Meet the 2012 Women of Innovation® Finalists


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Presenting… The 2012 Women of Innovation®

Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership Yvonne Akpalu CEO/Founder Why Science

Dr. Akpalu is the CEO & Founder of Why Science, an education technology company igniting students’ passion for science/technology/engineering/mathematics learning. Why Science’s ground-breaking Poly & Mer technology makes STEM more accessible by combining the power of the “cloud” with state-of-the-art learning practices, programs and interactive media for the modern classroom of today. An innovator whose work has earned recognition through multiple awards, Yvonne mentors undergraduate Women in Science at Yale.

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Research Innovation and Leadership Amy Anderson Associate Professor University of Connecticut 

Amy Anderson is an Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Connecticut where she leads a research group to discover and develop novel drugs for treating infectious diseases and cancer as well as understanding and overcoming mechanisms of drug resistance. She received her B.S. from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF. Amy enjoys spending time with her husband and children at the beach in Rhode Island.

Amy Anderson

Small Business Innovation and Leadership Katherine Ayers Director of Research Proton OnSite 

Kathy Ayers is responsible for executing Proton's technology roadmap to achieve cost effective production of hydrogen for energy applications. She has been awarded several Small Business Innovative Research and other grants for DOE, NSF, ARPA-E, and ONR. Kathy holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and has mentored several female students through Mentornet. She also has two young daughters and enjoys running, swimming, and music. 

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Lisa Bongiovi Vice President, Intellectual Property Counsel UTC Climate, Controls & Security Systems

Lisa Bongiovi is Vice President, Intellectual Property Counsel at UTC Climate, Controls and Security Systems. In this role, she is responsible for managing all intellectual property matters, including management of over 7,000 pending and issued patents and over 4,400 pending and registered trademarks worldwide. Lisa also oversees all intellectual property matters associated with the product development process, and all licensing and enforcement matters involving patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Lisa Bongiovi

Academic Innovation and Leadership  Susan Brown Teacher – Applied Technology New Haven Public Schools-Mauro Sheridan Magnet School 

Susan Brown is a science, technology, and robotics teacher for middle school students in New Haven, CT. She adores teaching children how to think, create, and find their authentic 'selves'. Her past careers as an author, college educator, business owner in advertising and fitness, have given her the opportunity to work with youth to find their way through education and their passions. She has created an award winning robotics program and instituted a Women in Engineering partnership.  She is team lead for her school's NASA Explorer Program, and is a recipient of numerous education awards and Michael Jordan Fundamentals Grants.


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Entrepreneurial Innovation and leadership Jyl Camhi Founder and President Great Play 

Jyl Camhi's company, Great Play, is a patented interactive gym for children that helps develop motor skills, sport skills, fitness and coordination. Great Play has other patents pending and is franchised in metro cities around the U.S. Jyl worked with Microsoft in the 1990's, creating systems, teams and infrastructure, and receiving the Bill Gates Microsoft manager of the year award in 1996. Inspired by today's childhood inactivity crisis, Jyl's alternative approach combines technology and fitness to appeal to youngsters who are not natural athletes, encouraging physical development.

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Kim Carpenter Global Vice President of Human Resources Covidien

Kim Carpenter serves as Vice President, Global Human Resources for the Surgical Solutions Business Unit of Covidien. Ms. Carpenter has more than 25 years of comprehensive HR experience. Prior to joining Covidien in 2007, she served as head of Global Leadership Development for Bayer Healthcare. Ms. Carpenter earned a B.A. degree in psychology from Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ.


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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Teresa (Terry) Cowles Integration Manager, 787 Program Hamilton Sundstrand/UTC 

With 28 years at Hamilton Sundstrand's Air Management Systems (AMS), Terry Cowles has contributed to the evolution of standards, methods and requirements management across AMS.  As project lead for their largest 2011 program, Airbus A380 Air Generation and Temperature Control Systems, her work resulted in the certification of the aircraft. She received UTC's highest level of recognition for the formation of her Integrated Product Development Team. Terry's system level requirements management process is now the standard across HS, applied to multiple programs including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 

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Small Business Innovation and Leadership Manon Cox President and CEO Protein Sciences Corporation 

Manon Cox is President & CEO at Protein Sciences Corporation. She joined the company in 1998. Previously she was with Gist-Brocades, where she held positions in BD, Production and R&D. She holds a Doctorate in Virology from the University of Wageningen; received her M.B.A. with distinction from Nijenrode and Rochester, NY Universities; and holds a Doctorandus degree in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Biochemistry from University of Nijmegen. Her passion and career goal is to bring global innovation to the vaccine industry by using recombinant DNA technology.

