Three with engineering ties win Women of Innovation Award

On November 11, 2010, the Technology Association of Iowa honored 46 women leaders from across the state and awarded 10 professionals, academicians, and students with Women of Innovation awards. Julie Dickerson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Nicola Pohl, professor of chemistry and chemical and biological engineering; and Emma White, PhD student in materials science and engineering, were among the winners.

Showcased as leaders in technology, science, and engineering, the women were nominated by their peers and selected based on their professional experience, history of innovation, creative thinking and problem solving skills, and leadership abilities. Students were judged on inventiveness and accomplishment in science and technology, as well as academic achievement.

Dickerson was honored with the Research Innovation and Leadership award for her work in developing a sophisticated data analysis tool that helps researchers understand and test hypotheses in the context of entire biochemical pathways, chromosomal locations of genes, and a large array of experimental and field conditions. She also specializes in applying fuzzy logic theory to identify groups of co-regulated genes, and to infer their genetic network interactions.

“I appreciated an evening in the company of so many accomplished women scientists and engineers,” Dickerson said. “These awards demonstrate how much women are contributing to technological fields in Iowa and across the nation, a fact that often gets overlooked. For example, I had no idea that the Chief Engineer and Chief Technologist of Rockwell Collins is a woman.”

Earning the Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership award, Pohl is co-founder of LuCella Biosciences in Ames and is a world-renowned researcher in the area of carbohydrate chemistry. Her work is focused on using automated systems to construct complex carbohydrates from sugar building blocks. Adding automation will allow biologists to investigate carbohydrate targets that have great relevance in medicine and other fields, resulting in better designs for therapeutics and vaccines.

“It was a thrill to learn about so many accomplished women in the state,” Pohl said. “One of the benefits of a program like this is to make younger people aware of their possibilities and of potential role models. There are so many creative ways to incorporate a love of science and technology into a life’s work.”

White received the Collegian Innovation and Leadership award. Her PhD thesis involves developing a novel silicon alloy core-shell nano-particulate that would be used to greatly improve anode materials in lithium ion batteries. This material is expected to show higher rate capability and a storage capacity of two to six times that of the currently used graphite particulate. In her first year as a graduate student, White has produced an initial batch of the prototype anode compound in nano-particulate form, characterized its size and structure by transmission electron microscopy, and has finished producing and cycle-testing experimental battery cells. All of her results form the essential proof of concept for a patent application.

“Receiving this award really encourages me in my work and studies because it demonstrates that I am making an impact currently in Iowa, and hopefully someday my work will expand to influencing the entire world,” White said. “It is important for these programs to recognize students as well as professionals because it prepares the students for what they might do as professionals and supports them in their creativity.”

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