Personalized Academics and Rich Experiential Learning Leads to Next Step at Medical School

Harold D. Hodgkinson Award recipient, Zachary Hoglund, E’24, bioengineering and biochemistry, has completed two research co-ops, traveled to Ghana as president of the Innovators for Global Health student group, published research, and presented at conferences. Next step: medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.

Zachary Hoglund, E’24, bioengineering and biochemistry, received the 2024 Harold D. Hodgkinson Achievement Award, one of the highest honors a Northeastern University senior can receive.

The award caps off a remarkable undergraduate journey that included achieving academic excellence, completing two co-ops in a research lab, serving as president of Innovators for Global Health, a student group that partners with industry and universities in underdeveloped countries, presenting at academic and industry conferences, and co-authoring published papers.

“I really don’t think there’s anywhere other than Northeastern that could have given me that breadth of experience,” says Hoglund, who will attend the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hoglund was also named to the Huntington 100 this year and was the 2023 recipient of the Sears B. Condit Award, which provides a scholarship for outstanding scholastic achievement.

Growing up, Hoglund knew he wanted to be a physician, a plan that was inspired by two of his grandparents who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. He chose Northeastern in part because of the co-op option, which he believed would help him acquire work and research experience.

“I really wanted to pursue engineering because I saw it as a more unique path to becoming a physician,” Hoglund says. “I felt a technical background could allow me to have a greater impact as a doctor.”

He enrolled as a bioengineering student and soon switched to the combined bioengineering and biochemistry major to include pre-med courses. For his first co-op, he joined the Hyman Lab at Harvard Medical School, affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital, and worked with a team of researchers focused on the neuropathology of Alzheimer’s Disease. His researched focused on tau, one of the proteins known to have a role in Alzheimer’s.

He was so inspired by the research that he continued working in the lab on a part-time basis at the conclusion of his co-op and then returned to the lab for a second six-month co-op experience.

“One of the reasons this went so well was the relationships with the people in the lab,” Hoglund says. “We trusted each other, and it was a great collaborative experience. It showed me how I want to collaborate with others in the future.”

One result of this collaboration for Hoglund was co-authoring research papers, including “Spatial Characterization of Tangle-Bearing Neurons and Ghost Tangles in the Human Inferior Temporal Gyrus with Three-Dimensional Imaging,” which was published in the peer-reviewed Brain Communications in 2023.

He presented that research at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2023, a rewarding experience that also had what Hoglund describes as a few “nerve-wracking” moments as he was among PhD and postdoc individuals. But the experience was positive. “I was able to learn from so many knowledgeable individuals,” he says.

He also presented an updated version of this research later in 2023 at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

Zachary Hoglund (second row, left) on a visit to Ghana in March, 2024 with Innovators for Global Health.

During his undergraduate years, Hoglund made campus involvement a priority. His role as president of the Innovators for Global Health student group had the greatest impact on him. As part of the organization, he worked to develop low-cost medical devices for communities in Ghana through partnerships with three medical centers and the University of Ghana, and Academic City University.

Hoglund and other members of the student group received two Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors PEAK Awards from Northeastern, one in the fall of 2023 and one in the spring of 2024 to fund the design and development of a suction pump stopper, an oxygen line splitter, and hospital beds. In each case, materials that can be sourced in Ghana, including the bedding, were used. The Northeastern team visited Ghana during Spring Break and worked with partners to ensure they could continue developing these products using local materials.

“This taught me about addressing the deficits in healthcare with current solutions that we have,” Hoglund says.

As Hoglund prepares for medical school, he would like to keep his focus on neurology and neurosurgery.

“As far as medical school goes, I think this was the best place for my undergraduate experience,” Hoglund adds. “The level of research experience I was able to get would not have been possible through traditional internships. I really appreciate the opportunities that were offered here.”

Related Departments:Bioengineering