Manon Cox

Large Business Innovation and Leadership Renee Davis VP, Chief Actuary Bond & Financial Products The Travelers Companies, Inc 

Throughout her career at Travelers, Renee Davis has been focused on strong performance by applying analytics to business problems in order to improve business results. As part of the Actuarial and Analytics Leadership team, Renee has served as senior advisor for many strategic initiatives in advancing analytics and talent for the company. Outside of work, Renee enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, especially on the beach in Rhode Island.  

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Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership Caroline Dealy Chief Scientific Officer Chondrogenics Inc.

Dr. Dealy’s work is dedicated to research and technology to understand and  treat debilitating human conditions including osteoarthritis. Chondrogenics is a Connecticut biotechnology company established with the support of UConn to develop the potential of human stem cells for cartilage repair. Through a major grant from the State, Chondrogenics is conducting preclinical studies to investigate the ability of the cells to repair damaged cartilage, with the goal of developing a stem cell based approach for osteoarthritis treatment.

Caroline Dealy

Large Business Innovation and Leadership Mary-Ellen Devlin Executive Director & Executive Counsel of Intellec Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corporation

After graduating from Fordham University Law School, Mary-Ellen Devlin worked as a patent litigator for six years with both trial and appellate experience. In the early 80s, she went 'in-house' first at American Cyanamid Company and then Boehringer Ingelheim. Mary-Ellen became the first woman officer of the largest intellectual property law association in the U.S.

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Small Business Innovation and Leadership Betsy Didan Vice President COCC 

Betsy Didan develops, promotes, and supports innovative technologies to reduce paper and increase payment speed and security for community bank customers and credit union members throughout the northeast, improving bank efficiency and reducing environmental impact. Her system to eliminate paper check processing for 140 financial institutions has saved thousands of gallons of fuel used to transport physical checks. Her electronic payment processes have accelerated check processing and verification, reducing opportunities for fraud. Betsy speaks at nationwide conferences on advanced payment technologies.

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Edith DiFrancesco Vice President, Engineering Methods UTC Climate, Controls & Security Systems 

Edith DiFrancesco is an executive with 26 years at UTC. Edith joined Carrier in 2008 as the VP, Engineering Methods after 23 years with Otis in Engineering, Safety and Quality leadership positions. Significant contributions include development of the LVM and Gen2 elevator products, the Otis Product Development Process and the Carrier Product Safety Process. Edith holds a BEng Mechanical from McGill University and an M.S. Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


Edith DiFrancesco

Academic Innovation and Leadership Joan Feigenbaum The Grace Murray Hopper Professor of Computer Science Yale University

Joan Feigenbaum received an A.B. in Mathematics from Harvard and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford. Her research interests include Internet algorithmics, security and privacy, massive-data-set algorithmics, and the interplay of economics and computation. She is a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery and was an invited speaker at the 1998 International Congress of Mathematicians.

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Elizabeth Gandza Sr. Project Manager The United Illuminating Company

After graduating UConn in 2000 with a B.S. in civil engineering, Liz Gandza worked as an engineer on transportation projects for URS in Rocky Hill. In 2002, she worked as an engineer and project manager on transportation and electrical transmission infrastructure projects for BL Companies in Meriden. In 2008, Liz joined UI to manage electrical transmission infrastructure projects. Liz lives in Southington with her husband CJ and their son, Nichola

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Elizabeth Garypie Black Hawk Chief Engineer Sikorsky Aircraft 

Liz Garypie is Chief Engineer, Army & Air Force Programs at Sikorsky Aircraft. In this role, she provides overall technical leadership for domestic BLACK HAWK development and production programs, including the UH-60M, HH-60M MEDEVAC, UH-60M Upgrade, and future product requirements. Liz has worked for Sikorsky Aircraft since 1999, holding positions of increasing responsibility in both Engineering and Programs. Liz holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Trinity College, Hartford, and is an active member of the Society o Women Engineers (SWE).

