Alumni Spotlights

Gauri Madhok

Gauri Madhok studied Computer Science at the University of Southern California. She was first introduced to the Grand Challenges Scholars Program when she visited USC and learned about the Viterbi School of Engineering’s commitment to the Grand Challenges and engineering with impact. This commitment is shared by many students at USC, and she credits the strength of the community with keeping her encouraged and motivated during her undergraduate experience. Gauri’s GCSP portfolio covers a wide range of activities that relate to personalized learning and sustainability. Gauri first focused her portfolio on strengthening her non-technical skills so she could be a more effective engineer. To learn more about business, she took courses related to social entrepreneurship and served as a consultant with a student organization that helped a nonprofit organization perform market research, competitive analysis, and marketing. Gauri has worked with several educational nonprofits focused on personalized learning and learned how to look at these complex problems through a multidisciplinary lens. She rounded out her entrepreneurship education with a course that focused on Innovation and Engineering for Global Crises, in which she spent months working directly with a wide variety of stakeholders to identify and test solutions to housing insecurity in Los Angeles. Through these experiences, Gauri learned how to work with people of different backgrounds, how to communicate effectively, how to view problems through the lens of social well-being, and how to contextualize engineering work in a business environment. Gauri also realized that she needed to supplement her robust technical education with research experiences, so she did research into wearables with the Center for Applied Human Reasoning at USC. Through this work, she helped the rest of the technical team find low-cost wearable devices that address the most important needs of students and ensured that the devices were solving consumers’ needs.


Gauri currently serves as a Software Engineer at Microsoft, where she works on the Azure team. Gauri credits the Grand Challenges Scholars Program with her success in her current role, stating that the experience enabled her to learn how to look at problems from multiple lenses and keep investigating until she finds the root cause. Gauri states that although her colleagues also have robust technical skills like her, she found that she’s a lot more comfortable with all the other nontechnical aspects of her job including stakeholder engagement and communication, and she credits her GCSP experience with preparing her for that. She’s adept at understanding when to look at the big picture and when to get into the fine details in a way that other engineers at her level may find difficult. Overall, Gauri believes that her GCSP experience led to increased performance even in a role that is often viewed as part of a traditional engineering pipeline.

Gauri is considering different directions for her future career and credits GCSP with exposing her to different areas. She cares about personalized learning and wants to understand how to use her skillset to make education more effective, accessible, and impactful. She is intimately involved in her current role with cloud computing and wants to make it more sustainable. She’s also considering going back to grad school at some point and may also explore environmental science and technology policy. Gauri values the GCSP community and how it connected her with others that share similar values. Gauri is working with other alumni to create networking opportunities and looks forward to doing that in the future. She’s interested in collaborating with other GCSP alumni to solve complex global challenges and to help mentor students that are interested in joining the community.


Simon Brooks

Simon Brooks graduated from Villanova University in 2021 as a Grand Challenges Scholar focusing on the theme of Intersectional Sustainability, and as the recipient of the Robert D. Lynch award, majoring in Chemical Engineering and minoring in Engineering Entrepreneurship and Theology. Simon currently serves as the chair of the Grand Challenges Scholars Program Alumni Organization.

Simon started his professional career as an engineer for the global sustainability consulting firm Ramboll, where he co-established the employee network group for Mental Health & Well-Being in North America. His experience at Ramboll included whole-systems ESG consulting, health & well-being strategy, decarbonization roadmaps, sustainable remediation, water treatment systems design, project management, circular economy resource management, and key client relations. In the fall of 2022, Simon pivoted to a full-time student status, pursuing his PhD at Villanova in sustainable engineering with an expected graduation timeline of May 2027; he has maintained a strong partnership with Ramboll as a Ramboll PhD Program affiliate.

As an undergraduate, Simon was second author on two publications relating to carbon capture materials for blue hydrogen and carbon absorption modeling under the guidance of Professors Charles Coe and Michael A Smith. Simon continues to advise the Coe-Smith Research Lab at Villanova.

Simon's current research is primarily focused on reducing Villanova’s carbon emissions from a holistic and intersectional lens, ensuring that Villanova takes decisive sustainable action for all of its community members, both present and future. His working thesis focus reads Evaluating effective decarbonization from the lens of net present value—relating emissions to economics for sustainable decision-making. As an undergraduate, he was an ally for the Doctoral Student Council (DSC), promoting their campaigns to undergraduates at the University, primarily around healthcare. As a PhD student, Simon has brought his advocacy full-circle, serving as the Engineering Co-Chair for the DSC, continuing his efforts to promote equitable inclusion and representation of graduate students, particularly for the needs of doctoral students.

Outside of work, Simon enjoys almost everything! He plays on the Villanova Men’s Club Volleyball team, advises entrepreneurial programs on campus, serves as an adjunct professor, provides keynotes and guest lectures, volunteers with Villanova’s VESTED Academy program to mentor high school students interested in STEM, is actively involved with his faith community in his hometown and at Villanova, and is the advising leader of TEDxVillanovaU, having personally organized three official TEDx conferences featuring 27 TEDx Talks.

Share Your Story!

We are looking for alumni to share about their experiences as a GCSP student and how those experiences have and will continue to impact their careers. We are especially interested in how your GCSP experience brought unique value to your career and how you’ve demonstrated the GCSP competencies post-graduation.

We would love to meet with you for a 30-minute conversation to hear about your experiences. This is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with others and share your work with the greater GCSP network. You can learn more about this project by following this link. If you are interested in participating, please respond to this Google Form and we’ll follow up with you to arrange a call.