J. Craig Venter on Advice to Young Scientists
  J. Craig Venter     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Mar 2006

The true scientist that does things follows their heart. They follow things because they are excited about it. I think our new expedition where we are sailing around the world doing sequencing of the oceans and discovering all these new species—the nice thing is that it’s excited so many young people to go into science. We get emails and letters on this all the time and people applying that never even thought about science before. Because we are showing that science is fun. It’s intellectually challenging.

Most people look at large institutions—the biggest thing is looking at the bureaucracy around the human genome project. Most people think one person can’t change that and so they don’t even think about trying. And I think my career has shown, if you get a good idea and you follow through with it and you believe in what you’re doing and you’re excited about science, one person can make a huge difference. And I think that’s the message I try and give to young students everywhere and I think it has an impact. I think it’s true for every field. It’s not just true about science. If you really make a difference you have to have passion.

J. Craig Venter, biologist and genomic research pioneer, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1946. Following military service in Vietnam, he studied biochemistry as an undergraduate at the University of California, San Diego, where he also received a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology in 1975. He joined the faculty of the Medical School of State University of New York at Buffalo in 1976, joining its affiliated Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 1982 as Professor and Associate Chief Cancer Research Scientist. Beginning in 1982, and for the next decade, Dr. Venter headed various sections of NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In 1992 he founded The Institute for Genomic Research (known as TIGR,) where he and colleagues became the first to successfully sequence the genome of an entire organism. Dr. Venter's Celera Genomics, founded in 1998, used a strategy known as the whole genome shotgun approach to compete with the publicly-funded Human Genome Project, which served to accelerate the mapping of the whole human genome by 2000. Dr. Venter's current venture, the J. Craig Venter Institute, was formed in 2006, from the merger of several predecessor enterprises. A leader in genomic research, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced in January 2008, the largest synthetically derived DNA structure, advancing it towards its goal of creating a living cell based on an entirely synthetic genome. In September 2007, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced the sequencing of Dr. Venter's genome, the first sequencing of an individual's genome.

Among Dr. Venter's numerous awards and honors are the American Academy of Microbiology Fellow (1997), the American Chemical Society, Division of Biochemical Technology David Perlman Memorial Lectureship Award (2000), and the U.S. State Department, Secretary's Open Forum Public Service Award (2001). Dr. Venter is a member of the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Microbiology, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.