Honoring Leaders in Advocacy, Achievement, Service and Mentorship

Women’s History Month began in 1987 and has been recognized by each U.S. president since 1995. The celebration honors women’s often overlooked contributions to U.S. history. UW Bioengineering is fortunate to have many female faculty and staff who are making important impacts as leaders, advocates and mentors. In honor of this month-long celebration, the BioE community nominated female faculty and staff who stand out in these areas.

Lara Gamble, UW Bioengineering facultyLara Gamble

Research Associate Professor, Lara Gamble was applauded for being “an advocate for learning, equality and the pursuit of detailed, well thought out science,” according to her nominator, Dan Graham, senior research scientist in the NESAC/BIO lab. Lara is the assistant director of NESAC/BIO and the director of the Molecular Analysis Facility (MAF), two instrumentation facilities that provide access to analytical equipment and training to students and industry partners throughout the region and across the country.

According to Dan, “[Lara] has published a wide range of highly cited papers and developed methodologies that have significantly impacted the scientific community. As director of the MAF, she uses this expertise to educate and train both her employees and users of the facility. Lara has been the recipient of a wide range of awards throughout her career so far including the David M. Ritter Graduate Student Award, the Peter M.A. Sherwood Mid-Career Award and she has been elected as a Fellow of the American Vacuum Society.”

Dan continued, “Lara is a hard worker and always takes the time to serve those around her. Even with all of her University responsibilities, she still takes time to serve within the broader scientific community. She has served in many capacities within the American Vacuum Society including serving as the Biomaterials Interfaces Division Chair and Program Chair, the USA representative of the IUVSTA Biointerfaces Division and the AVS awards committee. In each of these capacities, Lara worked to promote opportunities for learning and mentorship for students and early career professionals.”

Toni HaunToni Haun

Toni Haun is a research scientist/engineer and manager of the Yazdan lab.  Her nominators cited her leadership, inclusivity, service and commitment to safety in the department and beyond. According to      Bioengineering Associate Professor Azadeh Yazdan, Toni’s “tireless efforts have significantly enhanced our working environment, promoting collaboration, diversity, and a culture of excellence.”

“Perhaps one of Toni’s most remarkable contributions lies in her dedication to ensuring that every lab member feels not only welcome but also a genuine sense of belonging,” Azadeh said. “Her inclusive approach creates an atmosphere where diversity is celebrated, and each team member is valued for their unique contributions.” Nominator Ruth Woods, Bioengineering director of finance and operations wrote about Toni, “She is extremely professional and has a can-do approach that inspires. “

Ann Pierce, postdoctoral scholar, and Felix Schwock, PhD student, shared that, “Toni is a trailblazer for laboratory safety and has been recognized as such. In 2023 Toni won the ES&S Laboratory Safety Innovator Award. She received this award based on her innovative way of ensuring quick and easy access to emergency protocols. In Yazdan’s lab, we work with highly hazardous material and several animal models.”

PhD student Jasmine Zhou, who works in the Yazdan lab, wrote of Toni’s caring support of her students. “[Toni] would always find the best way to offer help when a student is going through stressful times or personal hardships,” Jasmine said. “Toni’s dedication and kindness really helped bring people in the lab and around us together. With Toni around, we have a better and stronger community.”

Wendy ThomasWendy Thomas

Professor Wendy Thomas was lauded for her commitment to diversity and inclusion as well as her mentorship and leadership excellence.

Nominator Brandon Nguyen, Bioengineering undergrad, recognized Wendy for her work with the BioE Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) committee, specifically her support of efforts to revive Q-munity, a queer UW organization that had been inactive for two years. “As a queer student myself, Dr. Wendy Thomas is the embodiment of queer representation within our department,” Brandon said. “She has been an inspiring mentor, and I am honored not only to have worked as her teaching assistant fall quarter but continue working with her to increase diversity and inclusion in our department.”

Hongxia Fu, assistant professor in the Departments of Medicine and Bioengineering, nominated Wendy for her leadership and mentorship skills, citing Wendy’s many leadership positions, including vice chair for Academic Programs, vice chair for Academic Affairs for Bioengineering and co-director of the Biological Physics, Structure, and Design Program (BPSD). “During her leadership service, Dr. Thomas has implemented new policies such as the original equitable teaching assignment policy, and the recent research mentoring evaluation,” Hongxia said. “She expanded the BPSD program as co-director by negotiating a sustainable funding plan that doubled the number of student slots.”

