Vernon, East Windsor women honored for tech achievements

Ashley Kalinauskas of Vernon, founder and CEO of Torigen Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Margaret Steinbugler, manager of materials analysis and mechanics at Pratt & Whitney, were among 13 women to be honored through the Connecticut Technology Council’s Women of Innovation program.

They were chosen from 50 women named as finalists.

Steinbugler, an East Windsor resident, won in the category of large business innovation and leadership, while Kalinauskas won for entrepreneurial leadership and innovation.

The council said Steinbugler has led teams working on new technologies at four divisions of United Technologies Corp. “At UTC Power, she headed the development of a record-setting zero-emission fuel cell for buses. At Pratt & Whitney, she led the materials engineering team that made the company’s first ever CMC turbine blades. In her current role, she has been recognized on four Leadership Award finalist teams, including one winning team,” the council said.

Kalinausas, a University of Connecticut graduate, leads Torigen Pharmaceuticals, a startup that resulted from her graduate thesis project at the University of Notre Dame. Torigen and its first product, VetiVax, are based onthe research of former Notre Dame professor Dr. Mark Suckow.

The Women of Innovation program was started 14 years ago by the Connecticut Technology Council to highlight important contributions by women to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

“Connecticut is a state that is emerging as a place that fosters women’s leadership in the STEM industries,” said Taylor VanAntwerp, manager of talent and workforce programs for CTCl.

Typically about 200 women are nominated for the awards by colleagues and peers. A panel of judges, usually prior nominees or finalists, condenses that list to 50 finalists, who are sorted into eight categories.

Other north-central Connecticut residents among the 50 finalists were:

• Cristina Guzman Toro of Manchester, a senior engineer at Pratt & Whitney. She is a leader at Pratt in organizing events such as the Hispanic heritage month celebration, the Project STEM field day, and the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fundraiser.

• Nicole Schulz of Manchester resident, a team lead and systems engineer at IT Direct LLC in Manchester. She has been there for seven years and has since been given awards for leading by example and “Teamwork Plus.”

• Stefanie C.F. Toise of Vernon, founder and president of At One LLC. Toise is a leading researcher focusing on how yoga therapy can support psychosocial and cardiac outcomes of patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillators.

• Sarah Toomey of Tolland, a deputy director at Pratt & Whitney. She is the leader of a team of 200 engineers and works to identify future leaders within the team, increase diversity, and mentor those moving into leadership roles.

• Julia Valla of Tolland, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at UConn. Valla has shaped the departments of chemical and biomolecular engineering since coming to UConn in 2013. She is also the recipient of the 2015 Young Investigator Award from the Petroleum Research Foundation.

The awards were presented at a gala held last month at the Aquaturf in Plantsville.

Originally published by the Journal Inquirer

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