AWIS Annual Awards

 

The AWIS Annual Awards highlight members’ career

achievements that demonstrate strong leadership
skills, innovative thinking, and a commitment to inclusivity,
diversity, equity, and accessibility.

Award Categories

These awards recognize AWIS members who are making significant contributions to science, increasing workplace diversity, promoting women into leadership positions, and advocating for more inclusive practices in STEM. See below for past recipients.

Spark Award

Highlights a student or early career leader in STEM who is a visible and vocal advocate for diversity and inclusive scientific practices.

Meridian Award

Recognizes a mid-career professional whose diversity and inclusion efforts represent a true leader in the pursuit of workplace equity.

Zenith Award

Honors senior career professional’s lifetime of innovative achievements in STEM and commitment to workplace diversity.

2022 Awardees

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Spark Award Winners

 

Image of Claudia Garnica-Díaz
 

Claudia Garnica-Díaz  

PhD Student, Botany, The Grace P. John Lab, University of Florida

As a PhD student from South America, Claudia Garnica-Díaz experienced challenges in relocating and beginning a PhD program in another country, especially one outside her native language. To improve the experience for future international PhD students, she designed and held a workshop which included academic strategies, avenues to connect with others (e.g., international social clubs), and basic administration (e.g., how to get a social security number).  

She has recruited and mentored 15 undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds including Cuba, Mexico, and Iran to join Dr. Grace John’s Lab. She was also recently elected as Vice-President of the University of Florida’s chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Native Americans and Chicanos. 

Garnica-Díaz has published two papers with international collaborators, one of which included the establishment of an open access database of Andean plant traits and a second review of tropical ultramafic ecosystems from her master’s degree research. The work from her master’s degree was featured in Forbes Magazine. 

Photo of Brandy E. Phipps, PhD

Brandy E. Phipps, PhD 

Assistant Professor, Central State University 

Dr. Phipps research and collaborations focus on how to transform food production systems in ways that protect natural resources, produce nutrient-dense products, and increase diversity in the agriculture and STEM workforce – focusing on underrepresented and historically disadvantaged communities. Her current research work provides significant funding for Native American students to complete STEM degrees and have cross-cultural and experiential learning opportunities, undergraduate research training, and peer-mentoring to help them gain leadership skills. 

She has held or currently holds positions on IDEA councils/committees/task forces within her institution and professional societies, including her University’s DEI Council; the 2020 DEI task force of the American Society for Cell Biology; a multi-institutional committee to create equitable and sustainable partnerships between Predominately White Institutions (PWI) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI); a DEI taskforce/community of practice for aquaculture; and the 2022 AWIS National Education Awards Committee.  

Dr. Phipps has served as a session presenter, conference moderator, and invited lecturer at a number of conferences, workshops, and departments – focusing on IDEA topics within STEM research and education. In addition, she has been called upon to provide testimony to and briefed U.S. Congress on two occasions.  

Photo of Abigail Stack

Abigail Stack   

Discovery Pathology Research Lead, Bayer Crop Science 

In her current role at Bayer Crop Science, Abigail Stack works to implement cutting-edge technologies to diagnose and control plant diseases. She has won multiple scientific and leadership awards at Bayer including R&D Science Fellow – a distinction reserved for the top 3% of Bayer R&D scientists globally who demonstrate technical excellence, project leadership, and science outreach. 

She actively participates in two business resource groups – one for women in science (WiSE) and one for the LGBTQ+ community (BLEND). Last year, she organized a panel discussion to highlight past R&D Science Fellows and encouraged women to apply to the program. This year, she co-organized a Fellows coffee chat for the BLEND group to highlight inclusion and encourage folks of all backgrounds to apply. 

Stack has held several leadership positions within the AWIS Sacramento Valley Chapter including webmaster, secretary, and president. Since 2018, she has organized the chapter’s annual mentorship program which includes ~60 individuals each year. She also served on the Annual Meeting Board for the American Phytopathological Society where she helped ensure speaker diversity in technical sessions.  

