By Anne Maglia

Rita Colwell, the first woman to have served as director of the National Science Foundation, will present a seminar at UMass Lowell on Wednesday, March 29 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Coburn Hall 255. Faculty, staff and students are invited to join her talk, Cholera, COVID, Climate, and Human Health.

Colwell will discuss the role of microorganisms as a driver of fundamental processes of climate, emerging infectious diseases, and human health, which is surprisingly extensive and extraordinarily complex. It is now clear that the human microbiome plays a significant role in health and well-being. But the global function of microbes is only beginning to be understood. A model for such study is cholera, a disease in which the causative agent is a bacterium whose home is the aquatic environment. Research now shows that this bacterium is native to the environment but also a deadly pathogen, particularly in lesser-developed countries. Next generation sequencing and bioinformatics of cholera patient microbiomes suggest cholera is best described as a polymicrobial infection, with Vibrio cholerae a key player. Extension of the findings from cholera to study the microbiome offers new insight into infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The studies on COVID-19 now provide a predictive capacity for the current pandemic.

Colwell is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and President of CosmosID, Inc. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health. She has authored or co-authored 20 books and more than 800 scientific publications.

Colwell served as the eleventh director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 1998 to 2004 and co-chair of the Committee on Science of the National Science and Technology Council.

Seats are limited so please register to attend.

This event is co-sponsored by the Office of Research and Innovation, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences and Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences.