J. Craig Venter is regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his invaluable contributions to genomic research. He credits his experience at the College of San Mateo for much of his success.

Venter attended College of San Mateo after serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War, eschewing a four-year college or university “because of my prior experiences in the educational system,” he said. “I was uncertain if I was cut out for academic life or if academic life was cut out for me.”

He found a perfect environment at College of San Mateo.

“Had I not met such strong, enthusiastic professors right away at CSM, my educational experience and my life would have been very different from that point onward.”

Known for leading the first draft sequence of the human genome and assembling the first team to transfect a cell with synthetic chromosome, Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research and the J. Craig Venter Institute, where he currently serves as chief executive officer.

Venter began his formal education after a tour of duty as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After attending the College of San Mateo and 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 a 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. In 1992, he founded The Institute for Genomic Research where he and his team in 1995 decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae.

In 1998, Venter founded Celera Genomics, and in 2000 Venter and Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Public Genome Project jointly announced the mapping of the human genome, a full three years ahead of the expected end of the Public Genome Program. In 2001, the Human Genome Project consortium published the first human genome in the journal Nature, which was followed one day later by a Celera publication in the journal Science. He and his team at Celera also sequenced the genomes of the fruit fly, mouse and rat.

Venter and his team at the Venter Institute have sequenced and analyzed hundreds of genomes, and Venter has authored more than 250 research articles in his career.