Focus on awards: Microbiology Society Prize Medal

08 March 2017

The Microbiology Society’s Prize Medal is awarded each year to an outstanding individual and global leader in his/her field. The Medal recognises the individual’s work as having a far-reaching impact beyond the discipline of microbiology.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting an extraordinary woman who has received the Prize, reflecting her international impact with developments in areas of technology, bioinformatics and environmental microbiology.

In 2014, the Prize Medal was awarded to Professor Rita R. Colwell, whose work on infectious diseases, water and health has saved countless lives across the world. She has made exceptional contributions to the control and spread of cholera, helping to predict outbreaks in low-income countries.

Professor Colwell’s discovery that species of Vibrio bacteria can enter a dormant state before reverting to an active form counteracted conventional wisdom, which held that cholera was only spread via food or drinking water and that its presence in the environment was due to the release of sewage.  Her work also showed the role that changes in climate, adverse weather events and other ecological processes play in allowing infectious diseases to spread.

In addition to her research career, which contains over 800 publications, Professor Colwell is a tireless advocate for science education and for increasing the number of women in STEM careers. She was the first woman to be Director of the US National Science Foundation, and is currently Chair of the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine.

You can read our interview with Professor Colwell from 2014 here and watch her Prize Medal Lecture here.

Members are invited to nominate an exceptional individual for the Prize Medal 2019. For more details, please visit our website. Members are asked to consider the full breadth of the field of microbiology when making their nominations.