College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

Rita Colwell

Professor Emerita and Distinguished University Professor


Office Phone: 301.405.9550

Graduate Program Affiliations

  • BISI - BISI-Computational Biology, Bioinformatics, & Genomics (CBBG)
  • BISI - BISI-Molecular & Cellular Biology (MOCB)

Research Interests

Research interests focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health. Currently developing an international network to address emerging 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

  • 2006 National Medal of Science (given by President George W. Bush)
  • 2010 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate
  • AAAS, President, American Society for Microbiology (ASM)
  • President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Maryland’s Top 100 Women
  • Maryland’s Top 100 Women Hall of Fame
  • Elected Member National Academy of Sciences
  • Foreign Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada
  • Fellow AAAS
  • AIBS Outstanding Service Award
  • Central Intelligence Agency Civilian Recognition Award
  • National Women’s Hall of Fame
  • “The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star,” Japan Society for Promotion of Science
  • President-Elect, American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)
  • President, American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS)
  • AAUW Award (American Association of University Women)
  • Medal of Distinction from Columbia University
  • Gold Medal of Charles University, Prague
  • UCLA Medal from the University of California, Los Angeles
  • Alumna Summa Laude Dignata from the University of Washington, Seattle 


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