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Entrepreneur Arian passes on lessons from Silicon Valley

3D printing entrepreneur Arian Aghababaie, co-founder of California-based Holo, shared insights into the latest developments in additive manufacturing and gave advice on engineering careers when he led two inspirational events at QE during a visit to the UK.

After working for global software firm Autodesk, based in San Francisco, Arian (OE 1998–2003) raised venture capital and successfully spun out its additive manufacturing team to form Holo, while also transitioning its technology from the 3D printing of polymers to metals. Six-and-a-half years later, Holo is at the forefront of innovation, using its proprietary digital platform to enable the manufacturing at scale of high-performance parts across a range of materials, including metals, ceramics and composites. Holo is supported by top-tier Silicon Valley investors and strategic partners.

Arian’s morning at QE began with a tour of the School, before he led a Sixth Form additive manufacturing workshop, with five of QE’s own 3D printers on hand. Later, he delivered a lunchtime talk, giving his take on careers in engineering and 3D printing.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “Arian provided Year 12 with a workshop which firstly covered his professional journey to date, from his early days post PhD working on founding his own company (The Invention Works) through to his position as Senior Principal Engineer at Autodesk. Most of the workshop, however, focussed on his current company, Holo. He explained that he and the other co-founders could see the enormous potential to create a viable business in this area and so pursued it as an opportunity.”

Arian went on to explain the details around the scale of production, the materials used and the fidelity of the products which Holo’s machines can make through its own PureForm Technology.

“His technologies have a unique advantage over competitors, and he works with many major companies in the healthcare, consumer electronics, robotics, and automotive sectors, to name a few,” said Mr Noonan.

He even set the Year 12 boys a challenge to develop a product using QE’s own 3D printers. They should design (and perhaps build) a scaled-up, minimally invasive surgical instrument. His requirements were that:

  • The instrument should have six degrees of freedom
  • It should be able to be cable or gear-driven
  • The boys’ work should include the design of at least two custom end-effectors (the devices at the end of a robotic arm, designed to interact with the environment)
  • They should determine its size and features based on the capabilities of their own printers.

Bonus points were offered for the designs with the fewest components and if the end-effectors could be easily changed within the same clevis pin (part of a fastener system)!

Two examples of the boys’ work in response to the challenge are shown here.

In the lunchtime talk to Year 10, Arian took a more personal look at his story, beginning with his time at QE, when he was in Stapylton House and was a musician and prefect.

After first presenting a version of his life which had him gliding seamlessly from his first engineering degree at Bristol to gaining his doctorate, also at Bristol, moving to San Francisco in 2016 and then founding Holo the following year, he next spoke about “what it’s actually been like” – a narrative that includes leaving QE early, dropping out of university, the financial crash and the huge impact of Covid.

The lessons he learned included “stay true to your authentic self” and “don’t fear failure”.

The visit came about after Headmaster Neil Enright struck up a conversation with Arian on LinkedIn.

Mr Noonan said: “It really was a tremendous day. One of the boys involved said to me afterwards: ‘Sir, are you aware that Arian is working in the job we all dream to have one day?’ I am immensely grateful to Arian for taking the time to give back to his School and for giving our students something amazing to aspire to.”

Helping pupils meet the challenge of the red planet

Aadil Kara (OE 2010–2017), himself a veteran of an international space design competition, was one of the judges when QE hosted its own Galactic Challenge.

His QE contemporaries, Sam Bayney and Harikesan Baskaran, were also among those helping out on the day.

Competing in the challenge were two home teams and two visiting from The Henrietta Barnett School, which each formed a fictional aerospace company. They produced proposals for an Earth–Mars cycler settlement – a proposed future orbiting hotel which would ferry 1,000 people to and from Mars following a ‘cycler’ trajectory that regularly intersects the orbits of the two planets.

Galactic Challenge, which is for students aged 10-14, is the sister competition of the UK Space Design Competition (UKSDC), which is for those aged 15–18. Aadil has for several years supported both competitions and is a member of the UKSDC board. A Senior Analyst with the Cabinet Office, he graduated with a first in Physics from Imperial College London.