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Collegian Innovation and Leadership Ramona Georgescu Graduate Student University of Connecticut 

Ramona Georgescu received her B.A.s in Computer Science and Physics from Connecticut College in 2004 and her M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Boston University in 2007. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the University of Connecticut, working under the direction of Dr. Peter Willett. Her area of interest is statistical signal processing, with a focus on estimation and multi-target tracking.

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Kristina Givens Process Innovation Program Manager Lawrence & Memorial Hospital 

Kristina Givens is the Process Innovation Program Manager for Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London. She has been instrumental in the implementation and deep adoption of Lean principles at Lawrence & Memorial, the alignment of Lean with IT Projects, and the integration of the Production Preparation Process (3P) to ensure the success of the hospital’s strategic growth initiatives. Kristina holds a B.S. in International Business, and has studied language and business at Salamanca University, Salamanca, Spain and holds a Six Sigma green belt certification.

Kristina Givens

Large Business Innovation and Leadership Amy Harper, PhD 2VP, Research & Product Development The Travelers Companies, Inc 

In 2006, Dr. Amy Harper joined Travelers Risk Control, a group that exists to aid underwriters in account selection and retention, as well as to collaborate with policyholders and their agents to reduce losses and promote prevention initiatives. Amy received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Social and Organizational Psychology from Temple University and holds a B.A. degree from Illinois Wesleyan University. She has been developing and implementing products and services for the insurance industry for nearly fifteen years.

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Community Innovation and Leadership Dionne Henry Repair Develop Engineer Pratt & Whitney 

Dionne Henry is a 12-year veteran at Pratt & Whitney, providing repair development expertise to commercial aircraft engine customers world-wide. Decisions made in this leadership role directly contribute to flight safety. A dedicated humanitarian  and volunteer; she is currently chairperson of CPEP's Board of Directors. She spearheads the growing non-profit that designs programs to promote interest in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for under-served youth in CT. Additionally, Dionne has aided schoolchildren and families as one of the Church Missionaries to Guatemala last summer. "I want to inspire young adults to embrace STEM disciplines.”

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Youth Innovation and Leadership Emilia Hernandez High School Student Hopkins School 

Emilia Hernandez is a senior at Hopkins School in New Haven. She is one of the captains of her school's Science Olympiad team. In addition to her scientific interests, she is President of Junior Statesmen of America, participates in Model U.N., and is an active member of the Fencing team. For the last two summers, she has done research in Genetics at Yale about the protein-protein interactions involved in ribosome biogenesis. 

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Academic Innovation and Leadership Sally Hill Principal Designer Eli Whitney Museum 

At age five, Sally Hill began appropriating her mother's The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles to pencil constructions of the squares. She has loved grids ever since. Sally trained in graphic design at Yale just as the computer equipped the profession with powerful tools. Now she converts 20 years of learning project designs at the EWM into the 3D grids of CNC production while introducing her undergraduate graphic design students to the art of layering information with traditional and modern book folds.

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Youth Innovation and Leadership Areej Jahangir High School Student Glastonbury High School 

Making periodic visits to the Middle East and South Asia as a Pakistani-American, Areej Jahangir has seen first-hand the issues gripping developing nations in the areas of education and the quality of life. Her ambition is to combine policy and technology tools to close the gaps between developed and developing countries. One such specific study that she is currently working on is water purification through locally producible ceramic filters.

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Youth Innovation and Leadership Morgan Jordan High School Student Joel Barlow High School 

Morgan Jordan is a senior at Joel Barlow High School, and has a passion for chemistry and biology. Morgan recently conducted extensive research on environmentally-friendly surfactants through an independent research program. She is a member of the varsity debate, tennis and mock trial teams, president of the Serving Our Underprivileged Club, and is a classically-trained pianist. She enjoys volunteering at the Special Olympics, leading drives for the homeless, tutoring, and participating in the Girl Scouts.

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Arianna Kalian Vice President, Engineering & Manufacturing UTC Power 

Arianna Kalian, P.E., is responsible for overseeing UTC Power’s engineering activities and manufacturing operations for the company’s stationary and transportation fuel cell systems. Kalian joined UTC Power in 2008 from GM, where she led a range of product design and development efforts during her 19-year tenure, including an international assignment in Germany. A member of SWE, she holds a B.A. and an M.A. degree in mechanical engineering and an M.S. in management of technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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Research Innovation and Leadership Monika Kinstler Principal Engineer Pratt & Whitney 

Monika Kinstler has worked in the aerospace industry as a metallurgical engineer for 26 years. Currently a principal engineer at Pratt & Whitney, she has been approving aircraft engine repairs on behalf of the FAA as a Designated Engineering Representative since 2002. She holds multiple patents, and has developed an engineering information knowledge management system that has been widely emulated within UTC. She has two children, and is a performing violinist.

