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The Intricacies of Neurocritical Care

Brain Power

Throughout his time as an undergraduate, Jake Hogan has had many opportunities to employ his skills of inquiry. Hogan is working toward a major in Bioinformatics and a minor in Computer Science, and his practical experience includes conducting research on brain activity at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Hogan has co-authored multiple articles on neurological behavior based on his research. In March of 2019, Hogan was awarded the Phi Kappa Phi BYU College of Life Sciences Outstanding Student Award. He continues to demonstrate academic excellence and scholarly inquiry as he finishes up his Honors thesis.

To help us get to know you, tell us a little bit about yourself!“I am from Kaysville, Utah and like running, playing guitar, and playing board games with my family. I haven't decided where yet, but I am excited to start medical school next fall.”

During your time at BYU, you have been quite busy. Can you tell us a little about your most recent academic accomplishments?“I am the first co-author of ‘Burst Suppression: Causes and Effects on Mortality in Critical Illness,’ ‘Night-to-Night Variability of Sleep Electroencephalography-Based Brain Age Measurements,’ and a co-author of ‘Excess Brain Age Reflected in the Electroencephalogram of Sleep Predicts Reduced Life Expectancy’. I gave an oral research presentation at the Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research in February 2019, and that same month, I was awarded a BYU Inspiring Learning Fellowship Grant. I also presented my work from last summer on the relationship between burst suppression and mortality at the Neurocritical Care Society Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada in October.”

Can you tell us about your experience conducting research for your Honors Thesis?“The title of my Thesis is the ‘Effects of Burst Suppression, Chronic Illness, and Sedatives on ICU Patient Mortality’. I worked with Dr. Brandon Westover at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, an opportunity that I found through the BYU-Harvard-Stanford Internship Program. I worked with Dr. Westover to finish a project examining the effects of brain inactivity (burst suppression) on patient mortality in the Intensive Care Unit. My first year especially, I remember sitting through meetings with Dr. Westover and a Computer Science post-doc and understanding about 20% of what was said. After the meeting, I would go and look up the topics they mentioned, along with how to run the analyses we planned. That summer involved late nights preparing and analyzing data, creating figures, and drafting manuscripts. I helped draft a manuscript for publication with Dr. Westover and others, and was surprised when it got rejected at the first journal. Then it was rejected at the second, third, and fourth journals as well. I updated the project last summer, and we are just waiting to hear back after submitting the first round of revisions.”

What have your conclusions been from this research?“Contrary to our initial belief, we found that brain inactivity (burst suppression) does not have a large impact on mortality. This suggests that a lack of brain activity is simply another manifestation of critical illness and supports recent research on the topic.”

Your involvement in research is inspiring, what would your advice be to other students who want to engage in similar opportunities?“Apply for as many research opportunities as you can, talk to as many professors as you can, and don't give up until you find a project you feel invested in. Don't be afraid to get in ‘over your head;’ that just means that you have a lot of new and exciting things to learn. Lastly, don't give up!”

What have been your favorite experiences in the Honors Program?“Definitely the classes. My favorite part was when hard sciences were integrated with the humanities in novel ways. I especially liked my Biology-letters class, where we explored the role of disease in literature with everything from smallpox in the Americas to whether creating zombies is feasible, and my Physics-culture class, where we explored the role of uncertainty in both history and quantum physics.”

Overall, how has being in Honors impacted your life?“I joined the Honors Program because I watched the video about someone's experience in Cambridge and loved the idea of interdisciplinary education. In Dr. Westover's lab, clinicians, physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists work together to improve care for neurology patients using machine learning. The ability to make connections between and integrate different disciplines helped me learn about and contribute to research in his lab. The Honors Program and this experience have shaped my goal of future research: to do cancer research as a physician in an interdisciplinary, computational lab.”Hogan’s next step is to defend his Honors Thesis. After graduating in April, he plans on attending medical school in the fall.