PHutures – 100 Alumni Voices »

Saeed Ashrafinia

“The time that we have during our academic programs, especially master’s and PhD, this gives us a tremendous opportunity to be liberated from some of the grown-up world bounds…and we can really use these few years to go and explore more and more areas, the more the better.”

Whiting School of Engineering

Electrical Engineering, PhD 2019

Collaboration Manager at Siemens Healthineers

Saeed‘s Podcast Episode

In this episode, we discuss how a desire to make a broad impact influenced Saeed’s decision to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering at Johns Hopkins and his post-degree career ambitions, his advice for exploring your options and finding the right graduate program and supervisor to support your goals and values, and his take on the benefits of being interdisciplinary and how he utilizes this asset in his current role as a Collaboration Manager at Siemens Healthineers.

Learn More About Saeed‘s Story

My cross-continent trip to explore universities for my PhD program

In the last year of my master’s program at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, I went on a trip to schools where I had applied for graduate studies. I started a 3-week trip from Vancouver to 10+ cities in the US and Canada and visited over 12 universities. I had a list of faculty members to meet and printed CVs in my backpack. I was knocking on their office door, asking for a few minutes to chat, saying I’d come such a long way to meet. It was a remarkable experience to talk one-on-one with someone I potentially wanted to closely work for and spend 4-6 years of my life with. Additionally, I could see the dynamics of their lab and ask existing students about the school/program/advisor. This enabled me to reinforce my application by directly talking with the potential advisor and focusing on areas of synergy, and a wider knowledge of the school and the city so I could select wisely once the admission decisions were out

The power of an expansive network and interdisciplinary research.

In 2015, our lab at JHU supervised by Prof. Arman Rahmim (far left in the photo) led the team that received a $1.5 million grant from the Obama Administration’s “Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies” (BRAIN) Initiative to create a next-generation brain imaging system. The project aimed to noninvasively measure human brain neuronal activity and chemical changes in milliseconds vs. several minutes, as in current PET scans. It was awarded to an interdisciplinary team of physicians (psychiatry, neurology, radiology), engineers (biomedical, optical, electrical), scientists (biochemical, mathematics, computer science), etc., from multiple countries. Back then, I was surprised how my advisor could know all these great minds and invite them all to collaborate! Such an ambitious project couldn’t happen without such a diverse and diligently selected team of experts working closely together.