Meridian Award Winners

 

Photo of Reshma Jagsi MD DPhil

Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil  

Newman Family Professor and Deputy Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology  
Director, Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM), University of Michigan
 

Dr. Jagsi’s research on the underrepresentation of women has reframed gender disparities as an ethical issue and led institutions, funders, and professional societies to change their policies regarding mentoring relationships, flexible work schedules, and transparency of compensation and promotion criteria. Her innovative research has also provided more autonomy and individualized care for breast cancer patients. 

As deputy chair of her department, she is responsible for recruitment, development, promotion, and retention of a diverse faculty, redesign of the compensation plan, leads philanthropic development efforts, and oversees medical student and residency education as the Residency Program Director.  As CBSSM Director, she leads over 50 faculty from multiple departments and schools, along with a staff of research associates and administrators in a tripartite mission that includes clinical service, education, and research. 

Dr. Jagsi has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to gender equity at UM, where she co-chaired the task force on civility in the learning environment for the school’s re-accreditation, serves on the ADVANCE committee for women in medicine, served on the Anti-Racism Oversight Committee, and participated in the UM President’s committee to address cultural transformation across all of its campuses. She is the author of over 400 articles in peer-reviewed journals (H-index 80) and a fellow of ASCO, ASTRO, the Hastings Center, and the American Association of Women Radiologists.  

Photo of Darlene A.Mitrano PhD

Darlene Mitrano, PhD 

Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Department of Molecular Biology and Chemistry, Christopher Newport University (CNU) 

Dr. Mitrano’s research program focuses on the neuroanatomical correlates of psychiatric or psychological disorders, such as addiction, reward, insomnia, etc. She was hired by CNU to expand the new neuroscience program. She was instrumental in establishing animal care and use policies, securing the university’s first NIH grant, and hiring vendors to oversee the facility and comply with public health and laboratory animal welfare laws.  

A strong advocate of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA), Dr. Mitrano is a member of CNU’s LGBTQ+ and Allies Faculty/Staff Affinity Group and helped establish Brain Awareness month to promote awareness of individuals’ gender, race, age, and weight biases. She has recruited students from a variety of backgrounds and supported students going through financial hardship.  

She is Chair of the International Studies Advisory Committee and was elected the Regional Vice President of the South for Nu Rho Psi, the National Honor Society in Neuroscience. She was recently appointed to the new Laboratory Safety and Compliance Committee, chairing the subcommittee on Controlled Substances, to help CNU uphold OSHA lab safety standards. 

Photo of Roshell Muir PhD

Roshell Muir, PhD 

Senior Research Associate, College of Medicine, Drexel University

Dr. Roshell Muir conducts her research in the Division of Infectious Diseases and HIV medicine at Drexel University. She has led various collaborations with groups from the Thai Red Cross and Military HIV Research Program, and the University of Washington.

At Drexel, she co-founded the Postdoctoral Association and led its Resource Development Committee. She also served on the Women in Medicine and Science Committee and chaired the Women’s Leadership Summit 2020 Social and Advertising Subcommittee.

As a member of the AWIS Philadelphia Chapter, Dr. Muir has served as Vice-President, Programs, Secretary and now President-Elect. She instituted the lunch and learn program as a way to offer important career development information in small, easily digestible bits. As an immigrant from the Caribbean and a woman of color, she has strived to schedule more diverse speakers and topics.

Zenith Award Winners

 

Photo of Rita Colwell PhD

Rita R. Colwell, PhD

Distinguished Professor, the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Chair and Founder, CosmosID, and President of the Rosalind Franklin Society

Despite being discouraged from pursuing science as a career, Dr. Colwell persevered, and as a result, her research on the use of remote sensing to predict cholera epidemics has vastly improved public health outcomes around the world.

She was the first woman to serve as director of the National Science Foundation (19982004). Under her leadership, the organization assessed the extent of discrimination and harassment in the sciences, enhanced education and participation of underrepresented groups, and launched the ADVANCE initiative, which supports the advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.

