Electrical engineering alumnus says Montana Tech education prepared him for Ph.D. in computer Engineering

Charles Rawlins

Cybercriminals can shut down vast swaths of power grids or pipelines, social engineer political unrest, and steal millions of dollars from bank accounts, all with a few clicks of a button. A Montana Technological University alumnus is on the front lines of making the internet more secure, and he says his undergraduate education provided a strong foundation for tackling increasingly complex threats emerging in cyberspace.

Charles Rawlins (B.S. electrical engineering, 2019) is a cyber-physical security intelligence analyst, who earned his Ph.D. in computer engineering during graduate school focusing on cybersecurity at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2023. 

Rawlins says he started his academic and professional journey at Montana Tech.

“I chose Montana Tech for its great value, quality teaching, and close location to quality skiing in the beautiful Montana mountains,” Rawlins said. “I chose electrical engineering as I’ve always had a passion for computers, and studying electrical engineering prepared me for tackling the hardest challenges in the field and prepared me for the more obscure challenges in cybersecurity.”

The engineering curriculum helped prepare Rawlins for his current career. Minoring in math was also important.

“I gained invaluable experience in ‘learning how to learn,’ which prepared me to tackle challenging and obscure subjects after my education. The professors and their quality teaching also helped in pursuing my Ph.D. after I graduated,” Rawlings said. “Electrical engineering helps me to consider both the physical aspects of computers when tackling cybersecurity challenges, but also provides me with the strong mathematical foundation to tackle research in particular areas. It also provides me the freedom to tackle nearly all challenges related to computing, after I pursued programming during my undergraduate as well.”

Rawlins has advice for students considering a career in electrical engineering or computing.

“Find a particular subarea in electrical engineering or computing you enjoy and pursue it hard,” Rawlins said. “This took me a while until I settled on cyber physical-security/cybersecurity and decided I would continue to learn throughout my life, but it creates a solid goal and drives towards bigger things.”

Rawlins would recommend Montana Tech to people who are interested in STEM.

“I would strongly recommend anyone interested in a quality undergraduate degree to come to Montana Tech, regardless of the field,” Rawlins said. “I would also recommend, even as early as freshman/sophomore year, making far distant goals/plans for your career. This helped me make life decisions on pursuing graduate school and my future career.”