The Catholic University of America

Sept. 8, 2014

Scientist to Talk on Satellite Sensors

  Rita Colwell
  Rita Colwell

Rita R. Colwell, who served as the first female director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), will be the keynote speaker for the Department of Biology’s annual graduate student research symposium on Friday, Sept. 12.

An internationally renowned scientist, Colwell is a professor at the University of Maryland College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health as well as senior adviser and chairman emeritus of Canon U.S. Life Sciences and chairman of CosmosID Inc.

Colwell’s speech will highlight how environment and season affect infectious disease occurrences.

“In a novel approach, Dr. Colwell is using satellite data from high above the earth to track and predict cycles of deadly infectious disease,” said Frank Portugal, clinical associate professor and director of the master’s in biotechnology program at the University.

“This presentation weds biology (actually microbiology) with engineering technology (satellites) and so will appeal to students in different schools of the University, such as the School of Engineering and the School of Arts and Sciences,” Portugal said.

In addition to serving as NSF director from 1998 to 2004, Colwell has held advisory positions in the United States government. In 2006 she was awarded the National Medal of Science given by the U.S. president. Colwell also has awards from the emperor of Japan and the king of Sweden. She is the author or co-author of more than 15 books. Colwell produced an award-winning film, Invisible Seas.

Some of Colwell’s previous titles include president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and president of the International Union of Microbiological Societies. She holds honorary spots in the microbiological societies of more than five countries including Israel, Czechoslovakia, and Bangladesh.

Colwell’s keynote address at 1:30 p.m. is free and open to the public. The symposium will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All events will be in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center’s Great Room. Individuals requesting accommodations for individuals with disabilities should contact

Media: To cover the symposium, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy Hines in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.




More news from CUA