Similar to many incoming freshmen, Jackson Hair did not know what he wanted to do once he graduated from Georgia Tech. As a graduate of the Class of 2015, as well as a current PhD student at Tech, Jackson recalls the many twists and turns his path took during his undergraduate years to lead him to where he is now. As a PhD student working in a lab at Emory University Hospital within the Georgia Tech-Emory University Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program, Jackson Hair currently conducts research in computational fluid dynamics, where he is working on developing a new diagnostic protocol for coronary artery disease.
Hair came to Tech in the Fall of 2011 as a Biomedical Engineering major, during which he took his first Computer Science course, CS 1371. The course, required for all engineering majors, has a reputation for being one of the harder computer science courses at Georgia Tech, but Hair actually liked it. He mentioned, “I enjoyed the coding a lot, and I knew I wanted to do something else with coding.” This passion for coding pushed him to pursue a CS minor to supplement his BME degree.
Throughout his time with The Pioneer, Hair held numerous positions, ranging from staff editor his freshman year to editor-in-chief his senior year. In regards to his experience at The Pioneer, Hair says,
Even after discovering his love for computer science, Hair’s career path was still clouded with uncertainty. He wanted a job, but was more interested in science and math rather than the business side in which many companies had job openings. To attain a job that fit his interests, Hair needed to pursue a Master’s or a PhD, as such degrees were essentially prerequisites for any job in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields. This realization propelled Hair to the next stepping stone in his undergraduate life: participating in research.
It wasn’t until after his second year that Hair delved into the innovative research environment that Tech offers its students. He started out working at a materials science research lab for about seven months, until he felt “it just wasn’t a good fit”. In 2014, he switched over to a cardiovascular research lab, where he felt more comfortable and interested in the work which he was doing regarding finite element models of the aorta. It was at this point that he decided that he wanted to pursue a graduate degree and continue his research on Tech’s campus.
In addition to his research pursuits, Hair was a teaching assistant (TA) for multiple classes during his undergraduate years. Hair says that being a TA, “… is important; it helped me reinforce a lot of things I had already learned and helped me understand more about how the department was working.” Through his undergraduate studies and even into his time as a graduate student, Hair taught as a TA for BMED 2300, BMED 3110, BMED 3310, and BMED 3400. This continuous reinforcement of information and studies helped Jackson prepare for his eventual path to graduate school.
Hair came to a crossroads and had to decide if he would chase a Master’s or a PhD. He said, “I applied to a few labs, and I set a deadline for myself. If I got into a lab by the deadline, I’d do a PhD; if not, I’d do an MS.” This was one of the considerations in his thought process, while the other consideration was cost. Hair quickly realized, “A Masters, you pay for it all yourself, whereas a PhD is an assistantship… [The university] gives you a stipend and they cover tuition; it’s longer, but they pay you.” Similar to many other college students, Hair was somewhat tight on money, so he decided that the best path for his future was to pursue a PhD after graduating in 2015.
When asked to give advice to undergraduates, Hair said,
In addition, he also points out,“BME’s are treated kind of as a ‘jack of all trades’, so do your depth electives in similar areas so it establishes a stable understanding of the field, as it’s important to get some depth in some area.”
Reflecting upon his own experiences, Hair saw the opportunities available at Georgia Tech for its undergraduates are abundant and critical in shaping the lives and futures of its graduates.