Hongxia also praised Wendy’s accomplishments as an educator. “She is dedicated to creating effective teaching and research environments and especially helping underrepresented groups in education,” she stated. “Because of her excellent contributions, she has received the UW Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, UW Distinguished Teaching Award, and UW College of Engineering Faculty Teaching Award.”

Ruth Woods 

Director of Finance and Operations, Ruth Woods was applauded by her nominators for her leadership, inclusivity, vision and organizational skills. Princess Imoukhuede, Bioengineering chair and professor, said of Ruth “Her impact has been felt across multiple facets of UW Bioengineering and beyond, from spearheading operational assessments to championing inclusion and diversity initiatives.”

Princess recognized Ruth’s pivotal role in “navigating significant operational changes, showcasing strategic thinking and adept management skills [that] led to successful overhauls in financial services and workforce management,” Princess said.

Ruth was also commended for her commitment to cultivating an inclusive environment. “Her professionalism and positive demeanor have contributed to a harmonious work environment, reflecting her dedication to creating a culture where everyone can thrive,” wrote Princess. “Ruth’s leadership extends to innovative projects and navigating challenging situations with grace and adherence to our greater UW values. [Her] strategic leadership has been instrumental in driving positive change and continuity.”

Nominator Katie Dickinson, program operations specialist in the Department of Biology, formerly with Bioengineering, wrote in her nomination form about Ruth’s many skills. “Ruth has strong communication, leadership, and organization skills,” Katie stated. “She somehow manages to be decisive and a good problem solver while also being empathetic and patient. She navigates challenges with grace and is a role model in the community.”

Princess summarized why Ruth is deserving of Women’s History Month recognition by writing, “Her contributions have propelled UW Bioengineering forward and have also inspired myself and others, embodying the spirit of leadership and empowerment celebrated in Women’s History Month.”

Kim WoodrowKim Woodrow

Kim Woodrow, Bioengineering professor, was praised for her leadership, achievement, advocacy and service by her nominators.

Postdoctoral Researcher Hannah VanBenschoten recognized Kim for her leadership in the scientific community at UW. She cited her many service roles, including Vice Chair of Operations, UW School of Medicine Council of Academic Affairs, the Bioengineering Graduate Admissions Committee, the Bioengineering curriculum committee and more. Both Hannah and nominator Suzie Pun, Bioengineering professor, mentioned Kim’s important efforts leading the safety committee during the COVID-19 pandemic for which she received the UW Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department award.

Kim’s achievements include being recognized with the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the L’Oreal USA Fellowship for Women in Science, and the UW Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. She was also named one of Newsweek’s 125 Women of Impact.

Hannah and Suzie praised Kim’s advocacy for gender equity in health research where she has formed the Institute for Engineering in Women’s Health. “Her primary research focus is developing HIV prevention modalities that target the female reproductive tract in order to address enormous unmet needs in HIV prevention among women, an issue that disproportionately affects women in low-resource regions and those who face multiple forms of discrimination,” stated Hannah.

Kim was further recognized for her work engaging the community via STEM outreach and mentorship activities, including the UW Bioengineering Summer Camp, the UW College of Engineering Discovery Days and the UW Mathematics Academy. “Her students graduate with rigorous scientific skills and her alumni are now trailblazing in their own research areas in industry and academia,” Suzie stated.

Azadeh Yazdan

Nominator Patrick (Pat) Boyle, Bioengineering assistant professor, had many accolades to write in his nomination form about Azadeh Yazdan, Bioengineering associate professor. He praised Azadeh for her research and teaching achievements, her advocacy on behalf of her students and colleagues, “especially for individuals who hail from communities underrepresented in our field,” Pat said. He also recognized Azadeh’s leadership and service within the BioE department, which, he stated, “are a source of inspiration.”

Pat was most praiseworthy of Azadeh’s impact as a peer mentor for other junior faculty in Bioengineering. Azadeh received the 2022 UW College of Engineering Junior Faculty Award, which acknowledges the extraordinary efforts and outstanding contributions of the college’s teaching and research assistants, staff and faculty members to the department, college and university over the past year.

“Ever since I arrived at UW, I’ve felt like Azadeh has been there looking out for me,” Pat wrote in his nomination form. “When I was first starting my lab, she was always available to help me navigate tough situations with student recruitment, grant applications, understanding bureaucracy, striking the right tone for my lab’s culture… the list truly goes on and on. As a mentor, she has been and will continue to be an absolutely colossal presence in my scientific career and I would be hard-pressed to pinpoint anyone else at UW who has had a greater impact on my ability to successfully navigate life as an early career faculty member.”