From Music to Marketing, Graduate Alum Makes the Most of AI

 Brandon Morton in front of a brick wall

For Brandon Morton, Electrical Engineering MS ’11, PhD ’16, engineering is all about making connections.

As a graduate student at Drexel, Morton studied how artificial intelligence can make connections between music genres, improving suggestions from services like Pandora and Spotify and potentially helping musicians, researchers and historians understand how music evolves from one generation to the next.

“My experience at Drexel was transformative,” Morton recalls. “It’s where I became a researcher and learned the how to discover new knowledge. Drexel’s Music Entertainment Technology Lab gave me a great opportunity to pursue my interest in how people listen and engage with music. Dr. Youngmoo Kim , the director of the lab, also taught me the importance of being able to communicate effectively with your audience. If no one can clearly understand what you’re saying, they won’t care about it.”

Morton used his communications skills to mentor a new generation of engineers. As part of the National Science Foundation’s GK-12 program, he was embedded in a local high school classroom and developed engineering-based projects for the students there.

“We even took some of those projects to Kenya to learn how those lesson plans translated internationally,” he says. “The experience taught me to take any opportunity I can to teach or mentor someone. That experience is invaluable and probably a skill set that I use the most.”

Community building also served Morton well at Drexel socially.

“I struggled sometimes with the lack of diversity in my small program, so I made sure to put effort into finding a community of people who shared a similar culture,” he says. “A few other students and I created the Drexel Black Graduate Student Union to try and address this need. It gave me the support I was seeking, and it would have been much harder for me at Drexel had I not been able to lean on that group of friends.”

Now the Vice President of AI Innovation at Lithero, a startup that uses machine learning to streamline marketing review for the life sciences industry, Morton is still using the skills he picked up at Drexel

“Our tools help pharmaceutical companies save time and resources in their promotional content review process,” he explains. “We have been able to provide accurate and actionable feedback to our users and help them significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to get a marketing document in front of a potential customer. My advisor’s insistence that everyone in his lab learn fundamental design principles and effective communication developed a skill set I use every day. Additionally, the knowledge I gained about machine learning and artificial intelligence also comes in handy. Being able to design and evaluate an experiment is the foundation for a lot of the systems developed by Lithero.”

After using his degree to explore the breadth of what machine learning can do, Morton hopes that young engineers will keep their minds open when it comes to choosing where their education can take them.

“Electrical engineering is an awesome field that opens doors because of the technical rigor associated with the degree,” he says. “When you are deciding on your career path, make sure that you also look at non-traditional roles for electrical engineers. Most people only associate EE with hardware and don’t realize that we are capable of much more."

Morton will return to campus next month to share his experience with Drexel students as part of ECE 101: ECE in the Real World, a first-year seminar series that highlights real-world applications and careers in Electrical and Computer Engineering through the stories of renowned professionals.

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