GOLeafe Founder Arsheen Allam is doing her part to leave our planet a better place by developing low-cost, eco-friendly graphene
By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photo courtesy of Arsheen Allam
Arsheen Allam grew up feeling a sense of responsibility to the world around her. The middle of three sisters, she was born in Canada to parents Iffat Allam and Abdul Allam, who hail from Pakistan and India, respectively. The family moved to North Carolina when Arsheen was 8, and that journey of identity instilled a global perspective and desire to help others. “My parents exposed my sisters [SiNON Therapeutics Founder and CEO Afreen Allam, and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam] and I to many world views growing up,” Arsheen says. “That has been pivotal in the work we each do and why we do it.”
Arsheen founded her company, GOLeafe, in 2017 while completing her master’s at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Her goal? To create a more affordable way to produce graphene – a clean, carbon-based material with a range of uses in energy, cancer treatments, medical testing and more. Scientists have recently discovered that graphene can also be a powerful superconductor, which could lead to advances in fields including efficient energy and quantum computation.
Today, her research is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Chain Reactions Innovations program at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. “I love seeing science and chemistry at work,” Arsheen says. “I enjoy being around brilliant minds in the industry, discussing problems and pain points and working together to find solutions to make more efficient products.”
In her five years as CEO, Arsheen has developed a morning routine that she relies on, beginning with a prayer, followed by a workout, writing a to-do list and connecting with her research team. “I then head into the lab at Argonne and work on the optimization of GOLeafe’s proprietary graphene production process from waste materials,” she says. “The goal during my time at Argonne is to streamline the production process and automate it, to increase efficiency and reproducibility as we move into commercialization of the product.”
Arsheen shares her passion for sustainability with her husband, Zain Shauk. The two were married on New Year’s Day 2022 at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, and native Californian Zain is also an entrepreneur. “He runs his own indoor farm in Houston called Dream Harvest, with a focus on water conservation and reducing waste,” Arsheen explains. The farm uses just 5% of the water that conventional farming methods typically require and is a carbon-negative company. “[We both want] to leave our planet a cleaner, better place for future generations.”
Through this rapid growth, Arsheen says her parents remain her biggest inspirations and advocates. She describes her mom’s passion, drive and endless energy when it comes to helping others as remarkable. “I have never met a more social, loving and caring person [than my mom],” Arsheen says. “She’s always thinking about others and how she can make their lives easier, both at home for my family, as well as in the broader community. She volunteers for the food bank and always cooks food for families who are not well or have a sick family member. She donates to every cause or appeal that comes to her, locally and abroad, and she never leaves home without cash and a bag of snacks and essentials to give to any homeless person she may come across.”
Abdul, a retired IT executive, advises both GOLeafe and SiNON Therapeutics, Afreen’s company, in business development and research. “My dad has been my sisters’ and my biggest supporter in our careers,” Arsheen says.
“Arsheen is a very strong proponent of sustainability and carbon dioxide emission control,” Abdul says. “She has developed an eco-friendly and energy-efficient process to produce graphene, and with those two guiding principles as the foundation, has also developed ways to apply it in water purification and supercapacitors for the electric vehicle industry.”
Arsheen’s advice to other young women scientists is simple: “Surround yourself with people smarter than you, who will support you and challenge you.”