Aadil, Sam and Harikesan were all part of a QE Sixth Form team that won the regional heat of the UK’s Space Design Competition and went on to the 2017 national finals, where Aadil was selected to take part in the International Space Settlement Design Competition in Florida.

In addition to Aadil, the competition was judged by staff from the Space Science & Engineering Foundation, as well as QE Head of Physics Jonathan Brooke, and Dr Flore Faille, Head of Physics at HBS.

Mr Brooke said: “The boys presented with great skill and confidence.”

Once all the competition was done, however, final victory went to Columbus Aviation, one of the HBS teams.



Telling the story of the man who tried to derail Hitler’s train

Alan Solomon accompanied film producer Ilana Metzger to the School for the first-ever screening to under-18s of her documentary about her father, a Holocaust survivor who once attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The film, Breathe Deeply My Son, was shown to Year 9, with a question-and-answer session afterwards.

Alan (OE 1951–1957) suggested the screening to the Headmaster after being impressed by the way it told the story of Ilana Metzger’s father, Henry Wermuth, and also looked more widely at the Holocaust and its origins.

In the film, Mr Wermuth, who died in 2020 at the age of 97, explains how in 1942 he broke out of Klaj ammunition camp in Poland when he learned that Hitler was scheduled to pass through the village. He piled the railway track with sticks and rocks, but the attempted derailment was unsuccessful. He told The Jewish Chronicle in 2013: “A train passed with three wagons, and in the window was a man who I recognised by the moustache as Hitler. I stood there mesmerised, waiting for the crash, but it never came. Either a local farmer or someone patrolling must have removed the logs.”

Mr Wermuth survived the war weighing just 5st 3lb (33kg). His father, mother and sister all died in concentration camps.

He was awarded a medal for his attempt by the German city of Frankfurt in 1995. After liberation, he settled in the UK and built a property business in London.

After her visit, Ilana, pictured here with her late father, wrote to the Headmaster, praising the boys’ “interesting and insightful questions”.

In fact, she was so impressed with their maturity that she is donating 30 copies of her father’s autobiography – gifted to her by an anonymous viewer of the film – to the School.



Ken Cooper, OE 1942–1950: “truly an Elizabethan for life”

Headmaster Neil Enright has paid tribute to Old Elizabethan and former Vice-Chairman of Governors Ken Cooper, who served QE over several decades in senior roles. Ken died earlier this month, a few days after his 92nd birthday.

“What an incredible servant of the School community! He distinguished himself first as a pupil, becoming School Captain in 1949, and subsequently in an illustrious professional career. We all have reason to be grateful that he then gave loyal service to our School throughout his long retirement, when he was variously president of the OE Association, a foundation trustee and a Vice-Chair of Governors at a period of rapid development and considerable change at QE.”

“There are few who have made such a broad and sustained contribution to Queen Elizabeth’s School,” said Mr Enright.

Ken arrived at QE in the depths of World War II and quickly made his mark. Excelling in his studies, Ken was equally successful as captain of the First XV. He starred in School plays and the Elizabethan Union owes its identity to him: Ken re-branded the debating society of his day to give it the name by which it is still known.

His Headmaster, the redoubtable Ernest Jenkins, was typically shrewd in his judgment of Ken in his School record card, yet also uncharacteristically fulsome in his praise: “An outstanding fellow…A fine School Captain, class forward, good actor and debater…who may go far.”

After graduating from New College, Oxford, he embarked on a career of public service, with senior posts in the Ministry of Labour, The Treasury and the Department of Employment. Later, he was: chief executive of the Employment Service Agency (1971-1975) and of the Training Services Agency (1975-1979); director general of the Building Employers Confederation (1979-1984) and chief executive of The British Library from 1984 until his retirement in 1991.

Ken, who continued to live in New Barnet, then deployed his talents in the service of QE’s Governing Body, Endowment Fund and the Old Elizabethans’ Association.

