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Colwell to Speak at Eighth Spirit Lecture

By Eddy Ball
March 2009

Rita Colwell, Ph.D.
2009 Spirit Lecturer Rita Colwell

The NIEHS Spirit Lecture Series, the hallmark event in NIEHS Women's History Month celebrations since 2002, will welcome environmental microbiologist and scientific administrator Rita Colwell, Ph.D., on March 27. Colwell's talk, "Climate, Oceans, Infectious Diseases, and Human Health: The Saga of Cholera," will begin at 11:00 a.m. in Rodbell Auditorium.

Colwell will address the issue of climate change by focusing on the interaction of humans with the cholera bacteria and the implications for global environmental health. She will also explore the ways the patterns of other climate-driven diseases are expected to change as the impact of global warming becomes more evident.

Colwell is well known in scientific circles for her work in biology and ecology as well as for her tenure as the first woman to serve as the director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) from 1998 to 2004. She is a prolific author, with 17 books and 700 scientific articles to her credit. Colwell also produced the award-winning 1982 film Invisible Seas.

During her career as a researcher and administrator, Colwell has received nearly 50 honorary degrees and a long list of top honors from her scientific colleagues, including the National Medal of Science in 2007. In addition to heading NSF, she also served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Microbiology and, currently, the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

After leaving NSF, Colwell joined Canon U.S. Life Sciences as chief scientist and was later voted chairman of the company. She also accepted appointments as a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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