Campus & Community

PBSC biotechnology graduate honored for excellence in field

Photo in lab coatHaya Ghannouma, a graduate of Palm Beach State College’s Biotechnology Associate in Science degree program, has received the 2016 Student of the Year Award from the Florida Association of Colleges & Employers.

Each year, one outstanding student from a two or four-year Florida higher education institution is chosen by a FloridaACE selection committee for the award. Ghannouma received $300 and a crystal award.

To be eligible, she had to complete at least 10 weeks of a work or educational experience and demonstrate professional, personal and academic success in a working and learning environment.

For one year (2014-15), Ghannouma worked as a supplemental instructor for the biotechnology adjunct faculty, assisting with lab preps and helping students with homework, lab reports and preparing for exams. She hosted study sessions for struggling students and taught them complex concepts such as cloning, transcription and polymerase chain reactions.

“Haya is a natural teacher and giver,” said Dr. Becky Mercer, biotechnology and STEM education director at Palm Beach State, who nominated her for the award. “Her easy-going nature puts others at ease. I was impressed with Haya’s ability to master complex subjects, work efficiently in lab, be liked by her peers, and be able to assist others in the classroom. She did all this while working 30 hours per week as a research intern.”

In 2015, Ghannouma was selected to complete a four-month internship at The Scripps Research Institute’s Department of Cancer Biology, under the direction of Senior Scientist Dr. Joanne Doherty. During the internship, she learned new skills and concepts in molecular biology, and used mouse models to study human disease. Ghannouma, who was a member of the Dr. Floyd F. Koch Honors College, graduated last December summa cum laude from Palm Beach State and was hired full-time at Scripps as a lab assistant.

“Haya stands out from most people her age in her expressions of grace, wit, generosity and enthusiasm for making this world better,” said Mercer. “However, although Haya may be quiet, she is also a leader. Haya helped form a biotechnology student club on campus and was the club’s first vice president. She organized beach cleanups, science demos, community outreach and charity events to help the community learn about the connection between genes and disease. As a commuter school, it is a difficult task to get students to stay on campus for events. However, the club’s success was due to Haya’s insight, leadership and enthusiasm.”

The Student of the Year Award was officially presented during the FloridaACE annual conference held last week in Miami. Tracy Joinson, counselor and associate professor, accepted the award on behalf of Ghannouma.

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