“He combined an ability to cut through issues and find a way forward with a warm and encouraging nature that made him an inspiring leader who contributed enormously to the health and strength of the School,” said Mr Enright.

Married to Olga, he had four children. Even in the immediate aftermath of Olga’s passing last year, he continued actively to support the School, keeping an appointment to visit QE so that he could be interviewed by a number of the boys.

Speaking at this week’s funeral for Ken, Mr Enright concluded his address with these words: “Ken was a pillar of our community as a pupil and again in his retirement. He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. He was truly an Elizabethan for life.”




The power of our network in action

Medical entrepreneur and orthopaedic surgeon Ash Kalraiya has been in touch with a wonderful story of how the alumni network helped him secure investment from fellow OE Saav Shah’s firm – even though at QE their paths had never crossed.

Ash (OE 1997-2004), the 2003 School Captain, is the founder of MediShout, a London-based company that brings together medical suppliers and help desks. Using just the ‘one stop shop’ app, hospitals can tackle an array of tasks, from reporting broken equipment and requesting IT support, to managing stock levels, resolving estates & facilities problems and contacting equipment suppliers.

Ash takes up the tale: “A couple of years ago, QE did an online article about me which got spotted by Saav Shah. We connected due to the article and stayed in touch, and, a few months ago, his fund was the lead investor in our seed round. This wouldn’t have happened without QE’s article, so thank you so much!”

MediShout’s seed round, which raised £4.3m, was led by Nickleby Capital, where Saav (OE 1999–2006), who was two years below Ash at QE, is Managing Partner.

“As a venture investor I believe I am investing in people over anything else,” he explains. “I had never met Ash prior to seeing the article, but knowing what it takes to be a School Captain at QE, I was keen to find out more about Medishout. I would argue the key attributes needed in building a company are very similar to that of what QE looks for in head boys – leaders, academic, public speakers etc. I believe QE has such a powerful alumni network if utilised correctly!”

Both are keen to maintain links with the School. Saav has two young sons: he has already set his sights on their becoming QE boys in years to come. Ash and his brother, Anish (OE 1990–1997) and friends are all planning to come to this year’s Old Elizabethans’ Dinner.


Seoul food: championing QE in South Korea

Established Korean TV and radio host Peter Bint (OE 1994–2001) is always proud to tell his audiences about his alma mater.

And this term, his loyalty was instrumental in bringing about the arrival of a 60-strong TV crew to film an episode of Korean Lunch Tray – a popular show made by South Korean broadcaster, JTBC.

“Whenever I mention how old my secondary school was and that it takes its name from Queen Elizabeth the First, not the Second, it gets a lot of gasps of surprise,” he says. Some have even made mention of Harry Potter and Hogwarts when they learn just how old the School is!

“The reason I support QE in the way I do and speak about it glowingly is because I truly feel a debt of gratitude for my time there. The education system in Korea is very different to the UK, much more similar to the US system, but with added private institutes called ‘hagwons’ where almost all children go for extra tuition to supplement school teaching. When I talk about everything I needed being provided by QE in terms of learning and extra-curricular activities, the parents here are incredibly envious and I realise more now just how lucky I was.”

The programme, in which Peter appears, involves a team of Korean celebrities visiting leading educational institutions around the world, comparing the food culture and educational offer with that of South Korea. The programme-makers recorded a normal QE lunchtime in the Dining Hall on one day, and then on the next, following a 5am start, they filmed a special Korean-themed lunch produced by a team led by celebrity chef Lee Yeon-bok. During their two-day visit, for which a fee was paid to the School, the crew also called in on a Latin lesson, as well as robotics and water polo sessions.

The Headmaster says: “It was fascinating, and somehow very appropriate, that in our 450th anniversary year we should be involved in a cultural exchange with one of the world’s most modern cultures. Our pupils and staff were interviewed as they learned about Korean food and culture, while the Korean celebrities gained insight into what it was like to be at one of the UK’s leading schools. It was a hugely popular event with the boys, to the extent that the visiting team did eventually run out of authentic Korean food!”

