Jacob Hogan had the opportunity to return to Massachusetts General Hospital. His work with a machine that calculates a person's brain age sounds fascinating! He truly learned a lot during this experience.
What was your internship experience?
This summer I returned to Dr. Westover’s lab at Mass General, where I measured the night-to-night stability of a machine learning algorithm that calculates patients’ brain age from patient brain scans (electroencephalograms, or EEG). The basis of our research is that brain wave patterns during sleep change as a patient ages. Therefore, we had to remove segments where the patient was awake first. To remove these segments, I applied a blink-detection algorithm.
Next, I calculated brain age and determined the night-to-night variability of the algorithm and established clinical applications. Our results show that EEG-based brain age estimate is an accurate biomarker for aging when estimates from multiple nights are averaged. I’m currently working to prepare a manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal detailing these results.
What skills have you developed that will help you build a career in your desired field of study?
I believe that the ability to discern and analyze scientific problems using novel methods such as artificial intelligence will provide a strong foundation for a career as a clinical researcher.
The professional skills I gained include interviewing experience for medical schools, technical writing through drafting abstracts and manuscripts, and research presentation through presenting the results of my research at MGH last year, and preparing to present in Vancouver this year.
I also developed the ability to explain my ideas clearly to others without a computational background, and to work with interdisciplinary teams to find the most effective solution. Bioinformatics 165 provided a basis in Python that I expanded on when I started my internship last summer.
Additionally, my experience with CS240 helped me manage and adequately design a large coding project to ensure it ran correctly and was straight-forward and easily explainable.
What types of challenges did you have to overcome?
Last summer I learned the basics of causal inference and neurology and worked hard to write up a manuscript for publication. Late nights, frequent correspondence with neurologists, and several edits resulted in a first submission. As this was my first time preparing for publication, the end result seemed incredible to me.
However, I faced the realities of academia when the paper was rejected. This was a little painful, but the second and third rejections even moreso. As I am now preparing to submit again, I realize I have learned valuable lessons about writing and the research process from each re-submission.
Feedback from reviewers taught me more about the research process. These rejections also highlighted the importance of carefully choosing a research methodology, taught me more about modeling and inference, and gave me experience clearly communicating scientific results.
Even more importantly, I learned the value of getting different opinions to find the best solutions and of trying new approaches. My first reaction to rejection was disappointment and defensiveness, but I worked to adopt a growth mindset and see their comments as ways to learn more about neurology and statistics. This process has not only increased my knowledge and writing experience, but my ability to reflect on my work and look for ways I can improve.
Would you recommend this internship to other students?
I would highly recommend this internship to other students! Through this internship the past two years I’ve gained experience drafting manuscripts for publication as co-first author (1 has been submitted and 1 will soon be submitted), prepare an abstract for the Neurocritical Care Society conference I’ll attend in Vancouver this fall. I’ve also learned about artificial intelligence, different methods of statistical and causal modeling, and EEG signal processing.
Additionally, our internship coordinator, Britlyn Orgill, is an attending anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and BYU alumn. She’s passionate about helping all students succeed and plans dinners each week with Harvard researchers, doctors, medical students, and residents. She also set up mock interviews with former admissions committee members at BU School of Medicine and the U School of Medicine and has helped with secondary essays.
Oftentimes, internship dinners are hosted that facilitates connecting with numerous doctors from Harvard-affiliated hospitals, learning about each other’s research, and asking questions about preparing for medical school whether we’re applying now or in the future.
Winner of the Experience Expanded Contest
Jacob Hogan was a winner of the 2019 Experience Expanded: Video Contest. View his video below where he talks about how he incorporated the learning cycle of intention, integration, and reflection into his internship experience.