founder allows her to blaze a career path as a public health innovator while also working on her venture pursuit. 

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Natalie Lui ‘22; photo supplied