In her book, A Lab of One’s Own: One Woman’s Personal Journey Through Sexism in Science, Dr. Colwell describes the harassment and discrimination she encountered in her career and solutions to address it. She has received many national and international awards as well as honorary degrees and held many advisory positions in the U.S. government, nonprofit science policy organizations, private foundations, and the international scientific research community.

Photo of Barbara Di Eugenio PhD

Barbara Di Eugenio, PhD

Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering, University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)

Dr. Di Eugenio works in Artificial Intelligence and NLP (Natural Language Processing), investigating human-human interactions in order to inform technology that solves important societal problems. She has held leadership positions within the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), including serving on the ACL executive board from 2018 to 2020.

Dr. Di Eugenio was part of the team that worked on a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant that ran at UIC from 2005 to 2012. This program changed the gender representation in the Computer Science department and the College of Engineering; spearheaded initiatives such as bias training for faculty search committees that are now required at UIC; and investigated and suggested changes to university policies as concerns family leave, tenure rollbacks, and the like. She also designed the class Research Methods for Computer Science (CS590), intended to provide PhD students from varying educational backgrounds with foundational information (up to 90% of PhD students at UIC are international).

Di Eugenio has received numerous awards, grants, and honors. She has authored more than 120 publications and graduated 14 PhD students (almost half of which were women), and 31 MS students.

Photo of Usha Rao PhD

Usha Rao, PhD

Professor of Chemistry, Saint Joseph’s University

Dr. Rao is an author of many scientific publications in her field of environmental geochemistry, studying water pollution and sustainability. She serves as an Approved Expert Reviewer for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is a Mentor for Vice President Al Gore’s climate initiative, Climate Reality, volunteering her time to train climate activists and groups in climate science.

At Saint Joseph’s University, Dr. Rao is the first woman to hold the rank of Full Professor in Chemistry, and the first person of color in the Natural Sciences to hold that rank. She created the University’s Office of Teaching and Learning which reaches several hundred faculty per year through its programs. Additionally, she co–developed the John P. McNulty Program for Leadership in Science and Mathematics to prepare gifted undergraduate women to persist and lead in the STEM fields. Her efforts have changed the structures of existing systems to welcome and empower women and minorities by providing financial, professional, and social support.

Dr. Rao has served as a role model and mentor for thousands of students over her career and received the Elizabeth Bingham Mentoring Award from the Philadelphia chapter of AWIS. She is currently preparing an article for Lab Manager on ways in which employers can support women in STEM as they journey through important stages in their lives and careers. She also speaks on how STEM businesses can use reverse mentoring to jump start women and minorities’ leadership development.

2021 Award Recipients
AWIS Leadership Award Recipient Dr. Maria Belen Carrillo-Rivas

Leadership Award

Commending an experienced STEM leader for fostering a high representation of women in leadership and supportive workplace policies.

Dr. Maria Belen Carrillo-Rivas is a Pharmaceutical Business Executive and Drug Developer with a strong scientific background in driving the industry-leading pharmaceutical organization’s performance, quality, innovation, and excellence. As the recipient of 2021 Association of Women in Science (AWIS) Leadership Award. She’s pioneering a regulatory path forward for people living with rare diseases. Dr. Carrillo-Rivas played an integral role in the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine EUA submission and spearheaded decisions on submission strategy, readiness, and clinical data quality. Her diverse background is in academia, pharmaceutical, and biotech with expertise in preclinical sciences, clinical development, and regulatory submissions. She has a proven track record of leading large product portfolios, R&D programs, and complex regulatory submissions, building productive business partnerships that result in quality, sustainability, and business growth.

2020 Award Recipients

Leadership Award

Commending an experienced STEM leader for fostering a high representation of women in leadership and supportive workplace policies.

Rachel Hutter, P.E. is Senior Vice President for International Facilities Operations Services and Worldwide Safety, Health and Engineering with Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Today Rachel is fulfilling her childhood dream as she leads engineering at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. Throughout her more than 22-year career with Disney, Rachel has held 10 different roles. Her current responsibilities span the globe to include oversight of teams in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

 

Pinnacle Award

Honoring an individual’s lifetime of innovative achievements in STEM and commitment to workplace diversity.

Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite is an internationally recognized scientist and scholar,  winner of awards in the fields of science, arts, literature, and humanitarian affairs and author of several scientific papers, studies and books. Her career started in 1995 at University of London hospitals and institutes. Dr. El-Hashemite is the first Royal Princess qualified in science and medicine, having earned a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences, Master of Science, Medical Doctorate (MD) and a Doctorate (PhD) in Human Genetics.

 

Next Generation Award

Highlighting an early career leader in STEM who is a visible and vocal advocate for diversity and inclusive scientific practices.

Dr. Sarah Richardson is a computational and molecular biologist, as well as an entrepreneur. Dr. Richardson earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Maryland College Park and a Doctorate of Human Genetics and Molecular Biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She leads the construction of genomic toolkits for non‐model prokaryotes, which she describes as using DNA to train bacteria to do tricks on command.

 

Game Changer Award

Recognizing an exemplary company whose diversity and inclusion efforts represent a true ally to the pursuit of workplace equality.

Lockheed Martin is a Fortune 500 company that ensures workplace equity, diversity and inclusion, and the advancement of women in leadership.

 

 

2019 Award Recipients

Pinnacle Award

Honoring an individual’s lifetime of innovative achievements in STEM and commitment to workplace diversity.

Carol W. Greider, PhD, is the Daniel Nathans Professor, and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics and a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Greider received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1983 and a Ph.D. in 1987 from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1984, working together with Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, she discovered telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomeres, or chromosome ends. In 1988, Dr. Greider went to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where, as an independent Cold Spring Harbor Fellow, she cloned and characterized the RNA component of telomerase. In 1990, Dr. Greider was appointed as an assistant investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, followed later by appointment to Investigator in 1994. She expanded the focus of her telomere research to include the role of telomere length in cellular senescence, cell death and in cancer. In 1997, Dr. Greider moved her laboratory to the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 2003 she was appointed as the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. At Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Greider’s group continued to study the biochemistry of telomerase and determined the secondary structure of the human telomerase RNA. In addition she characterized the loss of telomere function in mice, which allowed an understanding of short telomere syndromes in humans such as bone marrow failure, pulmonary fibrosis and other diseases. Dr. Greider shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 with Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak for their work on telomeres and telomerase. Dr. Greider currently directs a group of eight scientists studying both the role of short telomeres in age-related disease and cancer as well as the regulatory mechanism that maintain telomere length.

 

Leadership Award

Commending an experienced STEM leader for fostering a high representation of women in leadership and supportive workplace policies.

Freda C. Lewis-Hall, MD, DFAPA, is Pfizer’s Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer. During her 35-year career, Dr. Lewis-Hall has been on the frontlines of health care from the standpoints of a clinician, a researcher, and a leader in the biopharmaceuticals and life sciences industries. The common threads throughout have been her passion to advocate for better outcomes for all patients and her commitment to mentoring the next generations of women leaders in science and medicine. Trained as a psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis-Hall began her medical career in patient care and became well known for her work on the effects of mental illness on families and communities and on issues of health care disparities. She has held positions of leadership at the Howard University Hospital and College of Medicine, Vertex, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Pfizer. Some of her many achievements include founding the Lilly Center for Women’s Health in the 1990s; serving on the board of the U.S. Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute since its inception in 2010; creating Pfizer’s public health information program Get Healthy Stay Healthy in 2012; launching the industry’s first public compassionate use request portal, PfizerCARES, in 2015; and spearheading the creation of SpringWorks Therapeutics, a new company working to develop promising new treatments in underserved areas of urgent medical need, in 2017. For the past decade, Lewis-Hall has served as Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer, responsible for the safe, effective and appropriate use of Pfizer’s medicines and vaccines, and in this role she reshaped Pfizer’s medical policies and practices to intensify the company’s focus on patient engagement and inclusion. In her new role as Chief Patient Officer of Pfizer, Lewis-Hall will work to extend the reach of Pfizer’s patient-facing health information and education and amplify the voice of the patient inside and outside Pfizer.

