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Student Awards

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Dylan Healy '17The John G. Lee Medal is awarded annually to a graduating senior from Greater Hartford who has excelled academically while demonstrating a deep commitment to community.

As soon as he arrived on campus in 2013, Dylan Healy ’17 stood out as a leader, scholar, mentor, and community activist. The psychology major achieved academic excellence by earning a cumulative 3.95 GPA while immersing himself in the University community.

During his first semester, Healy made a positive impression on academic advisor Jessica Nicklin, associate dean of student academic services and the Belle K. Ribicoff endowed professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. Nicklin, who invited Healy to join her research team during his second semester, calls him a “stellar” research assistant.

Healy is a member of the Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, Sigma Alpha Pi, and Alpha Lambda Delta honor societies, and he completed several research projects that earned authorship at Eastern Psychological Association conferences in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. In 2016, Healy received the Student Government Association Student Research Grant to fund his independent study on the effects of mindfulness and self-compassion on work-life balance for online instructors. This research is expected to be published in the American Journal of Distance Education by 2018.  

“While Dylan champions academic and scholarly excellence, I may be most impressed with his commitment to community,” Nicklin says. He is assistant program director for the University’s Orientation program for incoming students, director of the University’s Accessible Transportation Program through the Center for Community Service, a teaching assistant for the First-Year Seminar program, and a tutor in the Student Success Center.

As a musician and member of an on-campus acappella group, Healy’s passion for music led him to also earn a minor in performing arts management and serve as music director of student-run radio station WSAM. The topic of music is also prevalent in Healy’s research papers, including one on music as a therapeutic tool and another on consumer behaviors related to music piracy. He is planning a career in music management or music journalism.

janet zapor '17, college of engineering, technology, and architecture: belle k. ribicoff prize

Janet Zapor As a biomedical engineering major with a pre-med concentration, Janet Zapor ’17 has successfully navigated the fields of engineering and science while serving as a role model for young women pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She prides herself on reaching her academic goals through hard work and intellectual curiosity, qualities that make her the ideal candidate for the Belle K. Ribicoff Prize, which is awarded for academic excellence.

“Janet is not only an exemplary student, but an outstanding member of the University community,” says Mary Arico, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA). “In addition to a rigorous curriculum that required her to take more chemistry and biology courses, she supported other women interested in engineering and science by serving as a CETA Ambassador, working one-on-one with first year students as a CETA mentor, and leading biomedical engineering activities for middle school girls.” She has also tutored more than 100 students and served as a physics lab instructor.

For her honors thesis on the development of a blood vessel detection system designed to reduce patient pain during the intravenous (IV) insertion process, Zapor drew on her experiences as an emergency medical technician. “I initiated the project after seeing numerous people suffering from anxiety and delaying care because of IV distress and fear of needles,” she explains. Her research findings were presented at the University’s 2016 Undergraduate Research and Creativity Colloquium.

Zapor plans to apply her medical training to a career in humanitarian response medicine, helping victims of natural and man-made disasters. She will enter the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant attending the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in August 2017, following officer training in July.

In addition to being a resident facilities assistant at the University, where she performs monthly inspections of fire safety equipment, Zapor completed an internship at Smiths Medical in nearby Southington, Conn., and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, and Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.

lyla o'brien '17, college of arts and sciences: john g. martin scholarship

Lyla O'BrienGrowing up in Vermont, Lyla O’Brien ’17 says her oceanic experience was limited by geography. During her junior year at the University, she read Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us, which helped her find her passion and begin “a long and unpredicted love affair with the sea.”

A biology major and environmental studies minor, O’Brien is the first University of Hartford student to receive a prestigious Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The program provided financial support for O’Brien’s junior and senior years, as well as funding for environmental research with the EPA in Narragansett, R.I. Her work involved a wetland restoration project on Martha’s Vineyard and the study of long-term water quality in Narragansett Bay.

“I have mentored approximately 30 college-age students while working at the U.S. EPA and I believe Lyla to be in the top five percent of these students in terms of her intellect and motivation to achieve,” wrote EPA Research Ecologist Suzanne Ayvazian, PhD.

The University presented O’Brien with awards for excellence and outstanding achievement in the courses Molecular Cellular Biology and Developmental Biology, as well as the Rachel Carson Award for Ecology. Her academic advisor, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Program Director Bin Zhu, recruited O’Brien to work on a study funded by the University’s Women’s Advancement Initiative on “flipped” classes in life sciences.  

Other research projects include one with Zhu on water quality and the biodiversity of aquatic plants, and another with Assistant Professor of Biology Adam Silver that focused on identifying the virulence factors of staph aureus, a strain of bacteria. In addition, she worked as a tutor and a chemistry lab teaching assistant.  

O’Brien served as a course assistant for a marine debris policy class taught by Katharine Owens, associate professor of public and environmental politics and director of the All-University Curriculum. “She’s an excellent student with all the qualities needed to become a creative, thoughtful, and innovative scientist,” Owens wrote. 

Through the John G. Martin Scholarship, O’Brien will pursue a degree in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management at the University of Oxford this fall.