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Youth Innovation and Leadership Mary Kuchenbrod High School Student GHAMAS 

Mary Kuchenbrod conducts her own high school research. She is testing the early development of zebra fish embryos in environments that mimic that of a developing human fetus whose mother is consuming alcohol or caffeine, as well as environments that test the effects of progesterone pollution in water systems. This research has increased her passion for biology, and led Mary to help develop a Biotechnology and Bioengineering class at her school.

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Collegian Innovation and Leadership Heather Leask Undergraduate Student University of Connecticut 

Heather Leask is an aspiring chemical engineer currently attending the University of Connecticut. She began researching memristor electrical components at UConn in high school. She is currently researching mechanical properties of hydrogels at UMass and is co-authoring a paper for publication this year. Outside of her academics, Heather is an avid long distance runner. She completed a marathon in Philadelphia in November and is training for the D.C. Marathon in March 2012.

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Community Innovation and Leadership Kim McFadden Systems Engineering Pratt & Whitney 

A Georgia Tech graduate, Kim McFadden started at Pratt & Whitney 13 years ago, focusing on engineering equipment for the testing of development engines. Since then, she has worked as a Mechanical Design Engineer, an Operations Engineer, an Industrial Manager and now as a Project Manager on the company's latest Geared Turbofan Engine. Kim uses her engineering skills as an active volunteer with Athena's Warriors, a young womens' robotics team. She supports their projects and mentors and coaches the girls to encourage the importance of physics and mechanical concepts.

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Community Innovation and Leadership Kimberly McLean Principal Engineer Electric Boat 

Kimberly McLean has spent 27 years working in Engineering and Information Technology at Electric Boat. She is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and has been working with SWE and the Girl Scouts for almost 20 years to develop and present STEM programs for girls of all ages. She works with the Girl Scouts to provide girls at camp with opportunities to learn about astronomy and the use of telescopes.

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Youth Innovation and Leadership Maeva Metz High School Student Brookfield High School 

Maeva Metz created the first Biology Club and Green Team at her school to help others. This is her second year in a medical internship, and she has participated in Boehringer’s Partners in Science Program. Her interests take her beyond science as a Future Global Leader with extracurricular activities such as tutoring, being Tutoring Coordinator of National Honors Society, being President of French Honors Society, and being Concert Band Head Mistress.

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Community Innovation and Leadership Sandra Millan-Tripp Co-Founder Tributary Mill Conservancy 

Ms. Millan-Tripp is the co-founder of the Tributary Mill Conservancy, a non-profit environmental research and education organization which has been recognized by Field and Stream and the Atlantic Salmon Association for its hybrid prototype hatchery. The Conservancy has raised and released over a million salmon back into the wild since 2003. Ms. Millan-Tripp has shared her knowledge of environmental stewardship with countless students and classrooms all over southeastern Connecticut. 

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Research Innovation and Leadership Stella Oggianu Project Leader, Energy Systems United Technologies Research Center 

Dr. Oggianu holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). Stella has served as thesis reviewer for M.I.T. and the University College Cork, and as Assistant Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has over 10 papers in recognized journals and conferences, and has filed 12 patents. At UTRC, Stella has developed, executed and is currently leading innovative programs for advanced energy microgrids and integrated buildings.

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Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership Julie Olson President JAO Ovation LLC 

Julie Olson is a biopharmaceutical executive with over 27 years' experience, most recently as CEO of Mersana Therapeutics. While at Mersana, she helped to raise more than $35M in private equity, advanced two compounds into clinical trials in cancer patients, and continued innovative research programs. Prior to her years at Mersana, Julie was at Pfizer for 19 years, where she was VP of Licensing and played a variety of roles in drug discovery.


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Collegian Innovation and Leadership Janet Paulsen Graduate Student University of Connecticut

Janet Paulsen is a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut in the Pharmaceutical Sciences department with an emphasis in medicinal chemistry. Her accomplishments include the development of new antimycotics to treat prevalent infectious diseases using a structure-based drug design approach. In 2011, she was selected for a highly competitive internship at Merck where she made an impact on the development of pharmaceuticals to combat the ever growing HIV epidemic.

