Colwell's talk will focus on the relationship between climate
and infectious disease, including cholera. Her studies have found
that the bacterium causing cholera, V. cholerae, is associated
with plankton in the ocean and that weather conditions, including
elevated sea temperature, create a favorable environment for the
bacterium to flourish. Her work suggests that conditions for epidemics
such as cholera outbreaks can be predicted by monitoring climatological
Currently, she is co-principal investigator on a Wallenberg Foundation
award to establish an international network to address infectious
disease, water and health issues around the world. Her collaborators
are from Sweden, Norway, Bangladesh, India, Japan, the U.K., Canada
and the U.S.
Colwell served as the 11th NSF director from 1998 to 2004. She
co-chaired the committee on science of the National Science and
Technology Council. Prior to joining NSF, she was president of
the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and professor
of microbiology and biotechnology at UM.
A native of Beverly, Mass., Colwell earned a bachelor's of science
in bacteriology and a master's of science in genetics from Purdue
University. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in marine
microbiology from the College of Oceanography at the University
Colwell previously served as chairman of the board of governors
of the American Academy of Microbiology and also as president of
several organizations, including the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, the Washington Academy of Sciences and
the American Society for Microbiology.
She is the author or coauthor of 16 books and more than 700 scientific
publications and produced the award winning film Invisible
Seas. She has served on the editorial boards of numerous scientific
journals and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy
The recipient of 46 honorary degrees from institutions of higher
education, Colwell also is an honorary member of the microbiological
societies of the U.K., France, Israel and Bangladesh and has held
a number of honorary professorships.
A geological site in Antarctica — Colwell Massif — was
named in recognition of her work in the polar regions. NIDCR and
the Fogarty International Center jointly sponsor the Barmes lecture,
which honors the late David E. Barmes. He was a special expert
for international health in the NIDCR Office of International Health.
Prior to joining NIDCR, he had served in management positions on
oral health, non-communicable diseases and health promotion for
the World Health Organization in Geneva.