Q&A: John Rattray

February 19, 2018

John Rattray is a PhD Candidate from Woodlawn, Maryland. He is majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

How did you get interested in electrical and computer engineering? What interests you the most about the field?

I became interested in computer engineering predominantly as a result of my dad being a computer programmer and being really interested in the work that he did. The most interesting part of my field to me is its ability to integrate into so many different areas of life from areas like healthcare to less critical ones like home automation.

What made you decide to come to Johns Hopkins?

There were two main driving forces that pushed me to come to Hopkins. The first was the strong sense of collaboration that the engineering school has with the medical campus which appealed to my interests focused on wearable and implantable technology. The second was Dr. Ralph Etienne-Cummings with whom I did a summer internship under during my first Summer in college. He had a strong impact on the way I perceived research and the role I could play in it.

Are you involved in any research? If so, what’s your role?

I am involved in three research projects. Two of them involve the hardware and algorithm design of imagers for the application of brain fluorescence imaging and biologically inspired autonomous object detection. The third is developing a wearable multi-sensor array to continuously track and assess the movements of patients who have undergone a traumatic brain injury and entered into a coma to determine the likelihood and extent of their recovery.

What impact do you hope to make through your research?

I hope that the research I am working on will provide a means for an increased quality of life that is easily accessible to the vast majority of people as well as provide more peace of mind by eliminating as much uncertainty as possible when dealing with both difficult medical and non-medical situations.

Outside of lab and class: what are you involved with (groups, organizations, intramurals, etc.)?

Outside of lab and class, I like working on my own personal projects and developing products to one day launch a startup. I also like spending time at the Digital Media Center and learning to use the different equipment they make available such as cameras, 3D printers, and musical equipment. I play both intramural soccer on campus and in various leagues in Baltimore City such as the Charm City and Cross Keys leagues. I work with the director of outreach and other academic coordinators to do outreach events at elementary, middle, and high schools to talk about engineering and the different opportunities that exist for pursuing higher education.

What sort of impact do you hope to have either as an engineer or in a STEM field?

As an engineer, I would like to impact how others perceive the world. I feel that society presents a very rigid idea of what and who a typical engineer is and I don’t think I would fall into that category. I hope the way in which I approach problems, develop solutions, and present myself and my ideas can broaden people’s view on engineering and life as a whole.

What are your plans or goals for the rest of your time in the program at JHU?

For the rest of my time at JHU, my goal is to become an expert in my research areas, make use of the vast array of resources that the university has to offer, and hopefully identify a few reasonable paths to starting some of my business ventures.


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