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Commencement Speaker

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In that role he oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has been director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, overseeing the work of the largest institutional supporter of biomedical research in the world. But he may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project, a 13-year international effort to map and sequence the 3 billion letters in human DNA.

As an innovative evolutionary geneticist and a devout Christian, Collins also has gained fame for his writings on the integration of logic and belief.

As NIH director, he has helped launch major research initiatives to advance the use of precision medicine for more tailored healthcare, to increase our understanding of the neural networks of the brain to improve treatments for brain diseases, and to identify areas of cancer research that are most ripe for acceleration to improve cancer prevention and treatment. His personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

Collins received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Yale University, and his M.D. degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. As an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Science, Dr. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007 from President George W. Bush and the National Medal of Science in 2009.

For his dramatic successes as a gene hunter, his support for biomedical research on a vast scale, and his leadership of one of the most significant scientific undertaking in modern history - the Human Genome Project - Collins will receive the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU.