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Botany 2004 Plenary Address
Complete Text Plenary Address

Sunday August 2, 2004

Title, Time and Place TBA


Dr. Rita R. Colwell

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

Immediate Past Director
National Science Foundation


Dr. Rita Colwell is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health, and she is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.As the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation, 1998-2004, Dr. Colwell’s policy approach enabled the agency to strengthen its core activities, as well as establish support for major initiatives, including Nanotechnology, Biocomplexity, Information Technology, and the 21st Century Workforce.

In her capacity as NSF Director, she served as Co-chair of the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council. One of her major interests include K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and engineering education and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and engineering. Under her leadership, the Foundation received significant budget increases totaling approximately 70%, and its funding reached a level of approximately $6 billion. Before going to NSF, Dr. Colwell was President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and Professor of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University Maryland. She was also a member of the National Science Board from 1984 to 1990.

Dr. Colwell has held many advisory positions in the U.S. Government, nonprofit science policy organizations, and private foundations, as well as in the international scientific research community. She is a nationally-respected scientist and educator, and has authored or co-authored 16 books and more than 700 scientific publications. She produced the award-winning film, Invisible Seas, and has served on editorial boards of numerous scientific journals.She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Gold Medal of both Charles University, Prague, and the University of California, Los Angeles and Alumna Summa Laude Dignata from the University of Washington, Seattle. She has also received the American Institute of Biological Sciences Outstanding Service Award and the Central Intelligence Agency Civilian Recognition Award. Dr. Colwell has also been awarded 35 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education, including her Alma Mater, Purdue University. Dr. Colwell is an honorary member of the microbiological societies of the UK, France, Israel, Bangladesh, and the U.S. and has held several honorary professorships, including the University of Queensland, Australia.

A geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, has been named in recognition of her work in the polar regions.Dr. Colwell has previously served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology and also as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Washington Academy of Sciences, the American Society for Microbiology, the Sigma Xi National Science Honorary Society, and the International Union of Microbiological Societies. Dr. Colwell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, 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.


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