AWIS Chapter Spotlight: Northern California

October 30, 2023



29th Annual AWIS NCC Awards Gala: Celebrating Women in STEM

All of the attendees of the Northern California Chapters Awards Gala
Attendees of the Northern California Chapters Awards Gala

The 29th Annual Awards Gala of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Northern California Chapters (NCC) marked a triumphant return after a long COVID-induced hiatus. This unforgettable event, held on September 23, 2023 in San Francisco, CA, became a symbol of resilience and inspiration as it celebrated the incredible accomplishments of women in STEM. The gala, attended by 52 STEM professionals from diverse disciplines, was a powerful testament to the indomitable spirit of our community.

In Northern California, we are privileged to have three dynamic AWIS chapters: East Bay, led by Katie Sullivan; Sacramento Valley, led by Grace LeBleu; and Palo Alto, led by Anita Chu Li. Together, these chapters form the NCC, fostering collaboration and corporate fundraising. Our region stands out due to the rich tapestry of technology, research, institutions, and pharmaceutical companies throughout the Bay Area, consistently attracting high-caliber STEM professionals.

Keynote speaker, Ann Lee-Karlon
Keynote speaker, Dr. Ann Lee-Karlon

The evening commenced with opening remarks by Dr. Anita Chu Li, the President of the AWIS Palo Alto chapter and the event’s emcee. Her words resonated with the audience, setting the tone for the night, emphasizing the significance of recognizing and empowering women in STEM.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Ann Lee-Karlon, President, CEO, and Board Member at EpiBiologics, captivated the audience with her inspiring journey through the world of STEM. She highlighted the importance of women’s contributions to STEM fields and shared her experiences, including her roles as the former President of AWIS national.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation of recognition awards and scholarships. Award recipients are chosen each year from a pool of exceptional nominees, making the selection process quite challenging due to the numerous outstanding women who positively impact their colleagues and communities.

This year’s award categories and winners included:

Scholarships were presented across the three chapters to support young women beginning their STEM journey. Recipients included students from Foothill College, Folsom Lake College, UC Berkeley, and CSU East Bay.

The AWIS NCC Awards Gala featured the presentation of notable recognition awards:

Sherrie Wilkins Award winner - Abby Kennedy
Sherrie Wilkins Award winner Dr. Abby Kennedy

Sherrie Wilkins Award: Dr. Abby Kennedy, VP of Clinical Operations at CymaBay Therapeutics, was honored for her exceptional work in non-research STEM careers.

Ellen Weaver Award: Abbie Stack, MS, Genotyping Innovation and Technologies Lead at Bayer Crop Science, received this award for her remarkable contributions in academia and industry as a junior researcher in science.

Judith Pool Award: Dr. Xi Zhao-Wilson, CEO, Co-founder, and Director of BioMarker Inc. a senior researcher awarded for her decade-long senior researcher career in academia and industry

The Chapter Volunteer of the Year award recognized the invaluable contributions of volunteers within each chapter of AWIS NCC. Alexander Campbell from the Sacramento Valley Chapter was celebrated for his dedication.

An interactive raffle session added an extra layer of excitement to the night, with attendees eagerly participating in drawing raffle prizes.

Judith Pool Award winner Dr. Xi Zhao-Wilson
Judith Pool Award winner Dr. Xi Zhao-Wilson

The AWIS NCC community expressed deep gratitude to the event sponsors, including DMS Biotech Consulting, Palio, Telegraph Quartet, and AWIS NCC volunteers, Susan Bernhard, Diliana Stoilova, and Kim Williams whose support made the gala even more memorable.

The Annual Awards Gala is one of the three featured events hosted by AWIS NCC to enrich the community experience. The others include the Summer Picnic hosted by the Sacramento Valley Chapter and the Winter Workshop hosted by the East Bay Chapter.

The 29th Annual AWIS NCC Awards Gala was a night of inspiration, celebration, and unity, and it concluded with the promise of another remarkable year ahead, inspiring the next generation of trailblazing women in STEM. Stay tuned for next year’s 30th anniversary Awards Gala, which holds the promise of even greater achievements and inspiration. Thank you for being part of this unforgettable evening!