2016 WiT Awards Winners

Congratulations to our truly inspiring and incredibly talented 2016 WiT Award Winners:


WiT Employer of Choice Award sponsored by GBST

Griffith University

Griffith University is a comprehensive, research-intensive university, ranking in the top 3% of universities worldwide. Our teaching and research spans five campuses in South East Queensland and all disciplines, while our network of more than 120,000 graduates extends around the world. We have a commitment to inclusion and equal opportunity, welcoming all individuals and seeking to reflect the diversity of the community that we serve – in the composition of our own community, curriculum, and in our approach to teaching and learning, research and community service.

Griffith employees contribute to the development of knowledge and learning in an attractive environment which values excellence, continuous improvement and innovation, equity and diversity. The University is proud to have been consistently recognised as an Employer of Choice for Women and now Gender Equality since the inception of these citations in 2001 and continues to strengthen and enhance support for staff through initiatives such as the Women in Leadership Program, the Leneen Forde Future Leaders program and participation in the SAGE Athena Swan pilot program.

Highly Commended - Tatts Group

Tatts is a global leader in the wagering, lotteries and gaming industries with an operational footprint extending across every State and Territory of Australia, throughout New Zealand and into the United Kingdom.

They are a major race wagering and sports betting operator generating sales in excess of $3.6 billion annually; a world leading lotteries operator with annual sales topping $4.3 billion; and experts in gaming and gaming systems - covering the full spectrum from gaming venue operation (including the development and supply of gaming products and services to hotels and clubs), to developing and operating regulated monitoring systems for governments.

A 134-year heritage makes us one of the most established gambling operators in the world, and we own and operate a wide portfolio of brands including UBET, Tatts, NSWLotteries, Golden Casket, Bytecraft, Talarius and Maxgaming. We are an ASX listed company (ASX code: TTS) and are headquartered in Brisbane, Australia.









WiT ICT Professional Award sponsored by Datacom

Mathilde Desselle

Mathilde Desselle is an engagement professional in the space of science and technology.  She is an experienced manager for biomedical research programs and facilities in the academic fields of genomics, bioinformatics and drug discovery, and is now the program coordinator - marketing and outreach for a global, award-winning, open-access, multi-million dollar antibiotics discovery program (CO-ADD) at The University of Queensland Centre for Superbug Solutions.

She has been the life sciences director on the board of Women in Technology since 2014, representing the life sciences membership on the board as Chair of the Life Science Chapter, and networking events, Queensland technology facilities tours and an annual technology showcase forum.  She founded and ran the WiT Step Up Professional Development Program, and is now director of sponsorship.

In 2016, she joined the newly created board of the Tech Girls Movement, providing positive role models to school girls via the creation and distribution of 20,000 free books and a national app coding competition. 

Mathilde has a proven track record in delivering successful scientific programs through developing international partnerships, digital innovation, global outreach campaigns, and managing innovative products and research services portfolios.  She is also an invited speaker on innovation technology, a passionate science communicator and an advocate for gender equity and open-access science. She enjoys the challenge of championing innovative initiatives, people and events driving transformational change and advancing scientific knowledge and solutions for future health.

Highly Commended - Mai Nishitani

Mai Nishitani is a self-confessed tech nerd and connoisseur of 90's rap and R&B. Currently, she works at the Gold Coast University Hospital, finding solutions to complex technical problems, keeping life-critical systems running smoothly, and blurting out the occasional cheesy dad joke.

Technology and its applications has been a lifelong passion for Mai -- choosing to tinker with electronics over Barbie dolls, working at IBM for several years, and completing a Masters in Information Technology at the Queensland University of Technology.

Mai strives to maintain a well-rounded lifestyle through yoga, body combat, and weekly twerking classes. When she's not at work or at the gym, she's spending quality time with her five year-old daughter, Akira.


WiT ICT Outstanding Achievement Award sponsored by PwC

Dr Richi Nayak

Dr Richi Nayak is Associate Professor of Computer Science in the Queensland University of Technology and is an internationally recognised expert in Data Mining and Web Intelligence.  She has combined knowledge in these areas very successfully with diverse disciplines such as Social Science, Science and Engineering, in order to technology transfer to real world problems to enhance or change their practices and methodologies.  She has been successful in attaining over $1.5 million in competitive external research funding over the past five years in the area of data mining. Her research and scholarship has resulted in about 120 refereed publications. She is steering committee member of the Australasian Data Mining committee.

She holds several editorial appointments, including the International Journal of Knowledge and Web Intelligence, the International Journal of Knowledge-Based & Intelligent Engineering Systems, the International Journal of Data Mining, Modelling and Management. She is regular reviewer of several International Conferences and Journals in the field of data mining and web intelligence. She has supervised twelve HDR students to completion in the area of data mining.

Richi is founder and leader of the Applied Data Mining Research Group at QUT.  Members of this group have a strong interaction with real world industries and work on the multidisciplinary projects. She has received a number of awards and nominations for teaching, research and service activities.




WiT ICT & Life Sciences Rising Star Award sponsored by QUT ihbi

Dr Nasim Amiralian


Dr Nasim Amiralian is an early career researcher in the area of nanomaterials engineering. She currently holds the position of Advance Queensland Research Fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, The University of Queensland. The focus of Nasim’s research is processing and structure-property performance of novel materials, renewable-based polymers and nanocomposites. During her PhD, she discovered and patented a unique high quality cellulose nanofibre from spinifex, an Australian native arid grass, using simpler, cost effective, and more environmentally friendly methods. This patented spinifex-derived cellulose nanofibre technology is now at an early stage of commercialisation and validation for several commercial opportunities including ultra-thin and strong latex membrane for condom and glove applications, non-woven filtration media, and as a precursor for renewable carbon fibre.

Nasim’s research has also been instrumental in fostering linkages and delivering job opportunities for Indigenous Australians by developing remote harvesting production plants for the supply and primary processing of the spinifex grass-derived nanocellulose. While passionate about fundamental science and engineering,

Nasim is strongly focused on pursuing commercial endeavours associated with spinifex-derived fibres. She is currently working with industry partners to advance and translate her technology into products that will benefit the economy and strengthen Australia’s position in the global nanocellulose technology market.



WiT ICT and Life Sciences Research Award sponsored by University of Queensland
Michele Burford

Michele is a highly regarded biogeochemist and ecologist who proactively drives translation of her scientific discoveries into on-the-ground change. Her research on water quality aims to understand the complex underlying ecological and chemical processes that drive poor water quality which has flow on effects to animals and humans. As a result, her research makes a positive impact for both human society and the environment: for example: Water supplies We take for granted that water coming out of our taps is safe and reliable. However, there are many challenges to maintain high quality water including water quality problems in rivers and water reservoirs. Michele works directly with the water industry identifying the causes of water quality problems including toxic algal blooms, thus improving the management and prediction of these blooms. She has led her team to develop new techniques and approaches to determining how nutrients from catchments stimulate algal blooms. This critical information is being used by water managers to improve the catchment health and more effectively predict toxin production, and hence management response. The relevance of her work with the water industry is demonstrated by achieving ongoing funding for the last 13 years. Fisheries Northern Australia supports thriving commercial and recreational fisheries. However, there is pressure for water development for agriculture, despite freshwater flows from rivers being critical for fisheries production.

Michele leads a team which partners with the fishing industry and researchers at CSIRO and Queensland State Government to understand more closely how freshwater flows in rivers affect fisheries. Her team has gained new insights into why freshwater flows are so important to fisheries production and has developed a predictive tool to test how proposed fresh water extraction for agriculture could impact on fisheries production. This is critical information needed to make decisions about water allocations. Her research has informed the Queensland Water Resources Plan for the Gulf of Carpentaria. Aquaculture A key challenge for the aquaculture industry worldwide is to reduce its impact on the environment. This includes managing the release of waste products which damage coastal ecosystems. Michele has undertaken ground breaking research to determine the sources and fate of waste products in ponds and coastal systems from prawn aquaculture. Her studies of new prawn farming technologies has revolutionized prawn farming in many countries, and has resulted in new feed technologies. She now undertakes research in Vietnam to help impoverished farmers develop more sustainable rice-shrimp farming systems








WiT Life Sciences Outstanding Achievement Award sponsored by Queensland University of Technology

Assoc. Prof. Dimity Dornan AO

Dimity Dornan AO is a Speech Pathologist and the Founder and Executive Director of Hear and Say, which enables deaf children to listen and speak.  Hear and Say provides services for over 670 children and families.  Dimity also initiated Hear and Say Research and Innovation, and Hear and Say WorldWide global professional training.

