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Technology Association of Iowa Honors Women of Innovation

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Technology Association of Iowa Honors Women of Innovation

DateNov 11, 2009

Technology Association of Press Release

Leann Jacobson

phone:  515-280-7700




The Technology Association of Iowa (TAI) yesterday honored leaders in technology, science, and engineering at its second annual Iowa Women of Innovation Awards presentation.  Nine professionals, academicians, and students were awarded with “Women of Innovation” awards.

“These women are advancing technology in Iowa,” said TAI president Leann Jacobson. “Their work makes our state a better place to live – more economically vibrant, more environmentally sound and more of an incubator of idea generation and innovation.  As role models their work will bring many more women into Iowa’s high-tech workforce.”
Encouraging more women to choose careers in technology will bring greater earnings parity and high paying jobs to Iowa. While women with five or more years of college make only 69 cents for every dollar earned by their male peers, that discrepancy diminishes when women earn eight or more college math credits.  The proportion of women in high tech careers has declined from 41 percent in 1996 to 32 percent in 2006.  The percentage of women in IT is the lowest since the 1970s, and the numbers of women in senior management positions at technology companies have held steady at three to five percent. 

“Iowa’s economic vitality depends on both women and men who are well educated in technology. We will only increase the percentage of women in the high tech workforce by tapping into the talent pool of young women as we fill the pipeline of future workers,” Jacobson said. “We have work to do.  In that pipeline today, women comprise fewer than 15 percent of all advanced placement computer science exam-takers, and in the last 20 years the share of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded to women dropped from 36 to 21 percent.”

The Women of Innovation event was supported by Rockwell Collins, the Principal Financial Group, the Iowa Math and Science Education Partnership, and by the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

2009 Women of Innovation Award Winners
Research Innovation and Leadership: Dr. Toni Wang, Associate Professor, Iowa State University. 
Dr. Toni Wang has lead an active research program in processing and using soybeans, corn, eggs, and other products for lipid components and protein co-products. Her work has resulted in 12 IP disclosures and one patent award (with two pending). Recently, ISU announced a licensing agreement with SoyaWax International in Cedar Rapids, based upon Dr. Wang’s innovative method of making soy-based wax. Dr. Wang’s work has been included in more than 60 peer-reviewed journals and nine book chapters. Throughout her career she has made nearly 70 conference and 15 invited presentation. In addition to her work at ISU, Dr. Wang is the Associate Editor for AOCS’ journal and is the incoming chair for its Phospholipid Division.

Academic Innovation and Leadership in Secondary Education: Julie Hill, Lisbon Community School District.  Julie Hill was an elementary school teacher from 1989-2003 and has earned her Master’s Degree in Education Technology from the University of Northern Iowa. Ms. Hill was the first Iowan to join an internally recognized group called “Students Working toward the Advancement of Technology (SWAT).” She created a Tech Literacy program for middle school kids. The students became “first responders” for basic troubleshooting issues in classrooms, leading many students to find and pursue interests in technology. Ms. Hill was also instrumental in creating a recording studio in the Lisbon High School technology office. A fellow teacher used the studio to launch a Multimedia class through which students create weekly broadcasts shown throughout the school.

Academic Innovation and Leadership in Post-Secondary Education:  Dr. Gail Bishop, Professor of Microbiology, University of Iowa.  Dr. Gail Bishop is nationally recognized for her scientific contributions in B cell immunology. She has served as Director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology for the past 11 years. Dr. Bishop recently developed materials on T-B lymphocyte collaboration for the American Association of Immunologists Introduction Immunology course (attended by aspiring young immunologists from around the country). She is currently a member of the Governing Council of the American Association of Immunologists and serves as the NIAID Board of Scientific Counselors. Dr. Bishop has authored eight book chapters, 19 invited reviews, and 84 peer review research papers.

Non-Profit/Government Agency: Tracy Warner, Municipal Engineer, City of Ames. Tracy Warner heads the Engineering Division of the Public Works Department. She oversees engineering design, construction inspection, traffic (including airport), and the city-wide geographic information system. She’s responsible for a $10 million capital improvement construction and design budget and an annual operating budget of over $2.5 million. While working for the city, Ms. Warner has introduced many storm water initiatives – including renovating the City Hall parking lot to install a bio-retention area that captures storm runoff. She also works closely with Iowa State University to add a social component to what could be a typical stream stabilization project. Throughout the creek restoration project, neighborhood learning circles and surveys have been incorporated to further engage the residents who live within the watershed.

Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership:  Christal Mickle, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and co-founder, KemPharm, Inc.  Christal Mickle is the Vice President of Corporate Affairs and co-founder of KemPharm, Inc., an Iowa City-based pharmaceutical company. KemPharm, Inc. is focused on the development of newer and safer therapies for the treatment of ADHD, pain, and cardiovascular ailments through its patented pro-drug technology. Since its founding, KemPharm has developed lead candidates in pain, hypertension, and ADHD all of which address multi-billion dollar markets and offer clear benefits over existing therapies, particularly in terms of safety, reduction of side effects and potential for abuse. Ms. Mickle played an integral part in attracting and committing diverse sources of finance. KemPharm has successfully managed its expansion from the initial two founders to 11 employees - necessitating an expansion to the BioVentures facility at The University of Iowa’s Oakdale Research Park and the addition of a remote research site in Virginia.
Large Company Innovation: Dr. Zoraida DeFreitas, VP of Research and Development at Kemin Health, part of Kemin Industries.  Dr. Zoraida DeFreitas has responsibility for quality control and assurance, technical services, scientific affairs, and product and process innovation. With her first patent in 2003, Dr. DeFreitas contributed technology that was critical in giving Kemin a competitive edge in delivery systems for tableting applications that have produced significant sales for the company and, at the same time, positively impacting the eye health of countless people. The technology is a delivery system which encapsulates lutein — an important eye nutrient shown to reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Dr. DeFreitas’ team has launched several new products, including new Slendesta (R) Potato Extract, an ingredient demonstrated to increase satiety and help manage weight in humans.

Large Company Leadership:  Louise Billmeyer, Chief Information Officer of the Health Division, Principal Financial Group.  Louise Billmeyer is responsible for driving the foundational changes needed to position the Health Division’s IT strategy to align with rapidly changing business requirements. Significant examples of her leadership include: converting the division from a primarily proprietary software system environment to a vendored software system environment; transitioning the division from a mainframe-based to a web-based systems orientation; creating a rules orientation within technology solutions; driving a data strategy in support of effective information sharing and information-based decision-making; and leading the movement towards service orientation. Ms. Billmeyer also leads the Corporate IT Service Portfolio Group at Principal.

Collegian Innovation and Leadership: Alexandra Keenan, senior at the University of Iowa. Alexandra Keenan is a triple major in biochemistry, biomedical engineering, and international studies, with a Spanish minor at The University of Iowa. She is currently working on vaccine development to prevent the insidious parasitic infection visceral leishmaniasis, a disease with over 500,000 new cases annually. In 2008, she participated in a social entrepreneurship program in Madurai, India where she produced a model for a community-based cervical cancer screening program for low-income women. She returned last summer to advocate for the program and develop a database to aid in its development, which led to the creation of a hospital. Ms. Keenan was a key part of the award-winning Student Sustainable Design Competition team that focused on the delivery of safe drinking water to developing countries.

Youth Innovation and Leadership: Hillary Stintsman, senior at Chariton High School.  Hillary Stintsman excels in Science classes, such as Chemistry I, Chemistry II and Forensics, and is also a member of the National Honor Society. Ms. Stintsman has set herself apart from her peers by actively participating in Forensics activities, by formulating strategies and testing conclusions. In addition to her academic involvement, she is a member of Student Council, Spanish Club, and serves as Vice President of the National Honor Society. Ms. Stintsman has excelled in science courses and general academics with a GPA of 4.089 (on a 4.00 scale).

TAI received nearly 70 nominations for these awards, the only ones of their kind in Iowa. Finalists and winners were selected by Lilia Abron, President of PEER Consultants, PC; Janet E. Phipps Burkhead, Attorney with McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC and a brigadier general with the Iowa Army National Guard; Gary Scholten, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Principal Financial Group; and Michael Sadler, Managing Director of Qwest – Iowa; and David Sengpiel, Senior Investment Manager of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

To learn more about the award winners and finalists, log on to

TAI is a member-based, not-for-profit organization accelerating the success of Iowa’s technology industry. TAI creates and sustains a positive environment for technology-based economic growth and job creation through innovation, advocacy, and leadership. TAI members include organizations of every size, involved in virtually every aspect of technology creation, production, application and education in Iowa.

Last updated ( Friday, 13 November 2009 )

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