Hoglund Promotes Education and Professional Development as Microscopy Society of America Student Council Member

Eric Hoglund has followed his passion for microscopy—the examination of minute objects by means of a microscope—from basement experiments in his childhood home to the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility at the University of Virginia.

Hoglund began to study microscopy in a serious way in high school. A summer course offered by North Carolina State University channeled his energy toward undergraduate study and research with materials and microscopes at NC State, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering in 2015.

When Hoglund met James Howe, Thomas Goodwin Digges Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility, he knew he wanted to train as a microscopist.

“Being a material scientist and microscopist has allowed me to pursue research in many material systems. Professor Howe has been very supportive of these adventures, allowing for a well-rounded research experience,” Hoglund said. He is finishing up his dissertation research under Howe’s guidance, and plans to pursue a post-doc in microscopy after graduation in May 2020.

Hoglund’s dissertation explores the structural properties of nanomaterials. Hoglund uses transmission electron microscopes, which he calls the “Swiss Army knife of microscopy,” to explain how defects affect atomic vibrations in superlattices—specifically the layering of calcium, titanium and oxygen. He also looks at the effect of interface on thermal and optical properties. “If we can tailor a material’s vibrational behavior, then we may also be able to tune properties such as thermal conductivity or the materials’ optical response.”

Additionally, Hoglund supports research funded by a National Science Foundation grant to reduce the processing cost and increase the strength and ductility of magnesium alloys. The NSF’s Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future program awarded the grant to a joint UVA-Cornell Engineering team, for which Howe is a co-principal investigator along with Sean R. Agnew, UVA professor of materials science and engineering, Bi-Cheng Zhou, UVA assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and Derek Warner, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell.

“The team’s expertise in microscopy, atomistic modeling, and mechanical behavior is very synergistic,” Hoglund said.  “Jim and I provide Bi-Cheng with structures observed in the magnesium alloys, while he simultaneously gives us an idea of what we should expect to see.  These structures then play a key role for in the interpretation of observed mechanical properties.”

Hoglund shares his passion for microscopy as a teaching assistant and previous teaching fellow for “Transmission Electron Microscopy,” working alongside biologists, physicists, mechanical engineers and materials scientists in the Nanoscale Materials Characterization Facility. The interdisciplinary nature of the facility’s mission offers many benefits. Hoglund cites the example of borrowing biomedical techniques with electron microscopes that could extend the use of electron microscopes to inorganic electron-beam sensitive samples.

“We’re always looking to advance microscopy techniques to apply data in a more efficient or meaningful way,” Hoglund said. 

Additionally, Hoglund is an elected officer of the Microscopy Society of America Student Council.

“These enthusiastic scientists are increasing student participation in the Microscopy Society and provide new programming to educate and engage our members,” said Esther Bullitt, Microscopy Society of America president. “We welcome their initiative and celebrate their successes.”

As program chair of the Pre-Meeting Congress, Hoglund leads a team of three other students to plan and execute a one-day mini-conference that precedes the annual Microscopy and Microanalysis conference. The Pre-Meeting Congress creates a unique professional development experience for students, post docs and early-career professionals to present their research in front of their peers and learn about different career paths and options. This year both events are slated to convene virtually, in early August.

“The Pre-Meeting Congress offers a more manageable setting to interact with each other and to explore advances in microscopy equipment and techniques with vendors and industry partners,” Hoglund said.

The past two congress programs focused on career development. Hoglund anticipates that the 2020 congress will offer students an opportunity to get a broader view on where microscopy is going. Industry, national laboratory and early career faculty will share progress in microscopy and microanalysis techniques, along with a technical poster and break-out sessions tailored to biological and physical sciences.