Dimity has started a number of other groups including the Queensland Hearing Nexus (a Queensland-based hearing research group); and Human-Bionics Interface Frontiers, linking professionals in the Human Bionics field globally. 

Dimity has been named Associate Professor at University of both Queensland and Griffith University, an Honorary Fellow of Macquarie University and has been granted a number of awards including: Member of the Order of Australia (1998); Fellow of Speech Pathology Australia (1999); Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International, 1999; Australian Medical Association Award of Distinction for Services to Medicine (1999); Ernst and Young Australian Social Entrepreneur of the Year (2005); Suncorp Queenslander of the Year (2010-2011); University of Queensland Alumnus of the Year (2011); Telstra Business Woman of the Year for Queensland (2011); Queensland Greats award (2013); Dame of Honour, Order of St John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitaller); Officer of the Order of Australia (2014) and received the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award (October 2014).

In 2015 she became a Board member of the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics and received the McCullough Robertson Life Sciences Queensland Industry Excellence Award. 2014 • Member of the Key Scientist Advisory Group for the HEARing CRC 2015 • Awarded a ‘Legend of Brisbane’ by Lord Mayor Graeme Quirk • McCullough Robertson Life Sciences Queensland Industry Excellence Award • Appointed to Australian Board of the Society for Brain Mapping and Therapeutics (SBMT) • Appointed to AVUK (Auditory Verbal UK) Advisory Panel • Appointed Chair of Human-Bionics Interface Frontiers 2016 • Honorary Associate, Macquarie University

Highly Commended - Prof. Susanne Schmidt

Susanne completed a Bachelor in Agricultural Biology at the University of Hohenheim (Germany) and a PhD in Botany at The University of Queensland. A researcher, educator and mentor, she leads a vibrant research program at UQ across ecology, agriculture and biotechnology to develop bioproduction systems based on ecological principles. The intricate interface between plants, microbes and soil is where Susanne’s research has been generating knowledge to improve nutrient efficient crop systems to avoid environmental penalties. She is developing novel NextGen fertilisers for Nutrient Stewardship to advance a circular nutrient economy without waste and pollution with repurposed wastes and novel biomaterials. Susanne is one of four initiators of the spinifex project that unites Indigenous entrepreneurs, material scientists and ecologists and that has led to the discovery of unparalleled material properties of abundant Australian desert grasses. Spinifex nanocellulose is now revolutionising material science with the thinnest ever condoms currently in the test phase. With an international standing at the cutting edge of life sciences, Susanne’s vision is to foster cross-disciplinary research and development to advance sustainable bioproduction systems, the use and protection of native plants and ecosystems.



WiT ICT and Life Sciences Rural and Remote Award sponsored by Origin Energy

Cara Beal

Dr Cara Beal is a Senior Research Fellow at the Smart Water Research Centre & School of Engineering, Griffith University. Her current research covers topics such as digital water network transformation & smart metering technology, behaviour change and water resource management, remote and regional water-energy efficiency, and smart asset management.

Dr Beal has published over 60 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers. She is a member of the Qld Government Water Expert Panel and is a current recipient of a Qld Fellowship for her work on smart metering and demand management for sustainable water and energy use in remote Indigenous communities.




WiT PhD Career Start sponsored by Griffith University

Laura Fenlon

Laura is a young and determined researcher currently undertaking a PhD at The Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland. Laura’s current research is focused around understanding how the brain forms connections during development. This research may provide particular insight into the basis of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

During her PhD Laura has amassed six publications in some of the highest ranked international journals in the field of neuroscience. She has also won numerous living stipends and travel awards to present her research at international conferences and has been an invited speaker at three prestigious meetings.

Laura has also been heavily involved in outreach activities such as the Australian and International Brain Bee Challenge, a competition that encourages high school students to get involved in neuroscience research.

