Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
Dr. Rita R. Colwell became the 11th Director
of the National Science Foundation on August 4, 1998.
Dr. Colwell spearheaded the
agency's emphases in K-12 science and mathematics
education, graduate science and engineering education/training
and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and
Her policy approach enabled the agency to strengthen
its core activities, as well as establish major initiatives,
including Nanotechnology, Biocomplexity, Information
Technology, Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
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.
Under her leadership, the Foundation received significant
budget increases, and its funding recently reached
a level of more than $5.3 billion.
Before coming to NSF, Dr. Colwell was President of
the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute,
1991-1998, and she remains Professor of Microbiology
and Biotechnology (on leave) 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, non-profit 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 600 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 Medal of
Distinction from Columbia University, the Gold Medal of Charles
University, Prague, the UCLA Medal from the University of California,
Los Angeles, and the Alumna Summa Laude Dignata from the University
of Washington, Seattle.
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 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 American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the National Academy of
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.