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Megan Barry ’14 crossed the stage in May to receive her diploma in biology summa cum laude and with University Honors from the University's College of Arts and Sciences in biology. But the commencement stage didn’t have a finish line for her academic honors or her success. At the end of June, Barry, who was a standout cross country and track and field athlete as well as an honors student, was selected to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America Division I Third Team, making her one of the nation’s top 45 female student-athletes to be recognized for academic and athletic excellence.
This national honor caps an incredible senior year for Barry who earned All-New England honors for winning the New England 10,000-meter championship in May. She also earned America East All-Conference distinction for cross country and both indoor and outdoor track and field. Her all-conference performance at the America East Cross Country Championship was a first for a UHart woman. She finished as the runner-up in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the conference outdoor meet. She also is the first female in UHart history to earn All-Conference and All-New England honors in cross country. She won the annual Top Hawk award as the best female student-athlete for the 2013-14 year, in recognition of setting school records in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 as well as the outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
Graduating with a 3.91 grade-point-average, the South Yarmouth, Mass. native completed an honors thesis that involved studying possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. Her thesis explored whether there is a correlation between the ratio of protein to fat in a mouse’s food and the rodent’s cognitive functioning. Her hypothesis is that high-fat diets will produce the best results. If that is the case, Barry hopes the findings would apply to humans and that a diet with higher fat and moderate protein could slow the effects of Alzheimer’s. It is a topic that is close to Barry’s heart because her grandmother had the disease.
Associate Professor Jacob Harney, director of the neuroscience program in the University of Hartford’s College of Arts and Sciences, suggested Barry work on the project. She had him in class and he knew she wanted to involve animals in her honors program research. Barry also worked closely with Associate Professor Donald Jones, coordinator of the University’s Honors Program. "Megan exemplifies the best qualities of a college student," says Harney. "She took true ownership of her own education. The sky is the limit for her."
Now that she has graduated, Barry is continuing to run on two tracks, pursuing both athletic and career goals.
This summer she is working at an animal hospital near her home on Cape Cod and has begun a new training cycle, says Hartford Hawks track coach Stephen Walsh. In the fall, Barry plans to return to campus as a volunteer assistant coach for the track team and will continue her training with Coach Walsh in preparation for some significant 10K races next summer.
She also plans to work at an area animal hospital to gain practical experience before continuing her education and pursuing her goal of becoming a veterinarian.