Peter said he was excited to be presented with the opportunity to film at QE: “To finally get a chance to show what a wonderful school QE is on screen was surreal. The filming itself went better than I could have imagined, too, in terms of the other cast and staff being impressed by the school – its teaching, facilities and, most of all, polite and incredibly intelligent pupils.

“I have some very vivid memories of my days at QE, including my first day with Mr Thomas in Stapylton with all of my new classmates decked out in our blue ties – bar one friend, Zillur Rahmann, who unfortunately came with the yellow of Leicester. My first cross-country run and elephant pit experience was ‘memorable’ too, as were the arduous rugby training sessions and Saturday matches, but these all instilled a grit in me that persists until today. The joy of receiving my GCSE grades and subsequent slight disappointment of my A-levels both stick out in the memory for different reasons, but in both instances made me appreciate QE. The former made me realise just how good the education experience on offer was, while the latter taught me I still needed to put in the effort alongside it. The reputation of QE however, helped with my smooth entry into Kings and has been a point of interest for many, even as far afield as Korea, throughout my broadcast career.

“My closest friends still remain the fellow Elizabethans I met that first day in 1994 in Barnet, five of them being my best men at my Seoul wedding. Despite living a good 5,500 miles away from Queen’s Road, I still get to meet fellow QE friends fairly regularly, with some of the class of ’94 based in East Asia – notably fellow Staplytonian and, during our QE days, child-prodigy pianist, David Wu, who regularly pays a visit to the Korean capital. This network of QE boys around the world can be an invaluable resource, as well as a bringing a much-welcomed dollop of nostalgia for the good old days.

“All in all I am sincerely grateful to QE for allowing our Korean crew and cast to film and introduce Korean cuisine to the boys. I hope that everyone enjoyed it and there will be a chance to come back in the future, or even an opportunity to meet in Korea.”

  • The programme featuring QE should be airing on 22nd and 29th April.
A life under the ocean wave: Nick gains his doctorate

Old Elizabethan academic and marine biologist Nick Jones has completed his PhD in Florida, awarded for his research into coral reefs.

His work on understanding the future prospects of the reefs has been presented at international conferences and published in international journals.

Nick (OE 1997–2004) now lectures at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University and mentors Master’s students, having made the USA his home.

“As a field-based researcher, much of my time is spent underwater and over the last few years I’ve been lucky to study coral reefs throughout Florida, in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Mexico,” he says.

After QE, Nick spent a gap year in Australia before returning to read Marine Biology at Southampton.

When he graduated, he was offered a scholarship to study coral reefs at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science. This led to his working abroad for several years, studying coral reefs and sharks, before he returned to the UK to work for the Environment Agency.

In 2015, Nick decided to get back into academia and pursue his interest in coral reef ecosystems. “I enrolled in a Master’s at Nova Southeastern University, where my research focused on the impact of temperature on the coral reef communities. After completion, I decided to continue my research in Florida and undertake a PhD.

“I assessed how community dynamics and coral demographics (e.g., growth, recruitment, mortality rates) are influenced by global stressors (e.g., ocean warming, hurricane activity) and local anthropogenic pressures (e.g., nutrient pollution, increased sedimentation from coastal construction) to understand their recovery potential and viability under climate change.”

It is the results of this work that have been presented at conferences and published, including being featured in the National Climate Change Assessment produced by the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration .

“In addition to research, I give lectures in marine biology, community ecology and biostatistics, as well as mentoring multiple Master’s students, helping them with experimental design, technical writing and data analysis. I live in Hollywood, Florida, situated between Miami and Fort Lauderdale.”

He remains grateful to his teachers at QE who helped prepare him for his career.

