First Person | Rita Colwell

Courtesy of the National Science Foundation

Ambivalence doesn't fit the mien of Rita Colwell. Director of the National Science Foundation since 1998, Colwell, 68, says that she always wanted to be a scientist, wouldn't stand for anyone stopping her advancement, and decided the day that she met her physicist husband Jack that he was the one for her. They married in 1956. "I guess I know how to make decisions," says the marine molecular biologist, dedicated jogger, mother of two, and grandmother of two.

She also knows how to race dinghies--she and Jack once took third place in a regatta in New Orleans--and how to stay with a research project. Since she became director, Colwell, along with her associates, has published more than 55 papers primarily on her pet project, Vibrio cholerae, the etiological agent of epidemic cholera. The team proved that cholera is...

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