Class of 2023: John Abbott celebrates life in music, research and food

John Abbott (Vanderbilt University)

By Amy Wolf

Whether collaborating in a biomedical engineering lab, leading a cooking class or rocking out on stage with his band, John Abbott has a zest for living life to its fullest. 

John Abbott, School of Engineering – biomedical engineering, #VU2023
(Karlee Sell/Vanderbilt University)


“I’ve definitely grown a lot here at Vanderbilt. I mean, in a lot of ways I’m still the same Kentucky boy—you know, small beginnings. But coming to Vandy has provided me with so many different opportunities to get myself out there and expand and grow in just a million different ways,” he said. “And in doing so, I’ve improved my ability to connect with other people.” 

Abbott found community right away as a first-year student when he joined the Spirit of Gold marching band 

John Abbot played cymbals during his time in the Spirit of Gold marching band. (Submitted photo)

“Guitar is my strong suit, but I ended up playing cymbals in the percussion section, which was awesome,” he said. “We had a great time. So, join the marching band!” 


Abbott took his love of music onto the stage and into the production studio early on. He and friends from his first-year residence hall formed the alternative rock and cover band Colorado Straightedge, which continues to perform around campus.  

He also helps other budding musicians produce and make music as the director of the student-run Vanderbilt Recording Studio.


John Abbott and members of the Vanderbilt Culinary Club volunteered with Second Harvest. (Submitted photo)

One of Abbott’s other passions is cooking. Soon after starting at Vanderbilt, he helped launch the Vanderbilt Culinary Club, which now has several hundred members. Along with giving cooking lessons, the group has partnered with Vanderbilt Campus Dining for special pop-up events. 

“I’ve always been super into cooking ever since I was a kid,” he said. “My mom taught me some family recipes, and I worked at a Thai-Italian fusion restaurant before college. I just love the whole concept of creating a meal and sharing it with people.” 


Abbott said he was drawn to the School of Engineering because of the innovation. 

“Out of all the majors I looked at before coming to college, it just seemed to be the one with so much happening all the time. From 3D printing organs to creating robotic arms, to vaccines, it feels really out there and crazy, but it’s real and it’s all happening,” he said. 

John Abbott gets to work making science happen. (Submitted photo)

The biomedical engineering major also has spent time working in the lab of Dr. James Crowe, who is best known for leading the research that enabled the use of human antibodies to treat COVID-19.  


The thread running through all of Abbott’s passions has always been collaboration. 

“When you get people from all these different backgrounds together, you discover possibilities and create things that you would have never thought of on your own,” he said. “We’re all coming from our own backgrounds with our own set of experiences, and I find that’s so much more fun.” 


Abbott admits that his excitement around so many groups and activities along with a rigorous academic schedule has led him to master some essential life skills. 

“It’s definitely a balancing act. I like to say I’m always running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” he laughs. “I’ve become a lot more organized because I don’t want to miss any of it!” 



“It’s bittersweet, but I’m looking forward to what’s out there on the other side. I’m kind of excited to see what the real world holds for me. And I’m excited to get out there and embark on this whole new journey and hopefully gain a lot of critical life experience.” 


“I definitely will miss the squirrels. There’s this guy that sits outside, cross-legged by the Cornelius statue who feeds squirrels. I’ll miss him too. He’s a pretty cool guy.” 

“But seriously, I think the thing I’ll miss the most about Vanderbilt are just all the awesome connections I’ve made here. My friends, my professors—there are just so many different people who were so influential to my experience. And I wish that before I left, I could give back to them more because they were so important to my experience here.” 


“Everyone here is rooting for your success. They all want you to do your best and thrive. No matter the circumstances, the school and this community’s got your back. So, I’d say Vanderbilt is on your side.” 

John Abbott, School of Engineering – biomedical engineering, #VU2023
(Karlee Sell/Vanderbilt University)