Human Genome Project leader and NIH director set to speak at 102nd SMU Commencement

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009 and spearhead of the Human Genome Project (HGP), is scheduled to speak at SMU’s 102nd Commencement on Saturday May 20 in Moody Coliseum.

Collins’ career has been all but lackluster. His own personal research has led to the isolation of genes causing cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease, and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. During his tenure as director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, Collins oversaw the 13-year international collaborative effort to map and sequence James Watson and Francis Crick’s double helix structure of DNA, with the conclusion of the project in 2003 coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s seminal publication.

Overseeing what remains the world’s largest collaborative biological projects—possibly the most significant scientific undertaking in modern history—is only one aspect of Collins’ impressive resume. Appointed by President Obama and asked by Trump to remain in his position, Collins has launched groundbreaking research into increasing our understanding of neural brain networks to improve treatments for brain diseases, and has attempted to advance the use of precision medicine in hopes for more individually tailored healthcare.

The Virginia native earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Virginia, Ph.D. from Yale University and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Collins has received various awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. He will soon receive a Doctor of Science degree from SMU during the Commencement ceremony.

An elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Collins has valuable insight to share with SMU’s soon-to-be graduates.

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