February 22, 2021
Rao working in his lab

Catholic University biology Professor Venigalla Rao is being honored for his more than three decades of multidisciplinary research with a highly prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. The academy, the honorific leadership body within the American Society for Microbiology, recognizes excellence, originality, service and leadership in the microbial sciences. 

Rao is one of 65 researchers from around the world to receive the fellowship in 2021. Fellows are elected annually through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. 

Rao, who is the director of Catholic University’s Center for Advanced Training in Cell and Molecular Biology, was elected for the fellowship based on his research contributions to bacteriophages and viruses and associated biomedical applications such as vaccine development and genetic therapies. Rao leads a multidisciplinary research program to develop vaccines and cure diseases, including HIV, cancer, and COVID-19, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. 

“I am very happy to receive this special honor, which is almost entirely based on the recognition of our bacteriophage research at The Catholic University of America,” Rao said. “I am deeply appreciative of the University, which has provided an amazing home for our research, numerous undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who contributed to our research projects, and members of the biology department and administration who supported me and my students, over the past 31 years.” 

Thomas Smith, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said he was pleased to hear about Rao’s honor, which amounts to a lifetime achievement for researchers in the field of microbiology. 

“Dr. Rao is a world-class scientist whose cutting edge research saves lives,” Smith said. “He’s long been a treasured member of our faculty and has enjoyed several prestigious awards. So we were delighted — but not surprised — when he received the news that he was selected as a fellow for the American Academy of Microbiology. On behalf of my colleagues in our school as well as the administration at Catholic University, I want to congratulate Dr. Rao on this latest achievement.” 

The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences and is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.