Researchers up for science and technology awards

A University of Southern Queensland child psychologist and plant pathologist have been announced as finalists in the 2020 annual Women in Technology (WiT) Awards.

Professor Sonja March (School of Psychology and Counselling / Centre for Health Research) and Dr Niloofar Vaghefi (Centre for Crop Health) are among 44 outstanding women recognised through the program in 2020.

WiT is one of Queensland’s most respected technology industry associations, supporting and promoting the achievements of women in science and technology industries.

Professor March, who is nominated for the Research Leader Science Award, aims to make mental health treatments available to all Australian children and adolescents, irrespective of where they live or where they come from.

Over 47,000 children, adolescents and parents have used Professor March’s online programs, and results show its success in helping to reduce anxiety for families.

She has now secured $5 million in Medical Research Futures Funding to extend the program and build a new online program – one that will help children and adolescents build their own personalised treatments for depression, anxiety and substance-use problems.

University of Southern Queensland’s Dr Niloofar Vaghefi is up for the WiT’s Rising Star Science Award.

Dr Vaghefi uses DNA-level investigation tools to protect Queensland’s agricultural industries from pathogens that infect food and feed crops, including sorghum and mungbean.

Dr Niloofar Vaghefi.

She studies pathogenic microorganisms that cause disease on agricultural crops, to better understand the genomic mechanisms underlying their biology and evolution, in order to defeat crop diseases at a paddock level.

WiT President Dr Claudia Giurgiuman said although 2020 had been a challenging year, “the show must go on”.

“This year has been a year of change for everyone, including WiT, so we decided to create an online celebration to champion the state’s remarkable women in science and technology,” she said.

“Our virtual 2020 WiT Awards on 9 October are set to be bigger and better than ever with the ABC’s celebrity scientist Joel Gilmore as the event’s MC, alongside our distinguished keynote Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro.

“Many women are doing amazing work and these awards are about giving them the recognition they deserve, building support for their work, and inspiring the next generation of leaders by showing what is possible.”

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