 

Next Generation Award

Highlighting an early career leader in STEM who is a visible and vocal advocate for diversity and inclusive scientific practices.

Mareena Robinson Snowden, PhD, is Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research focuses on nuclear arms control verification sufficiency, nonproliferation, and modernization. Prior to joining Carnegie, Dr. Robinson Snowden served as a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Graduate Fellow in the Office of Major Modernization Programs. This office is responsible for the modernization of warhead systems and ensuring access to the strategic materials used in the U.S. stockpile. Dr. Robinson Snowden became the first black woman to earn a Doctorate in Nuclear Engineering from MIT in 2017 and holds a Bachelor in Physics from Florida A&M University. Her story in STEM has been featured in MARVEL Comics, CNBC, BET and other national television, radio and print media.

 

 

 

2018 Award Recipients

Pinnacle Award

Honoring an individual’s lifetime of innovative achievements in STEM and commitment to workplace diversity.

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, is the 2018 recipient of the AWIS Pinnacle Award which recognizes her contributions in STEM as a scientist, physician, philanthropist, and mentor. As Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sue leads the organization’s vision for a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life. Under her watch, the foundation has also been pushing harder on women’s empowerment while working towards closing gender data gaps to help accelerate progress for women around the world. Forbes magazine has named her one of the world’s seven most “powerful innovators” and in her current role she champions global development by getting the right interventions, to the right populations, in the right places, to save lives. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. Sue was listed among Fortune magazine’s “top 50 most powerful women in business” for seven years and, in 2010, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and elected to the Institute of Medicine.

 

Leadership Award

Commending an experienced STEM leader for fostering a high representation of women in leadership and supportive workplace policies.

Melinda Richter, MBA, is the Global Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS. In her role, she fosters the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies external R&D engine and supports the innovation community by creating capital-efficient commercialization models that give early stage companies a big company advantage. Melinda has received numerous industry awards including: the PharmaVOICE 100; Fierce Biotech Top 15 Women; Most Influential Women in Business (San Francisco Business Times); MM&M 2017 Healthcare Transformer; BIO Super Hero; and Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company in Biotech. She serves on various boards and advisory panels and is currently board member and Treasurer of the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA).

 

Game Changer Award

Recognizing an exemplary company whose diversity and inclusion efforts represent a true ally to the pursuit of workplace equality.

Salesforce is the global leader in customer relationship management (CRM), and is committed to a set of core values—trust, growth, innovation, and equality of every human being. For its efforts, Salesforce has been named the 2017 World’s Best Workplace by Great Place to Work, one of Fortune’s Best Workplaces for Diversity three years in a row, and one of Comparably’s Best Companies for Women. Leading the charge on Equality and reporting directly to CEO Marc Benioff, Tony Prophet will be accepting the award on behalf of Salesforce. As its Chief Equality Officer, Prophet is focused on gender, LGBTQ, and racial issues—ensuring the company reflects the diversity and upholds the values of the communities it serves.

 

Next Generation Award

Highlighting an early career leader in STEM who is a visible and vocal advocate for diversity and inclusive scientific practices.

Rachel Haurwitz, PhD, is a co-founder of Caribou Biosciences and has been President and CEO since its inception. She has a research background in CRISPR-Cas biology, and is also a co-founder of Intellia Therapeutics. Rachel is an inventor on several patents and patent applications covering multiple CRISPR-derived technologies, and she has co-authored scientific papers in high impact journals characterizing CRISPR-Cas systems. Rachel earned an A.B. in Biological Sciences from Harvard College, and received a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. This award draws specific attention to her continued innovation at the helm of Caribou Biosciences, as well as her commitment to diversity and progressive workplace policies.

 

Acknowledgements

Thank you to our featured partners for their support of AWIS and the AWIS Foundation Awards.

We would also like to thank the Scholarship Committee for the administration of these programs.

We are grateful for all AWIS donors and supporters for helping women in science and related STEM fields achieve their dreams and reach their full potential.

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