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Source: US State of Connecticut

Four University of Connecticut researchers were honored as leaders in their fields at the Connecticut Technology Council’s 16th annual Women of Innovation awards gala.

The awards celebrate women who are leaders in STEM fields and whose work is paving the way for future breakthroughs. The awards honor students, researchers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, high school teachers, and engineers from across the state.

The committee reviewed more than 150 finalists nominated by peers, mentors, or coworkers. Of the 50 finalists across all categories, seven were from UConn and UConn Health.

Dr. Marja Hurley, professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery in the UConn School of Medicine and a past Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation winner, helped nominate many of UConn’s finalists as part of the UConn Health Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS).

“UConn Health Group on Women in Medicine and Science is dedicated to promoting the outstanding achievement of Women in Science by nominating them for prestigious award,” Hurley says. “On behalf of GWIMS, I congratulate all of the finalists and winners of the 2020 Connecticut Technology Women of Innovation Awards.”

These women are working and discovering at the top of their respective fields in the state.

“I will continue enjoying the fund of scientific discovery and work hard to translate these discoveries to applications in practice,” says Beiyan Zhou, associate professor in the Department of Immunology in the UConn School of Medicine and a winner in the Research Innovation & Leadership Category.

The awards recognize both scientific and technological advancement, as well as those who have contributed to their communities beyond their company or institution.

“Being recognized for the Community Innovation & Leadership award humbles me and forces me to reflect on those who marched, fought, and lost their lives to pave the way for moments like this,” Aundrya Montgomery, research assistant in the Department of Biomedical Science in the UConn School of Medicine and a winner in the Community Innovation & Leadership Category, says. “While we have come so far, there is still much work to be done and I look forward to continuing the good fight with my fellow Women of Innovation. My heart is filled with pure gratitude and appreciation. This is truly an honor.”

The winners honored at the event also help show young women entering these fields the kind of impact they can have.

“Being in the company of dedicated, accomplished women is such an honor,” says Maria Chrysochoou, associate professor and the head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and a winner in the Postsecondary Academic Innovation & Leadership Category. “It is also an inspiration to pay it forward and support the next generation of talented young women.”

UConn Winners:

Wanjiku Gatheru ’20 (CAHNR), Collegiate Innovation & Leadership Category

Gatheru is an environmental justice advocate. She is UConn’s first Rhodes Scholar. During her time at UConn, she was a 2019 Truman Scholar and a 2019 Udall Scholar. Her research emphasizes the importance of centering people of color’s experience and expertise in the environmental movement.

Maria Chrysochoou, Associate Professor and Department Head, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Postsecondary Academic Innovation & Leadership Category

Chrysochoou is dedicated to developing innovative strategies for brownfield redevelopment and educating students to do the same through the Connecticut Brownfields Initiative. She has published 65 papers and five book chapters. She is the first female department head in the UConn School of Engineering.

Beiyan Zhou, Associate Professor, Department of Immunology in the UConn School of Medicine, Research Innovation & Leadership Category

Zhou has made significant contributions to the study of diabetes, metabolism, and hematology. Her research group discovered immune cell function regulators and created fine-maps of complex immune cell actions in humans with critical implications for immunotherapy treatments. She has authored 38 articles and several book chapters.

Aundrya Montgomery, Research Assistant, Department of Biomedical Science in the UConn School of Medicine, Community Innovation & Leadership Category

Montgomery received her master’s degree at UConn and is now researching pediatric esophageal tissue engineering techniques and identifying the prevalence of obesity and its comorbidities among transgender youth. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Urban League of Greater Hartford Young Professionals. Montgomery was a Young Innovative Investigator Program scholar at UConn Health.

UConn Finalists

Leila Daneshmandi, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Biomedical Engineering

Rebecca Andrews, Associate Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine

Katherine Coyner, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, School of Medicine

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