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Scientist J. Craig Venter Receives Clarkson University Honorary Degree

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J. Craig Venter, founder, chairman, and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute of San Diego, Calif., and Rockville, Md., and founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics Inc., received an honorary doctor of science degree at Clarkson University’s 117th Commencement on today.Scientist J. Craig Venter Receives Clarkson University Honorary Degree

The degree was awarded for his "pioneering work unlocking the secrets of the human genome and his continued commitment to using genomic science to find solutions to the world’s environmental and energy challenges, and for a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge through the rigorous application of science."

In addressing the Class of 2009, Venter said, "Today is a day of reflection, on all that you have accomplished and also on all that you and your family and friends have sacrificed and worked for. It is also the start of the most challenging part of your lives. You are at that fork in the road where you must decide which path to take now that you are armed with your degree. By path, I mean what kind of life you’ll live and what you are going to give back to the world.

"Will you be committed and passionate about changing the world or will you merely accept what you have been given. Will you be among the ones who later in your lives feel you have made a difference or who will you be one of the majority wishing you might have done something more with your life.

"I hope for the sake of all of us that you will be committed to helping to change the world."

Venter is regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his numerous invaluable contributions to genomic research. The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) is a not-for-profit research organization with approximately 400 scientists and staff dedicated to human, microbial, plant and environmental genomic research; the exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics; and seeking alternative energy solutions through genomics.

Synthetic Genomics Inc. is a privately held company dedicated to commercializing genomic-driven solutions to address global energy and environmental challenges.

Venter began his formal education after a tour of duty as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After earning both a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from the University of California at San Diego, he was appointed professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health campus where he developed expressed sequence tags or ESTs, a revolutionary new strategy for rapid gene discovery. In 1992, Venter founded the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), a not-for-profit research institute, where in 1995 he and his team decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, using his new whole genome shotgun technique.

In 1998, Venter founded Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed. This research culminated with the February 2001 publication of the human genome in the journal Science. He and his team at Celera also sequenced the fruit fly, mouse and rat genomes.

Venter and his team at the Venter Institute continue to blaze new trails in genomics research having sequenced hundreds of genomes, and have published numerous important papers covering such areas as environmental genomics, synthetic genomics and the first complete diploid human genome in 2007.

Venter, one of the most frequently cited scientists, is the author of more than 250 research articles. He is also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, public honors, and scientific awards, including the 2008 United States National Medal of Science, the 2002 Gairdner Foundation International Award and the 2001 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. He is a member of numerous prestigious scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Society for Microbiology.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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