Rita Colwell Recipient of American Geophysical Union’s 2020 William Bowie Medal

Dr. Rita Colwell (Photo courtesy of Consortium for Ocean Leadership)

Dr. Rita Colwell
(Photo courtesy of Consortium for Ocean Leadership)

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) congratulates Dr. Rita Colwell on being honored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) with their highest award, the William Bowie Medal. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to fundamental Earth and space science and for unselfish cooperation in research. The medal was established in 1939 in honor of the first AGU president, William Bowie, for his spirit of helpfulness and friendliness in unselfish cooperative research. An online celebration will formally recognize Dr. Colwell during the AGU 2020 Fall Meeting (Wednesday, December 9, 6 pm ET; for details, visit at https://www.agu.org/fall-meeting).

“It is wonderful to see our GoMRI Research Board Chair, Rita Colwell, recognized for her leadership and her science,” said Margaret Leinen, Director, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Vice Chancellor, University of California San Diego. “She is one of the foremost scientists in the world, and GoMRI is the latest in a long series of nationally and internationally important science organizations that she has led. As a scientist she has pioneered research to show the close relationship between the microbiology of the ocean and human health and contributed to our understanding of oil in the ocean for decades. All of these amazing threads and achievements come together in GoMRI and it is no surprise to us that she is being awarded the most prestigious medal of the American Geophysical Union.”

Dr. Colwell generously gives of her time in support of women in science, such as sharing her journey to inspire women in science and participating in an upcoming webinar (December 2, 5-6 PM EST) to discuss her new book A Lab of One’s Own: One Woman’s Personal Journey Through Sexism in Science and reflect on her personal science journey.

Dr. Colwell is the recent recipient of many distinguished awards, including being the first woman recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Water Prize Laureate for her work in revolutionizing the fight against water borne diseases; the Mahathir Science Award for her groundbreaking research, innovation, and scientific leadership in the ecology of infectious diseases and advanced technologies to halt their spread; the National Council for Science and the Environment’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her significant contributions that advance science for the public good; the National Science Board’s Vannevar Bush Award for her exceptional lifelong leadership in science and technology and substantial contributions to the nation’s welfare through public service in science, technology, and policy; a National Academy of Inventors Fellow for demonstrating a prolific innovative spirit in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that make a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society; and the International Prize for Biology, managed by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, for her outstanding contributions to research advances in fundamental biology.

Rita Colwell is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Founder and Chair of CosmosID, Inc., and Chair of the GoMRI Research Board. She is the recipient of numerous national and international awards and honors, including 55 honorary degrees, and holds many leadership and advisory positions in U.S. Government and nonprofit science policy organizations, private foundations, and the international scientific research community.


The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.

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