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Reece received her A.B. in Biology from Harvard University, then received from Rutgers her M.S. in microbiology. Then, she earned her Ph.D. in bacteriology from the University of California, Berkeley. Afterwards, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow in genetics at Stanford University.
Reece has taught at various colleges, including Middlesex County College (New Jersey) and Queensborough Community College (New York City). She has been the author of several textbooks at Benjamin Cummings, which she joined in 1978. Dr. Reece also coauthored The World of the Cell, third edition, with W.M. Becker and M.F. Poenie.
2017 - awarded honorary doctorate from Uppsala University, Sweden.