Matthew McTaggart: Dart Scholar and Beyond

When Matthew McTaggart became one of the first William A. Dart Memorial University Scholars in 2013, there was no doubt that he had limitless potential. Six years, three degrees and an impeccable academic record later – he has set his sights on using his knowledge to change the world we live in. Matthew’s hunger for knowledge is equal to his desire to share it, and his welcoming demeanor makes talking with him easier than one would think. Here are his thoughts on life before, during and after being a Dart Scholar – and what comes next.

What led you to apply for the William A. Dart Memorial University Scholarship?
I applied for the William A. Dart Memorial University Scholarship because of the Dart family’s interest in giving young Caymanians the opportunity to pursue studies they are passionate about.

During your undergraduate studies, you maintained a 3.99 GPA while double majoring in Electrical and Civil Engineering. How were you able to remain consistent throughout the entire programme?
I was able to remain consistent by maintaining self-discipline and truly enjoying my studies. Not every class was fun, but I always balanced classes, clubs, and projects each semester so that the majority of my educational time was aligned with my interests. I also made a habit of staying about a week ahead of my syllabus so that lectures would reinforce what I already knew. That way, I was always prepared for exams.

Were you always confident of your career path? What made you choose Engineering?
No, I was not always confident of my career path, but I knew I enjoyed applying math and science concepts. I first applied to university with aerospace, civil and electrical engineering as my interests, but narrowed it down to civil and electrical engineering in my sophomore year. By the end of my undergraduate studies, I was fascinated with image processing and computer vision and continued on for graduate studies in Penn State's Multidimensional Image Processing Lab. Now I will be a part of a team that develops image-guided intervention software for lung cancer assessment and treatment.
I enjoy engineering because it teaches you to build your own toolbox, to find solutions to challenges that you are passionate about; and to forge your own path, regardless of its discipline.

What advice would you give to other young Caymanians who are interested in a STEM Career?
My greatest advice would be to get involved with their school’s STEM programme, whether they are in high school or university. This includes getting to know teachers, faculty, participating in clubs, and conducting research. Building those relationships and gaining valuable experience is beneficial in all stages of your career.
Furthermore, I would encourage them not to focus entirely on their grades; books only teach you what happens in an ideal situation. Becoming actively involved in your field, through internships or other opportunities, paints a better picture of what to expect in your work environment.

Now that you have completed your studies, (at least for now), what are you planning to do next?
I will be working at medical technology firm Broncus Medical in San Jose, California, for the next year. After that, my focus is simply to continue developing software for projects I am passionate about.