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Academic Innovation and Leadership Diane Pintavalle Teacher, Public High School Glastonbury High School 

Diane Corcoran Pintavalle teaches science at Glastonbury HS. Diane created the infrastructure needed for students to conduct authentic scientific research. She has built an extensive network of practicing scientists from universities, hospitals and industry who serve as mentors. Diane is a member of CSTA, serves on the executive committee for CTJSHS, and was recognized by CASL for collaborating to advance student learning. Diane holds degrees in Biology from CCSU and recently earned the M.A.L.S. from Wesleyan.

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Research Innovation and Leadership Tracy Propheter Design Engineer Pratt & Whitney 

Tracy Propheter was born in Atlanta, GA to two Electrical Engineers and has lived up and down the eastern seaboard and in Europe. She received her B.S. from the University of Florida and her M.S. from RPI. Her education has a grounding in Science and Engineering, but also includes History, English, Creative Writing, Music, and Art. Her hobbies include stained glass, quilting, sewing, painting, drawing, and singing. Tracy lives by the credo "I can accomplish anything one word at a time."

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Youth Innovation and Leadership Kelsey Reeves High School Student Grasso Southeastern Technical High School 

Kelsey Reeves has a variety of roles in addition to her high school studies; she is the National Honor Society president; a member of the National Art Honor Society; Student Council treasurer; a Mentor and peer mediator; a member of the Young Artists Society; a State Student Advisory Council on Education member, and is a participant in Work Base Learning with the City of Groton Pollution Abatement Facility.  Kelsey was chosen to represent her Compact Bio-filtration Unit to the New England Water Environment Association’s conference, and maintains high honors along with out-of-school employment.

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Large Business Innovation and Leadership Julie Reiss Sr. Eng., Mechanical (Systems Engineer) Hamilton Sundstrand 

Julie Reiss is the Lead System Requirements Engineer for the Life Support Systems on the Orion space vehicle for Hamilton Sundstrand. She has 12 years of experience in systems engineering, including several years on the Space Suit with design, certification, and space walk mission support responsibilities. Julie holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is pursuing her M.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

Julie Reiss

Collegian Innovation and Leadership Chaitanya Sankavaram Graduate Student University of Connecticut 

Chaitanya Sankavaram is a Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Connecticut. She received her B.Tech. degree and worked for two years at Wipro Technologies, India. Her research focuses on fault diagnosis and prognosis in automotive systems. She authored/co-authored a book chapter, eleven scientific publications and secured IEEE Best New Technology Paper Award, UConn’s Graduate Fellowship, Outstanding Achievement Award two consecutive years at Wipro) and the Governor’s Excellence Award.

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Small Business Innovation and Leadership Deb Santy Director, SBIR CT SBIR Office  

Deb Santy is dedicated to the promotion of technology, science, and innovation in Connecticut with a focus on small businesses. Examples of programs Deb has developed and promoted include Matches for Money, Collaborate to Innovate, Partner with a Prime, Partner with a Professor, and Careers for Engineers. Her latest endeavor, iHub, is an interactive web-based tool to enable state organizations to collaborate more efficiently and effectively. Deb actively supports and promotes high school STEM learning programs such as the Real World Design Challenge and the Sikorsky STEM challenge.

Deb Santy

Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership Sheila Shechtman Founder, Chairman Giftcorp  

Sheila Shechtman built startup Giftcorp into a B2B ecommerce powerhouse, creating 50+ jobs and establishing one of the state's largest women owned businesses. Giftcorp employs many women spanning a range of minority backgrounds. During 2011, Giftcorp achieved dramatic growth in its revenue and management team and has a customer base including Fortune 500 companies. Sheila received the 2004 award as Outstanding Woman Business Owner of the Year by The Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and is a speaker at numerous nationwide business programs.


Sheila Shechtman

Academic Innovation and Leadership Leslie Shor Assistant Professor University of Connecticut 

Leslie Shor is a chemical engineer working to improve our environment. As the first woman faculty member in the 50-year history of UConn's Chemical Engineering department, Leslie oversees several research projects aimed at understanding and replicating microbial habitat that are relevant to a variety of large-scale, global issues. Dr. Shor is mentoring four student teams conducting microbial research in her laboratory.  Dr. Shor's interest in microstructured habitats led to the UConn School of Engineering's first EFRI (Engineering Frontiers Research Initiative) award.