Local women recognized for innovative work

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Sophie Wang used small crustaceans to create a mosquito trap. Kristin Harkness has worked with middle-school students at Hackathon events, and she has tackled crowdfunding for Spark Makerspace. At Pfizer, Eve Pickering championed a tool that brought statisticians and scientists together to better analyze data, and Sarah Kelly heads the 750-person pharmaceutical sciences small molecule team.

These local residents are among the 50 finalists that the Connecticut Technology Council named last week for its Women of Innovation program, which is in its 14th year.

Taylor Van Antwerp, manager of talent and workforce programs for the Connecticut Technology Council, said the awards are about recognizing women doing STEM work in the trenches.

"We're not just looking for CEOs and COOs," she said. "We're really looking for people who are in a leadership position but are also in the weeds."

The winners will be announced at the Women of Innovation Awards at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on March 28.

The finalists are divided into nine categories of innovation of leadership: postsecondary academic, secondary academic, collegian, community, entrepreneurial, large business, research, small business and youth.

For the final category, the winner will receive a $4,000 college scholarship from Medtronic, while the other finalists each will get a $250 scholarship from the Council.

One of the six finalists is Wang, a Waterford High School student who has been working on a mosquito control system using copepods, a group of small crustaceans, for the past year or two.

She won first place in the environmental science category at the Connecticut Science Fair last year, and then won a gold medal at the International Science Olympiad in Houston. Wang also was named a top scholar in the Regeneron Science Talent Search.

Wang explained that in her research, she found that copepods had "actually been used in the 1990s, I believe, in a community in Vietnam to greatly reduce the mosquito population, so that really inspired me to create a trap that kind of harnesses that ability."

One of two finalists from Pfizer is Kelly, who started at the pharmaceutical company 31 years ago as one of the first female chemistry supervisors in the chemistry research and development unit.

She has gone to the Women of Innovation Awards several times before, to support other Pfizer women who have been finalists in the past.

She said it's great to see the spectrum of women "who are doing what they love and what they are good at, and just the broad variety of disciplines and interests that they have."

The other finalist from Pfizer is Pickering, executive director of biostatistics. As head of the nonclinical statistics group, she manages a team of statisticians across four sites, providing statistical support to scientists at Pfizer.

Pickering also is a member of the American Statistical Association, Caucus for Women in Statistics and Healthcare Businesswomen's Association.

Harkness is being recognized in part for her work as a board member of Spark Makerspace. She also is on the board of advisors for the Thames River Innovation Place, and she is in the early stages of working on an app to help people with cognitive impairments be safe in the case of a fire.

Harkness has been a software engineer for about 30 years. She worked at Kayak.com for nine years, beginning when the company was brand new, and then joined Drafted, a job-recruiting startup.

The full list of Women of Innovation finalists is available at ct.org.



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