4 Students Named Western New York Prosperity Fellows

Published July 18, 2017 This content is archived.

story by alexandra edelblute

Mary Canty, Richard Izzo, Brentyn Mendel and Yiyun Zhou — all students in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences — are four of 25 University at Buffalo students honored as Western New York Prosperity Fellows for 2017-2018. 


The fellowships, which are made possible through support from the Prentice Family Foundation, are awarded to college and graduate students with an entrepreneurial drive who want to make a difference in Western New York.

‘Best and Brightest’ Students at University

“The Prosperity Fellows are among the best and the brightest students UB has to offer. With their entrepreneurial spirit and intellectual curiosity, these young men and women will be integral to Western New York’s economic future and success,” said A. Scott Weber, vice president for student life. 

“UB is proud to help provide them with a unique and transformational experience that connects them with leaders from the region’s nonprofit and business sectors.”

The program assists undergraduate and graduate students who are actively preparing for careers that further economic development and growth in the region.

Each fellow is awarded $25,000 in scholarship and internship support for an academic year, based on their financial need. Including this year’s gift, the Prentice Family Foundation has invested $4.3 million in the program at UB alone.

Fellows are MD Students, Doctoral Students, More

The fellows come from diverse backgrounds, have wide-ranging research interests and are enrolled in various programs:

Mary Canty

Mary Canty.

Mary Canty

Mary Canty graduated with her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from UB in May 2014. That year, she was awarded the Department of Biomedical Engineering Presidential Fellowship. 

Canty, who is focused on periprosthetic joint infection, is currently pursuing a doctoral degree and conducts research in the Kenneth A. Krackow, MD, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory. Her research is centered on voltage-controlled electrical stimulation of titanium implants for the prevention of orthopaedic infections.

In June 2015, Canty presented her research at the third Stevens Conference on Bacteria-Material Interactions in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

Following graduation, she intends to stay in the region and take advantage of the flourishing medical technology community in downtown Buffalo.

In addition to spending time on research, Canty is a math tutor for local high school students, and serves as a volunteer at the Westminster Charter School for its Science is Elementary program.

Canty is from Snyder, New York.

Richard Izzo

Richard Izzo.

Richard Izzo

Richard Izzo is a Western New York native who graduated magna cum laude from UB in May 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in biomedical engineering and chemistry. 

He is currently pursuing his doctorate in biomedical engineering, specializing in 3-D printing in health care, under the advisement of Ciprian N. Ionita, PhD, research assistant professor of biomedical engineering. In this capacity, he works collaboratively as a research associate at the Jacobs Institute, where he was formerly an intern. 

As an undergraduate, Izzo worked as a researcher in the lab of Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, and under Renee M. Reynolds, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery, in his senior year to understand pediatric neurological conditions. 

He served as first author on one journal article and co-author on three more. He has also given presentations at five conferences, presented two webinars, and he was a featured speaker at the Virtual 3D Printing in Medicine Summit. 

In addition to his research work, Izzo assists in the Brain Bootcamp program to teach schoolchildren about heart attack and stroke in a fun and interactive way.

An active rower, Izzo has been head coach of the St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute freshman crew program for two years.

He is a resident of Williamsville, New York.

Brentyn Mendel

Brentyn Mendel.

Brentyn Mendel

Brentyn Mendel is an Honors College student pursuing a bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering. He intends to pursue a master’s in mechanical engineering with a focus in biomechanical devices.

To improve his understanding of business practices, Mendel also intends to earn his master of business administration degree.

He is an active member of the Grand Island Fire Company and has been certified as an interior firefighter and an emergency medical technician. While volunteering in this capacity, Mendel was able to identify many deficiencies in the current pre-hospital care system that he believes could be improved. He aims to correct the deficiencies by starting his own company that will specifically address problems that first responders face on a daily basis in order to improve the care they provide.

Mendel is from Grand Island, New York.

Yiyun Zhou

Yiyun Zhou.

Yiyun Zhou

Yiyun Zhou is a first-generation Chinese immigrant who is pursuing both her MBA and doctor of medicine degrees from UB. Previously, Zhou completed doctoral training in biochemistry with a focus on developmental genomics at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Zhou received her bachelor’s degree in nutrition with a focus on public health nutrition from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and completed internships at a local hospital, the CDC and FDA prior to coming to Buffalo in 2008. 

Since beginning medical school, Zhou has been actively involved in the local community, from participating in various community events to co-steering a community initiative in the Fruit Belt neighborhood. 

Her experience working with Nathan Congdon, MD, an internationally renowned preventive ophthalmology researcher, inspired her to seek solutions to improve equitable eye care and blindness prevention locally and globally. 

She hopes to establish a Western New York-based not-for-profit organization addressing eye care disparity and promoting equitable eye care regionally and possibly worldwide.

Zhou serves as the co-president for Sprouts, a local community initiative that uses gardening to spread healthy eating habits among students and children in underserved neighborhoods.

Internships Give Academic and Practical Experiences

Paid, credit-bearing internships assist fellows in acquiring both academic and practical experiences in their intended professions. Fellows are given the opportunity to intern in their chosen fields of interest, where they work alongside and are mentored by leaders in upper-level management.

UB’s fellows also receive $1,000 through an enrichment fund to enhance their fellowship year and further support their professional and personal growth. Fellows have used this funding to support their research, attend or present at a professional conference, and pursue a second internship experience with a local organization.

Fellows also receive complimentary membership to attend meetings and trainings sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership 360 program, Emerging Business Leaders and the WNY Venture Association.

Fellows Learn About Region’s Opportunities, Challenges

This year’s fellows began their program with an orientation in late May. They attended speed networking sessions to get to know one another and met with Prosperity Fellowship alumni. In addition, fellows heard presentations from leaders of Western New York nonprofit organizations, and they toured Silo City with owner Rick Smith, who is also president of Rigidized Metals Corp.

The orientation, along with the programming afforded to the fellows throughout their fellowship year, provide these future leaders with an overview of the region’s opportunities and challenges. Specifically, it allows them to understand how they might contribute their talents to impact economic development in the region, said Hadar Borden, UB’s WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program director.

“My responsibility with our fellows is to make the case for Buffalo and Western New York, while developing their leadership potential. Our region needs their drive, ambition and creativity to remain in the region,” Borden said.

“True to its name, the City of Good Neighbors and its current leaders continuously open their doors and share their time with our fellows by hosting them for a tour, discussion or joining us for our signature program, Innovate N’ Caffeinate, a casual networking opportunity for our fellows with the region’s business and thought leaders.”