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The Science of Being a Student Athlete


Posted 04/07/2014
Posted by Meagan Fazio

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Megan Barry conducts her research.

Being a record-setting distance runner and training for an Olympic development race is challenging enough. But imagine doing that while completing an honors thesis and studying possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the life of Megan Barry ’14, a student-athlete with dreams of a future as a runner and a veterinarian.

Barry, a biology major, is looking into 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 research. Barry also works closely with Associate Professor Donald Jones, the coordinator of the University’s Honors Program.

(l-r)Associate Professor Don Jones, Associate Professor Jacob Harney, Megan Barry

"Megan exemplifies the best qualities of a college student," says Harney. "She has taken true ownership of her own education. The sky is the limit for her."

If she’s not in the lab, chances are Barry is training. In fact, Barry plans to spend two years focusing on running after she graduates this spring. Her first big challenge is the prestigious Mt. San Antonio College Relays in California on April 17. She will compete in the Olympic Development 10,000 meter race. While the word “Olympic” inspires thoughts of competing in the Games, Barry’s coach Stephen Walsh points out this just one of many steps that would lead to the Olympics. But this race is Barry’s best opportunity to test herself against elite runners.

“My coach has been talking a lot about it and everything fell into place,” says Barry. “I’m really excited about it. I will be racing against a lot of girls who are right where I need to be.”

Barry is certainly successful on the collegiate level. She set 11 University records over the course of her career and currently holds six of those records. She is the first female in school history to earn All-Conference and All-New England honors in cross country. Barry competes in cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track, which means she trains all year. Although she plans to have a career off the track, she expects to keep on running.

“When I am done with my training, I probably won’t run as much,” admits Barry. “But I’m definitely going to always run.”

Megan Barry competing in a cross country meet