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Rita Colwell
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Return to 2004-05
USDA Beltsville Area Distinquished Lecture Series

"The Dilemma of
Environmental Pathogens in a Time of Bioterrorism"

Dr. Rita Colwell


Dr. Rita Colwell

Chairman of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc.
Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland College Park
and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Building 003 Auditorium
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
10:30 AM

Dr. Rita R. Colwell, an internationally-respected scientist and educator, currently serves as the Chairman of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc. and as Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. In these roles, she is spearheading an international effort to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues including safe drinking water in both developed and developing countries.

Dr. Colwell served as the 11th director of the National Science Foundation in the Clinton and Bush administrations (1998-2004). Under her leadership, the agency greatly strengthened its core activities and successfully promoted major initiatives in Nanotechnology, Biocomplexity, Information Technology, and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences and the 21st Century Workforce. She initiated programs to increase NSF's investment in K-12 and graduate science education and to foster participation of women and minorities in science and engineering. During her six-year tenure, the Foundation's budget increased by 68%.

Before becoming NSF Director, Dr. Colwell was a Professor of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of Maryland, where she founded and served as the President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (1991-1998). There she nurtured her vision to improve the environment and human health by linking molecular biology and biotechnology to basic knowledge of life and chemistry in the oceans. Author or co-author of 16 books and more than 700 scientific publications, Dr. Colwell has served on the editorial boards of numerous scientific journals. She also produced the award-winning film, Invisible Seas.

Dr. Colwell holds a B.S. in Bacteriology and an M.S. in Genetics from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Washington. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Colwell has served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology and as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Microbiology, and the International Union of Microbiological Societies. Forty-four institutions of higher learning across the world have awarded her honorary degrees, and she holds honorary professorships in numerous universities. Dr. Colwell is also an honorary member of the microbiological societies in the UK, France, Israel, Bangladesh, and the U.S. A geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, has been named in recognition of her work in the polar regions.

Last Modified: 8/13/2016