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Rita R. Colwell
Born 1934
Beverly, Massachusetts
Nationality United States
Fields microbiology
Institutions National Science Foundation
Alma mater University of Washington

Rita R. Colwell (born 1934 in Beverly, Massachusetts) is an environmental microbiologist and scientific administrator. She became the 11th Director of the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) on August 4, 1998.

Dr. Colwell has an undergraduate degree in bacteriology and an M.S. in genetics from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Washington. She did a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. In 2004, she received an honorary Sc.D. from Bates College, one of 48 honorary degrees she has been conferred with. She served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society for Microbiology. She is a member of the (US) National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, as well as the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (since 2003). As of 2008, she serves as President of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

In 2004 Dr. Colwell left her position as Director of NSF to become the chief scientist at Canon U.S. Life Sciences, a division of Canon. As of 2008, she was the Chairman of Canon U.S. Life Sciences. She also returned to academic life as a Distinguished Professor at University of Maryland, College Park, as well as at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. In July 2007, Dr. Colwell received the National Medal of Science from United States President George W. Bush. She was the 2008 Leonard Brockington Visitor to Queen's University.

She has authored or co-authored 17 books and more than 700 scientific publications. She produced the award-winning film Invisible Seas.

She is a foreign fellow of Bangladesh Academy of Sciences [1]


See also

Preceded by
Francisco J. Ayala
President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Succeeded by
Jane Lubchenco
Preceded by
Neal Lane
Director of the National Science Foundation
Succeeded by
Arden L. Bement Jr.




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