In the future Laura hopes to enjoy a career in academia where she can continue to investigate early brain formation and hopefully contribute to better prognoses and treatments for people with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Highly Commended - Ludwika Nieradzik

Ludwika Nieradzik has been working and studying and working in the field of wastewater treatment and drinking water purification for the past 6 years. While studying Civil Engineering at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, Ludwika broadened her research interests in the biolab of the Department for Urban Waste and Wastewater Technology, as well as student exchange to Finland, international collaborations with Universities in the Netherlands and Australia, and pharmaceutical industry in Germany. After graduating with a Masters and her multiaward-winning thesis "Biofouling removal from RO-membranes", she joined the German pharmaceutical and pesticide producer Bayer AG and managed the optimisation of wastewater treatment technologies in international production and formulation sites. In 2014, Ludwika started her PhD project “In-sewer biotransformation of micropollutants” at the Advanced Water Management Centre in Brisbane.

Besides working on lab studies and modeling, Ludwika manages and chairs monthly meetings of two research groups, the homepage of the Sewer Research Group and well as homepage and submission system for UQ's EAIT postgraduate conference. In her free time, Ludwika enjoys travel, music and martial arts.



WiT Sue Wickenden Entrepreneurial Award sponsored by Queensland Government

Gemma Lloyd

Gemma is co-founder of Diverse City Careers (DCC), Company Secretary of the Diversity Practitioners Association, and has served on two not-for-profit Boards’ including IT Queensland (youngest ever board member appointed) and Females in Technology and Telecommunications.  In 2015, Gemma was a finalist in the 2015 ARN Women in ICT Awards in the Innovation category.

Gemma is a regular speaker at events such as DCC's ‘Better Ways of Working’ meetups, Women in Digital and XX in Tech and has also delivered keynote speeches and sat on panels of events like Griffith University’s “Leadership Engaging Diversity” and SOPAC 2016.

After working in IT for nearly 10 years, Gemma co-founded DCC with the goal of helping women pursue rewarding careers across any industry, specialising in supporting women wanting to enter non-traditional industries. Since its conception, DCC has grown rapidly and is now regarded as one of Australia’s leading authorities on gender diversity. The DCC jobs board is Australia’s only exclusive jobs board, meaning employers must be pre-qualified before advertising to ensure they support women’s careers. DCC works with leading companies focused on diversity including Dropbox, Xero, Deloitte, AECOM and Accenture.



WiT Outstanding Educator working in the field of Infotech or Life Sciences Award sponsored by Dimension Data

Sarah Kirkland

Sarah has always been passionate about science, a trait passed on to her from her father. Sarah started studying Chemical Engineering but changed course as she felt that she wanted to share her passion of science and that being a chemical engineer (as much as she loved the science) wouldn’t reach the people that she wanted to so she completed a course in Science Education in 1999 and won the award for teaching excellence.  Sarah has been teaching ever since, in South Africa, London and Australia.

After the birth of her daughter she wanted to start her own business. Partly for the flexibility it would allow and partly because she wanted to be a role model for her daughter – someone who follows their dreams. 

She knew she wanted to continue her passion – sharing a love of science with others and wanted to show kids that science CAN be exciting and fun before they are disillusioned with it - too many students walked into her high school lab for the first time with a preconceived idea that science is boring or that they “can’t do science”.  Her mission is to ignite a love of science within the future generation.

Highly Commended - Robyn Bull

Robyn commenced her career in education as a middle school teacher and science curriculum coordinator in the QLD Government school system. She was the recipient of a Peter Doherty Award for Excellence in Middle School Science Teaching in 2005. She joined the PrimaryConnections project at the Australian Academy of Science in 2006, taking on a dual role as a curriculum developer and Indigenous Perspectives Coordinator.

In 2007 Robyn led the successful pilot of PrimaryConnections incorporating Indigenous perspectives, and following that the Australian Government Department of Education provided funding for development of the PrimaryConnections Indigenous Perspectives website and publication of her research report: Small study - Big success story which highlighted the impact of the program on both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Robyn returned to Queensland in 2010 as a regional manager in the state-wide Science Spark Initiative which involved professional learning for all years four to seven state school teachers. During this time Robyn provided leadership and advice for Queensland’s implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Science.  She then accepted a role in Australian Curriculum policy; before taking up her current position in 2014, as Wonder of Science Program Manager, at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute.



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