A member of the WPI faculty since 2004 and chair of the Department of Biology and Biotechnology since 2022, Reeta Rao is a leader in the field of molecular genetics and genomics. Her primary research activities are focused on emerging infectious diseases, specifically understanding and managing fungal diseases. Students and research associates in her laboratory are trained to use a variety of biochemical, molecular-genetic, and genomic tools to study host-microbe interactions to explore fungal virulence strategies and identify novel therapeutics in a high throughput fashion.
Professor Rao cares deeply about the career and professional development of scientists at all levels of training. She is committed to keeping researchers engaged in science through workforce development opportunities aimed at recruiting, retaining and improving the critical skills, knowledge, and resources required for academia as well as the industry. She teaches a course entitled Plagues of the Modern World, Medical Microbiology to students interested in a career in the health care industry or anyone who cares to learn about infectious diseases. She enjoys mentoring and working with doctoral, master, and undergraduate students. One of the highlights of her career in 2018 was receiving the Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award from the Society of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.
Prof. Rao enjoys affiliate appointments at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Cambridge) as well as the Institute of Drug Resistance at the Univ. of Mass Chan Medical School (Worcester) and served as WPI’s inaugural Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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Professional Highlights & Honors
The Worcester Business Journal covered a WPI forum on the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR. Noted in the article were: Dean, Arts and Sciences, Jean King; Assistant Professor, Social Science, Patricia Stapleton; Associate Professor, Humanities and Arts Bethel Eddy; Associate Professor, Biology and Biotechnology, Rita Rao; and Associate Teaching Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Destin Heilman.
Worcester News Tonight covered a forum held at WPI on the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR.