A convergence of disciplines has made a positive impact on scientific
research, providing greater opportunities for advancement in exploring
the world around us and "inevitable surprises" in the
way of discoveries through scientific research that improve our
quality of life.
Tuesday's University Forum speaker at The University of Southern
Mississippi, National Science Foundation director Dr. Rita Colwell,
assessed the current state of scientific research in her presentation
"Meeting Society's Needs: Science in a New Era" during
her visit to the Hattiesburg campus.
scientific research that we do has a very important impact on the
human condition," Colwell said. As an example of "inevitable
surprises," she noted the eventual use of adaptive optics originally
incorporated for research in astronomy for improving human vision.
21st century science as working in a context using what she describes
as "collaborative, cross-disciplinary and computational"
and is aimed at the complexity and complete integration of research
and education. She said the practices come down to connections and
communication that "yield a critical mass of scale, richness
and pace no earlier century could have imagined."
between early photography and today's motion pictures were cited
by Colwell as an analogy for the difference between how science
and engineering was once illustrated and how we now visualize and
simulate phenomenon with advances in technology.
have allowed such areas of research as bioscience, which at one
time relied on botanical and anatomical illustration, with more
comprehensive methods of examining information.
restricted to two-dimensional illustration," Colwell said.
"Our minds supplied the third dimension, and beyond. Today,
we are gaining the capability to represent our universe, from the
nanoscale to the astronomical in a specificity of detail that is
director of the NSF, Colwell has spearheaded the agency's emphases
in K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and
engineering education/training and the increased participation of
women and minorities in science and engineering. Under her leadership,
the foundation has received significant budget increases, and its
funding recently reached a level of more than $4.8 billion.
has held many advisory positions in the U.S. government, nonprofit
science policy organizations and private foundations, as well as
in the international scientific research community. She has authored
or co-authored 16 books and more than 600 scientific publications,
and produced the award-winning film Invisible Seas, and has served
on editorial boards of numerous scientific journals.