Women faculty honored for innovation, leadership

By Christine Buckley, CLAS Today

Rachel O’Neill, associate professor in the CLAS molecular and cell biology department, and Regina Barreca, professor of English, have won state awards for their contributions to academia and society.

O’Neill has been awarded a 2011 Women in Innovation award by the Connecticut Technology Council. The annual awards recognize women professionals and students who are innovators, role models and leaders in the technology, science and engineering fields.

O’Neill’s research uses molecular genetic techniques, such as DNA sequencing, to study the inner workings of cells. She focuses on the centromere, which guides cells to replicate correctly, and what factors affect its function. Her work has implications for causes of cancer, infertility and birth defects.

Recently she and her colleagues discovered foreign DNA contamination in several widely used databases of animal genome sequences, suggesting that these databases could be problematic when used to identify disease. This work was featured in The New York Times.

Regina Barreca, professor of English in CLAS, was awarded the annual Connecticut Woman in Leadership Award by the Women and Families Center of Middletown.

Barreca, a writer, humorist and commentator on popular culture, is the author or editor of 22 books, including I Used to be Snow White But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Uses of Humor; A Sitdown With the Sopranos: Watching Italian American Culture on TV’s Most Talked About Series; and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coed Education.

Barreca blogs for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Psychology Today and writes a regular opinion column in The Hartford Courant, where she spars with Larry Cohen. She is also a frequent speaker and writer of op-eds. She has appeared on NPR, the BBC, The Today Show, CNN and Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics and humor.

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