GSU Grad returns to talk past goals, future of digital health technology

Dr. Portia (Taylor) Singh is pictured during a presentation to GSU College of Arts and Sciences students during her recent return to the university.

Dr. Portia (Taylor) Singh has always been all about goals.


That includes life goals, academic goals, and even athletic goals like helping the Grambling State University soccer team net its first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in 2004.


Singh has scored in reaching every goal set for herself, including earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from GSU and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. She currently serves as Chief Technology Officer at Vest Inc., an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology and Technology Commercialization Lead in the Healthy Home Lab.


She has more than a decade of experience creating and deploying technology to support older adults and their informal caregivers and spent 8 years at Philips Research North America leading the Connected Aging team before transitioning into product management in the Philip Lifeline business, leading their digital consumer and AI product portfolios.


Recently, Singh returned to Grambling State, where then known as Portia Taylor she helped play a foundational role for the GSU women’s soccer team and was a member of the Orchesis Dance Company while working on her undergraduate degree, to talk to current GSU Engineering Technology students about her journey after graduation.



“I was invited by Dr. Paul Kim and the Office of Sponsored Research under a grant that they had,” Singh said. “In my talk, I introduced various digital health technologies, and discussed how they impact us and what they can allow us to accomplish in the future. I talked about some of the opportunities in the digital health field and the fact that a large and diverse set of skills are needed to tackle some of the health care problems we face today.


“And I talked about how digital technologies make it into the consumer markets, gave them statistics around the digital health landscape and provided specific examples of consumer applications, health monitoring devices, smart home technologies and AI — areas I’m involved in — and talked about where I see some opportunities are headed.”


Singh during her days as a member of GSU’s Orchesis Dance Company.

Singh also discussed her own career path with the GSU students.


“I wanted them to understand that careers might not always be linear and that’s OK,” Singh said. “When I came to Grambling I wasn’t even thinking about a PhD, but then I was introduced by my advisor to a grant opportunity. The university had some National Science Foundation grants that helped train students to eventually earn a PhD in Biomedical Sciences.


“That was kind of the catalyst of what I learned a PhD can do for you. I thought it was just teaching because those were the only examples I had around me at that point. When my advisor saw I had a 4.0 grade point average both semesters while playing soccer, he thought that could be a good path for me.”


Singh also talked about what taking a different path to reach an originally unexpected goal has meant for her.


“I was well of the different path I was taking and was always well-aware in high school of the Robert Frost poem ‘The Road Not Taken,’ in which he talked about two roads diverging in the woods. I took the road less traveled by and that has made a big difference. Going to Grambling wasn’t out of the ordinary for my family. My late uncle, Karl Norman was a professor in the Theatre Departmentand I have two aunts who still work at Grambling. I have a bunch of first cousins who went to Grambling. My mom’s best friend, who I also consider family, went through Grambling’s Computer Science department and had the same advisor I did.


“But I was actually going to attend LSU at first, and then my aunt, Halana Miles, who works in purchasing, called and told me Grambling was getting a women’s soccer team and that I should talk to the coach, so I did that and played for two years while attending school on an academic scholarship.”


After graduating from GSU, Singh began her journey down a much different road.


“Admittedly, going to Carnegie Mellon was shocking at first,” Singh said. “I had the pleasure of being very well supported at Grambling and understanding what I’m capable of and what hard work means. I was nervous that I wouldn’t get that type of support and that I would feel out of place at CMU.


“When I first got to Carnegie Mellon, because I went in knowing I was probably going to be the only Black person in the class, and for that, I was well-prepared. I was confident. Then I got to a class named Mathematical Foundations in Robotics. I was the only woman and there were students from all over the world in that class, with few from the USA. So I was a triple minority, and that somehow put me at ease.”


But Singh knew all about teamwork and competing whether on a soccer field or in a classroom.


“I received a lot of support at Carnegie Mellon,” she said. “I definitely picked the right big and renowned engineering university. You find ways to make it work. But I’m just so glad I went to Grambling. That gave me so many foundational elements, not only in academic knowledge but also in building confidence and learning some of those other soft skills, like teamwork and communication. It is a big part of the foundation that’s brought me to where I am in life now.”


Dr. Portia (Taylor) Singh is pictured third from right on the second row the season she helped lead GSU to the 2004 Southwestern Athletic Conference soccer championship.

And her recent return to GSU has Singh hoping for another return in the fall to reach another new-found goal.


“Me and my old soccer teammates were loosely talking about attending Homecoming as it will be the 20th anniversary of Grambling’s first (Southwestern Athletic Conference) soccer championship that we were all a part of,” Singh said. “So, we’re trying to organize folks to see who might be interested in maybe coming back in October or whenever Homecoming will be. I’m so proud of the program including the current team that won big last year.


“The SWAC didn’t have soccer until 2003, so we definitely knew we were in a milestone period for HBCU women’s soccer in that alone. But it really started dawning on me heading into 2024 when I realized that it’s been 20 years ago now, so hopefully that reunion will happen.”