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Dr. Rita R. Colwell

Commencement Honorary Degree Recipient colwell In August, 1998 Dr. Rita R. Colwell became the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation and served there until March, 2004. Under her leadership, the Foundation has received significant budget increases, and its budget today exceeds $5.3 billion. Before coming to NSF, Dr. Colwell was President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, and she remains Professor of Microbiology and Biotechnology at the University of Maryland. She was also a member of the National Science Board from 1984-1990.

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 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 been awarded 34 honorary degrees, is an honorary member of microbiological societies throughout the world, and has held several honorary professorships. 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, 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. She is a Senior Executive at Canon U.S. Life Sciences Corporation as well as a distinguished professor at both the University of Maryland and at Johns Hopkins University.

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