  • The main picture, top, shows Nick conducting an underwater survey in Florida. The laboratory shot shows him preparing a coral sample for an experiment, while the bottom photograph is Nick assessing a reef in Mexico.
Aftermath of a tragedy: QE old boy’s acclaimed exhibition on 2011 Japan disaster comes to Cambridge

An award-winning exhibition curated by an Old Elizabethan academic about the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that hit Japan in 2011 has returned to the UK.

The exhibition, Picturing the Invisible, is now on at the Heong Gallery – a contemporary art space in Downing College, University of Cambridge, that has recently hosted exhibitions featuring artists including Ai Wei Wei, Barbara Hepworth, and David Hockney.

Featuring striking photography as well as a series of essays by internationally renowned experts in fields ranging from science to diplomacy, the exhibition is curated by Dr Makoto Takahashi (OE 2003–2010), a Fulbright-Lloyd’s Fellow from the Program on Science, Technology & Society at Harvard University’s Harvard Kennedy School. and a lecturer at the Technical University Munich’s Department for Science and Technology Studies.

Bringing together Makoto’s research interests in the Fukushima disaster with his longstanding involvement with art, the exhibition was shown at the Royal Geographical Society in London in 2021 and subsequently in Munich, where it won the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology’s 2022 Ziman Award.

It returns to the UK in an expanded format and is being shown until 23rd April during Wednesday–Sunday afternoons at the Heong Gallery. Admission is free.

“We are proud to be the first research-led exhibition at this venue and I would be truly delighted to welcome the QE community to this exhibition space,” said Makoto, who curated it in collaboration with his students in Munich.

Organised in memory of ‘3.11’ (the 9.1-magnitude earthquake occurred on 11th March – or 3.11 in some countries’ dating practice), Picturing the Invisible provides a striking photographic portrait of life in the wake of the triple disaster.

It brings together seven talented photographers, working in the affected territories, and pairs their works with essays by policymakers, academics, authors, and activists.

The exhibition’s promotional material states: “Together these works make visible the otherwise overlooked legacies of 3.11: the ghostly touch of radiation, lingering traumas, and the resilience of the affected communities.”

Reviewers have been fulsome in their praise: Marigold Warner, of The British Journal of Photography, called it “cool and noteworthy”, while The New Statesman’s creative editor, Gerry Brakus said: “A striking and evocative collaboration between academics, artists, and policy makers… It is educational, beautiful, heart-breaking and inspiring… Unmissable.”

A full exhibition programme can be found here.



Memory-makers: Paul and Petros’s plan for the big time with their AI-driven study business

Two Old Elizabethan entrepreneurs and a friend have launched an innovative business that leverages the power of AI to help students revise and learn.

Their online business, Save All, uses machine learning to turn students’ own input into interactive quizzes. As well as a website, there are iOS and Android Save All apps.

Backed by venture capitalists, QE contemporaries Paul Evangelou and Petros Christodoulou (2001–2008) and their business partner, Robin Jack, are keen for Old Elizabethans to try out Save All for themselves.

“You can paste or type in pure information, and our AI automatically turns it into interactive quizzes,” says Paul. “It recognises key words and generates questions.” Users can also upload their own images to be used.

“These quizzes apply principles from cognitive science research – such as spaced retrieval, active recall, and interleaving – to maximise effectiveness for memory.

“Please try it and let us know what you think,” Paul says.

After graduating from Cambridge, Paul became a teacher, and during that time conducted research into cognitive science. Having realised the value of using quizzes to aid learning, he introduced the concept to Petros and to Robin, whom the pair had met at Cambridge.

For his part, after Philosophy at Cambridge, Petros’ career has included a spell working in YouTube marketing for Google and a period as an analyst. He later developed his interest in AI, taking a postgraduate diploma from Birkbeck, University of London, and a Master’s in Machine Learning from Imperial in 2018–2019, where he came top out of 60 students in his year. He then worked for nearly two years as a machine learning specialist for Amazon.

The three friends realised that existing quiz software was very slow and difficult to use, but that by deploying artificial intelligence and marrying that with effective design, they could make it much faster and deliver a much better experience for the user.

