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Rita Rossi Colwell Edit Profile

administrator , microbiologist , medical educator

Rita Rossi Colwell, American microbiologist, former federal agency administrator, medical educator.


Colwell, Rita Rossi was born on November 23, 1934 in Beverly, Massachusetts, United States.


Bachelor of Science in Bacteriology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1956. Master of Science in Genetics, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1958. Doctor of Philosophy in Oceanography, University Washington, Seattle, 1961.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1987. Doctor of Science (honorary), Hood College, 1991. Doctor of Science (honorary), Purdue University, 1993.

Doctor of Science (honorary), University Surrey, England, 1995. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Bergen, Norway, 1999. Doctor of Science (honorary), Coastal Carolina University, 1999.

Doctor of Science (honorary), University Maryland, Baltimore, 1999. Doctor of Science (honorary), St. Mary's College, 1999. Doctor of Science (honorary), Michigan State University, 2000.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Washington College, 2000. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Connecticut, 2000. Doctor of Science (honorary), Williams College, Massachusetts, 2000.

Doctor of Science (honorary), State University of New York, Albany, 2000. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Ancona, Italy, 2001. Doctor of Science (honorary), George Washington University, 2001.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Washington University, St. Louis, 2001. Doctor of Science (honorary), California Polytechnic Institute, San Luis Obispo, 2001. Doctor of Science (honorary), Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, 2001.

Doctor of Science (honorary), University Newcastle, United Kingdom, 2001. Doctor of Science (honorary), Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York, 2002. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Queensland, Australia, 2002.

Doctor of Science (honorary), University Glasgow, 2002. Doctor of Science (honorary), Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, 2002. Doctor of Science (honorary), Tuskegee Institute, 2003.

Doctor of Science (honorary), University Illinois, 2003. Doctor of Science (honorary), Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, 2003. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Delaware, Newark, 2003.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Arizona State University, Tempe, 2004. Doctor of Science (honorary), Georgetown University, Washinton, 2004. Doctor of Science (honorary), St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, 2004.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Smith College, Northapmton, Massachusetts, 2004. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Massachusetts, North Dartmouth, 2004. Doctor of Science (honorary), Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, 2004.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 2004. Doctor of Science (honorary), Pennsylvania State University, 2004. Doctor of Science (honorary), Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 2005.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Chatham College, Pittsburgh, 2007. Doctor of Science (honorary), Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, 2007. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Arkansas, Little Rock, 2008.

Doctor of Science (honorary), Richard Gilder Graduate School, America Museum Natural History, New York, 2009. Doctor of Science (honorary), University New England, 2009. Doctor of Science (honorary), University Toledo, 2009.

Doctor of Laws (honorary), Notre Dame College, 1994. Doctor of Laws (honorary), University Nebraska, 2003. Doctor of Humane Letters (honorary), University Alabama, 2001.

Doctor of Letters (honorary), Arizona State University, 2004. DHC (honorary), University Naples, Italy, 2006. Doctor of Philosophy (honorary), University Oslo, 2008.


Genetics laboratory research assistant Purdue University, 1956—1957. Research assistant University Washington, 1957—1958, predoctoral associate, 1959—1960, assistant research professor, 1961—1964. Assistant professor biology Georgetown University, Washington, 1964—1966, associate professor biology, 1966—1972.

Professor microbiology University Maryland, College Park, 1972—1998, vice president for academy affairs, 1983—1987, director Center Marine Biotechnology, 1987—1991, founder, president Biotechnology Institute, 1991—1998, Distinguished University professor, since 2004. Director National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia, 1998—2004. Chairman Canon United States Life Sciences, Inc., Rockville, Maryland, since 2004.

Distinguished University professor Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School Public Health, Baltimore, since 2004. Pres, Chief Executive Officer CosmosID, Inc., Bethesda. Member National Science Board, 1984—1990.

Honorary professor University Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 1988, Quindao University, China, 1995. Member science advisory board Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Tennessee, 1988—1990, 1993—1996. Member advisory committee Food and Drug Administration, 1991—1992, member food advisory committee, 1993—1996, member science board, since 1996.


  • Achievements include research in marine biotechnology, marine and estuarine microbial ecology and survival of pathogens in aquatic environments. Discovery of the source of the bacterium that causes cholera (Vibrio cholerae) to plankton in rivers and estuaries in Bangladesh. Currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.



Fellow: American Association for the Advancement of Science (chairman section biological science 1993-1994, president 1995, chairman board 1996, Carey award 2001), Bangladesh Society Microbiology (foreign honorary), Marine Technology Society (member executive committee 1982-1988), American Academy Microbiology (chairman board governors 1989-1999), Canada College Microbiologists, Washington Academy of Sciences (board managers 1976-1979, president 1996-1998), Graduate Women. Science; member: National Academy of Sciences (council member since 2008), American Philosophical Society, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Society General Microbiology, International Council of Scientific Unions, American Society Limnology & Oceanography, American Society Microbiology (honorary. President 1985, Fisher award 1985), United Kingdom Society Applied Microbiology (honorary), French Society Microbiology (honorary), Israeli Society Microbiology (honorary), Australian Society Microbiology (honorary), World Federation Culture Collections, Society Indsl Microbiology (board governors 1976-1979, Charles Thom award 1998), International Council of Scientific Unions (member executive board 1993-1996), American Institute Biological Sciences (board governors 1976-1982, president since 2008), International Union Microbiol.

Society (vice president 1986-1990, president 1990-1994), World Federation Culture Collections, Royal Society of Canada, Explorers Club (Lowell Thomas award 2000), Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Epsilon, Sigma Xi (national president 1991, Annual Achievement award 1981, Research award 1984), Delta Gamma (Delta Gamma Rose award 1989).