At Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s request, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) announced three new science envoys yesterday at an event hosted by the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF): Dr. Rita Colwell, Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, and Dr. Alice Gast. In their capacity as science envoys, they will travel to South and Southeast Asia; Africa; and the Central Asian/Caucuses region in coming months. The Science Envoy program, announced by President Obama in Cairo in June 2009, is a centerpiece program to implement U.S. global engagement in science and technology. These preeminent scientists will seek to deepen existing ties and foster new relationships with foreign counterparts and gain insights from other nations about potential areas of collaboration that will help address global challenges and realize shared goals.
Dr. Colwell is a Distinguished Professor at both the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She has focused her research on global infectious diseases, water and health, and is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world. Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation from 1998-2004. She is recipient of the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded on September 9, 2010 by the King of Sweden.
Dr. Ejeta is a Distinguished Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University and an acclaimed plant breeder and geneticist. With a Purdue colleague, he discovered the chemical basis of the relationship between the deadly parasitic weed striga and sorghum and was able to produce sorghum varieties resistant to both drought and striga. Dr. Ejeta won the 2009 World Food Prize for his major contributions in the production of sorghum, one of the world’s five principal grains. His work has dramatically enhanced the food supply for millions of people in sub-Sahara Africa.
Dr. Gast is President of Lehigh University. Since taking office in 2006, President Gast has led the University’s strategic direction to become a premier residential research university. Dr. Gast served as the Vice President for Research and Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she was also the Robert T. Haslam chair in chemical engineering. Dr. Gast has conducted studies on surface and interfacial phenomena, particularly the behavior of complex fluids.
Secretary Clinton announced the first three science envoys in November 2009: Dr. Bruce Alberts, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, and Dr. Ahmed Zewail. During 2010, they traveled to 11 countries in North Africa; the Middle East; South and Southeast Asia; and Europe. The science envoys travel in their capacity as private citizens, and they advise the White House, the Department of State, and the U.S. scientific community about the knowledge and insights they gain from their travels and interactions.