Rita Colwell

Distinguished University Professor




Office Phone: (301) 405-9550



graduate program affiliations

  • BISI - BISI-Computational Biology, Bioinformatics, & Genomics (CBBG)
  • BISI - BISI-Molecular & Cellular Biology (MOCB)
  • MEES
  • AOSC
  • School of Public Health, Department of Applied Environmental Health

research interests

Research interests focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health. Currently developing an international network to address climate change and infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world.

Other interests include K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and engineering education and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and engineering.  


special awards/ honors

  • Honorary Member, American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, Annapolis, Maryland, USA. 2018
  • Consultant,  Food and Drug Administration, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Medical Devices Advisor Committee, Microbiology Devices Panel, 2018.
  • Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore) 2018 Water Prize, Singapore
  • 2017 Fellow, National Academy of Inventors, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2017 Vannevar Bush Award, National Science Board and National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C.
  • Honorary Member, American Meteorological Society, 2017
  • Japan Society for the Promotion of Science 2017 International Prize for Biology, Tokyo, Japan
  • 2017 Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (“Knight of the Legion of Honor”), France
  • Malaysian Academy of Science 2016 Mahthir Science Award for Scientific Excellence in Work in the Tropical Regions
  • Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz 2016 International Prize for Water, Creativity Prize, Saudi Arabia
  • Society for General Microbiology, 2014 Prize Medal, UK
  • CRDF Global 2011 George Brown Award for International Scientific Cooperation
  • Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, 2010, awarded by the King of Sweden
  • President, American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)
  • National Medal of Science, 2006, awarded by President George W. Bush
  •  “The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star,” awarded by the Emperor of Japan, 2005
  • National Women’s Hall of Fame
  • Central Intelligence Agency Civilian Recognition Award, 2004
  • Elected Member National Academy of Sciences, 2000
  • 2000 Gold Medal of Charles University, Prague
  • President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1996
  • Foreign Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada, Swedish Royal Academy of Science, Bangladesh Academy of Science, Royal Irish Academy
  • Medal of Distinction, Barnard College, New York
  • Maryland’s Top 100 Women Hall of Fame
  • President, American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
  • Honorary Doctor of Science (62 universities and college


  •  B.S., Bacteriology, Purdue University
  • M.S., Genetics, Purdue University
  • Ph.D., Oceanography, University of Washington