Hundreds of friends and family members gathered Thursday evening at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington to honor 10 women who are leading the way in technology at the 7th annual Women of Innovation Awards.

Hosted by the Connecticut Technology Council along with United Technologies Corporation, the law firm of Day Pitney LLP, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Corporation, the event highlighted women of all ages who are leaders in technology, science, and engineering.

In attendance were a few Connecticut notables, including Secretary of the State Denise Merrill—a former Innovation Awards recipient — who spoke to the crowd about the importance of government and industry working together. In her closing comments, Merrill emphasized the importance of the contributions these women were making to Connecticut and the impact they would make on the future economy.

As master of ceremonies, TV personality Diane Smith reflected on the theme of the night — networking — before the official awards ceremony began. Matt Nemerson, president and CEO of the Connecticut Technology Council, emphasized the networking aspect of the annual awards as well. (Nemerson testified before the legislature’s Commerce Committee on Jan. 20).

“The real reason we’re here — we’re sort of tricking people,” Nemerson said. “We’re giving them these awards, they’re the top people in their field. We now have given awards to over 350 of the top women in Connecticut over the last 7 years. We want them to get to know each other because we now have top executives at all the big pharmaceuticals, all the aerospace, professors at all the universities, colleges — and so the real issue is, how do you get five hundred of the top intellectuals and performers in the state to feel that they have a bond? That they can talk from Yale to UConn, Stamford to New Haven and up to Danbury? So the real issue here is the network. It’s getting people together.”

As the ceremony unfolded, it was evident that all 10 women who were awarded along with the rest of the 56 finalists have made extraordinary contributions in their respective fields. Finalist Nadia Glucksberg, a hydrogeologist, has improved the lives of villagers in India, Ghana, and Guatemala by designing and constructing potable water systems. Her project served as a model for the benefits of engineering within the public health sector and also highlighted its application outside the classroom.

The evening also featured some outstanding high school females. A senior at Amity High School, Jenny Liu has been studying human-robot interaction at the Yale University Social Robotics Lab, which earned her a spot as one of the 40 Intel Science Talent Search finalists.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Ella L.J. Edmondsen Bell, who is an author, professor, businesswoman, and entrepreneur.

The 2011 Women of Innovation winners are, by category:

Academic Innovation and Leadership
Rachel O’Neill, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, University of Connecticut. O’Neill is Director of the Microarray and Next Generation Sequencing Facility Center for Applied Genetics and Technology. She is recruited nationally and internationally as an important and valued colleague in a wide variety of genome sequencing projects.

Collegian Innovation and Leadership
Jackie Garofano, doctoral student, University of Connecticut, and EO Coordinator, CRISP (Yale/SCSU). Garofano’s doctoral research focuses on advanced materials characterization to study the micro-structural evolution of magnesia nanocomposites for optical components.

Community Innovation and Leadership
Nadia Glucksberg, hydrogeolist, Haley & Aldrich. Glucksberg is a hydro-geologist at the engineering firm of Haley and Aldrich. She has been a member of Engineers Without Borders since 2007 and has successfully designed and constructed potable water systems in rural villages in India, Guatemala and Ghana.

Sharon Killian, accounting associate, Pratt & Whitney, leads by example in helping the homeless. She has been recognized as “Volunteer of the Year” by CRT and by Pratt & Whitney senior management for her volunteering efforts.

Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership
Leonora Valvo is a lifelong entrepreneur and CEO and founder of etouches, a software company which provides online event management. Trade Show News Network named etouches the “Top Event Technology Innovator” for 2010.

Small Business Innovation and Leadership
Laura Dietz, vice president, Sonalysts Inc., works with training technology. Her extensive experience has been applied to Air Force, Navy, and Army training programs.

Large Business Innovation and Leadership
Deborah Orosz, AMS manager, operating effectiveness, Hamilton Sundstrand. Orosz is the company’s global Green Products program leader, focused on compliance with product chemical restrictions and reducing the environmental impact of Hamilton Sundstrand products.

Agnes Klucha, program manager, Engineering Innovation Center, Pratt & Whitney, leads a group formed to bring new innovations to life through prototyping, design and validation using an integrated approach.

Research Innovation and Leadership
Lisa Pfefferle, professor of engineering, Yale University. Pfefferle’s research is focused on chemical reaction engineering to direct the structure of nanomaterials. She has contributed to the fundamental understanding of combustion chemistry and sooting.

Youth Innovation and Leadership
Jenny Liu, High School Student, Amity Regional High School, has studied human-robot interaction at the Yale University Social Robotics Lab and was honored in Washington, D.C. last month as one of 40 Finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search. Liu was awarded a $2,500 scholarship by Covidien.