Each of them plays to his strengths in running the business. Paul handles the marketing and the web design, including the user experience (UX). He spent the past year learning visual design – “that has kind of been my hobby” – by following online courses and having weekly sessions with a mentor. He has also been focusing on learning how to do TikTok marketing and has made many TikTok videos – several have clocked up view counts in the tens of thousands. [link to]

Petros is responsible for the machine learning and website front-end coding. Robin’s role centres on the backend database.

The three lived together in a shared house for the first two years. All three now have partners but still live within 30 minutes of each other in East London.

Having raised a six-figure sum, Paul, Petros and Robin all went full-time with the business in 2021.

“We have built something that people really like,” says Paul. “Now we are looking to expand. We have 50,000 active users, including GCSE and A-level students as well as university students. It’s a good start, but there is a long way to go to reach the billion-plus numbers that we are aiming for. We want to be as big as, or bigger than, Duolingo and Quizlet.”

They have built Save All using a ‘freemium’ model. “We have used aspects of gaming design, where, for example, standard users have a certain number of lives. If they use all of them, there is an enforced ‘cool down’ period, but this can be bypassed by buying a monthly subscription and gaining more lives. We will also allow the purchase of other add-ons in a way that is familiar to gamers.”

They are now working to towards the next round of funding.

Focused on their student market, they will keep the pricing affordable, Paul says.

However, he adds that Save All is by no means only targeted at the young and those in full-time education.

“We have had a woman in her sixties who used it to help her memorise bird characteristics, having taken advantage of the site’s facility for uploading images and diagrams.”

Other actual and potential users include those preparing for their driving theory tests and cognitive behavioural therapists, who could use it to monitor their patients’ mental health. Their corporate customers have included Starbucks, who use Save All to test employees’ knowledge of different varieties of coffee.

As a proud Old Elizabethan and member of Underne, Paul cherishes fond memories of being taught History by Mr Lewis: “That was really fun: the lessons were animated.” He went on to read History at university.

Paul also enjoyed playing rugby, fluctuating between the A and B sides, while Petros held a more fixed position in the A side.




From strength to strength

Akash Vaghela is continuing to grow and refine his fitness business – now billed as “the only place in the world entirely focused on helping you not only get into shape, but on learning how to stay in shape”.

RNT Fitness has transformed more than 3,000 lives in more than 25 countries, says Akash (OE 2003–2010) – and fellow Elizabethans number among some of his most satisfied customers.

As previously reported in Alumni News, Akash set up the business in 2017. Recently, he has put more emphasis on ‘get in shape, stay in shape’ as its unique selling point. “This is emphasised with a minimum commitment of 12 months, which is very different for the fitness industry.

“RNT has evolved from ‘spreadsheets and emails’ to building its own proprietary technology to better serve its members,” he adds. “All the technology is being built self-funded. Doing it without outside investment and as our first foray into building tech has been a very interesting challenge indeed!

“We have also ‘niched down’ towards working with high performers, which is a natural fit to QE alumni, who are typically high performers in their careers.” In fact, the most-read case study on RNT’s website has been that of Shyam Kotecha [OE 2003–2010], whose story has featured in Men’s Health, The Telegraph and The Guardian.

Tom Bridges [OE 2005–2011] is a great example of our USP in action, showing the benefits of the long-term journey. Punit Rawal [OE 2002–2009] exemplifies our ethos of ‘using the physical as the vehicle’ very well: he used this as a springboard to open his own vet practice. And Minil Patel [OE 2003–2010] shows just what is possible as a vegan. His story featured in the Evening Standard recently.” Click on the thumbnails below to see what they achieved.

Akash himself turned vegan last year and has used his experience to prove that it is possible as a vegan to make fitness gains. In his own words, his “body transformation journey” took him from “eating a kilo of meat a day to getting shredded on a completely vegan plant-based diet”.

His website offers a free 28-day programme – the Transformation Accelerator – which Akash is inviting his fellow Elizabethans to join.