Sunshine Coast locals named finalists in prestigious tech awards


Dr Jodi Neal

Sunshine Coast resident’s Dr Jodi Neal and Dr Elke Hacker have been named finalists in this year's Women in Technology (WiT) Awards.

Drs Neal and Hacker were selected from a record field of 440 nominations.

The prestigious WiT Awards recognise outstanding talent and achievement, building support for women working in science and technology, and inspiring the next generation of leaders by showing what is possible.

For the first time, the WiT Awards has three new categories with one specifically focused on celebrating women who are working in Queensland's regional, rural and remote locations.

Dr Jodi Neal from Golden Beach is currently the Project Lead for the National Strawberry Varietal Improvement Program within the Queensland Government's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australia's largest public horticultural breeding program.

She has been named a finalist for the 2020 WiT Awards' newly introduced Regional award.  Through her work, Dr Neal has utilised cutting-edge scientific approaches to influence the breeding cycle of strawberries to produce advanced varieties.

Her vision for a forward-looking strawberry breeding program aims to tackle the most prominent issues impacting Australia, such as food security, climate change, increasing population, and competition for land use, which will inevitably affect the future of farming.

Dr Elke Hacker from Mooloolah Valley has been recognised as a finalist for the 2020 WiT Awards Innovation in Science. Dr Hacker is a world-leading postdoctoral researcher in the skin cancer field at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology.

Over the past 10 years, she has expanded her research from invitro lab models to human clinical studies, which have generated results that improve understanding of the relationship between sun exposure, genetic-susceptibility, and skin cancer risk.

Dr Elke's extensive research portfolio has led to the development of various smartphone apps that reliably collect UVR exposure data to measure sunburn risk.

Through various partnerships, Dr Elke continues to utilise technology to make headway in preventing skin cancer, a prominent issue experienced by many Australians.

Women in Technology (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.
"With the devastating economic impact of COVID-19, harnessing our female talent and skill has never been more crucial, so this year, more than ever, the awards show must go on.
"Many women are doing amazing work, and these awards are about giving them the recognition they deserve."
Although the 2020 WiT Awards presentation is online this year, attendees are encouraged to dress to excess or extreme comfort as the event is brought live to their living rooms. Attendees will still have the same opportunity to network, mingle and support the work done by these incredible finalists through the online event platform.

Good luck to our local finalist’s Dr Jodi Neal and Dr Elke Hacker.

To see the full list of finalists, head to the WiT Awards website:
Don't miss out on this phenomenal event! Tickets are still available. Secure your tickets here:

Dr Elke Hacker

Women in Technology (WiT) is one of Australia’s most respected and active technology industry associations, dedicated to supporting, developing, recognising and promoting the achievements of women from all science and technology disciplines. The organisation delivers professional development, advocacy and networking, including exclusive mentoring and Board Readiness courses, and the prestigious annual WiT Awards.

WiT was founded in 1997 by a small group of Queensland women who came together to share their aspirations and find understanding and solutions for the unique challenges they faced as female pioneers in technology. The community now has 7600 members and affiliates and more than 24,500 supporters. To learn more about WiT visit

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