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Rita Colwell, PhD

  • Professor - Adjunct

Departmental Affiliations

Center & Institute Affiliations

Contact Information

615 N. Wolfe St, Suite W1102
Baltimore, Maryland 21205





Tackling global infectious diseases, especially waterborne diseases such as cholera. Strategy: Taking a holistic approach, rather than just focusing on the pathogen and patient. Pandemics, for example, are affected by climate, adverse weather events, ocean circulation, etc. By examining such factors, researchers can begin to predict the disease. We know from satellite observations that when sea surface temperature increases in the Bay of Bengal, there is an increase in the number of cholera cases.

Long-Term Goal: To have an international center on infectious diseases, water, and health to include colleagues working in Sweden, Norway, Japan, India, and Bangladesh.

Honors and Awards

Former Director of the National Science Foundation

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 Sciences.

  • cholera infectious disease waterborne diseases
  • Books

  • Agricultural biotechnology edited by Arie Altman ; international advisory editorial board, Rita R. Colwell et al. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1998. S494.5.B563 A3715 1998eb (electronic book)

  • The door in the dream: conversations with eminent women in science by Elga Wasserman. Washington, D.C. : Joseph Henry Press, 2000. Preface by Dr. Colwell. QH26 .W375 2000 and QH26 .W375 1999eb (electronic book)

  • Effect of the ocean environment on microbial activities; proceedings, edited by R. R. Colwell and R. Y. Morita, Baltimore, University Park Press, 1974. QR100.U54 1974

  • Periodicals