The Rose M. Litman Memorial Lecture in Science brings national research leaders to the University of Colorado Boulder annually. The Litman Lecture celebrates the legacy of an exceptional scientist and educator with a lifelong passion for research and a firm commitment to keeping rigorous inquiry at the heart of university life.

About Rose Litman

Rose Litman joined CU Boulder in 1975 and, until her untimely death in 1981, served as associate vice chancellor for research; director of the Office of Contracts and Grants (OCG); and associate professor of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology. It was Litman’s devotion to the importance of dynamic research, and to the advancement of CU Boulder researchers and their work, that led to her appointment as the first faculty member to head OCG. During her time in the role, Litman more than doubled research grants—awards to the Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs campuses—from $18.6 to $44 million (roughly $150 million in today’s dollars). 

Prior to joining CU Boulder, Litman had been program director in genetic biology at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Before joining NSF, she earned a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1957 and was on the faculty of the CU School of Medicine (now the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus) and Vanderbilt University. Throughout her career, Litman was on the leading edge of the field of molecular biology, working specifically on the synthesis and replication of DNA.

Litman co-authored papers with colleagues who went on to be titans in their fields, including Arthur Pardee, with whom she worked at Berkeley, whose discoveries were critical to the development of molecular biology as a discipline. (Among other pioneering work, Pardee later proposed the concept of an unstable intermediate between protein synthesis and DNA—later identified as messenger RNA.) At the CU School of Medicine, Litman also worked alongside Waclaw Szybalski, whose later work contributed immensely to the advancement of molecular genetics.  

At the time the memorial lecture series was established in 1981, Acting Chancellor Milton E. Lipetz said, “Rose Litman will be remembered for her dedication to research, her commitment to people at the University, and her zest for life. Her greatest satisfaction was to contribute to the success of others. She encouraged and challenged others to achieve their best and always demanded the most from herself.”