Juan Lopez Marcano - graduate student | ECE | Virginia Tech


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Juan Lopez Marcano

Where were you born?


What are your hobbies?

Hiking, sightseeing, and learning languages!

What's one interesting fact about you?

I am black belt in Karate.

What influenced you to choose ECE at Virginia Tech?

The faculty, the projects that I could get involved in, and the fact that the cost of attendance was fully covered by my assistantship.

In addition, I had never explored Virginia or the surrounding areas, so it felt like a new adventure for me.

What are you researching? How might it impact our society?

My research focused on machine learning algorithms for the diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). I was looking for patterns in brain functioning that would help clinicians tell whether a patient has ADHD or not.

I found this topic interesting because ADHD is very controversial, and the way ADHD is diagnosed in the U.S. has been under scrutiny for the last 10-20 years.

My research could have a tremendous impact on how ADHD is diagnosed. Our algorithms could be used to create models that could help psychologists to pre-screen patients or to verify their own diagnoses.

What is your ideal job? Why?

My ideal job involves three things:

1) Doing something that I find interesting
2) Being in a fun environment
3) Working with great people

I enjoy doing work that involves machine learning, and I also enjoy writing software (for hardware, websites, apps, etc.)

Last but not least, I want to work with, and learn from, optimistic people who keep their heads up when things go wrong. This is important because, in engineering work, things go wrong all the time. You need a team that is driven to rise above the adversities.

What influenced you to become an engineer?

As a young person, I was always drawn to programming, robotics, and making circuits. The results of a series of vocational tests helped me choose electrical engineering. Interestingly enough, most of the students in my school wanted to be engineers, but only a few of us persisted, and only a handful went on to graduate school.

What can be done to attract more students with backgrounds similar to yours? What might be the challenges?

Outreach is the best way. Many people know Virginia Tech exists and know its reputation, but they don't think they would ever be accepted and/or be able to pay tuition.

I think Virginia Tech needs to seek out students from underserved minorities/communities and tell them that it is possible.

The challenge, from what I have seen, is the barrier the students erect. Universities have to show these students that those barriers can be surmounted.

What are the benefits to having diverse participation in a classroom, research group, or community setting?

With diverse participation, you hear different opinions.

By listening to the problems and preferences of different groups, you can create interesting projects, products, features for products, markets, etc. For example, if a product is created and tested by men only, how likely is it that women are going to buy it?

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stop watching random YouTube videos, and go make something!