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About Stephen O'Brien

Stephen J. O’Brien served as Chief of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1986-2011. In December 2011, he joined the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics, St. Petersburg State University as Chief Scientific Officer. In 2012 he also joined the NSU Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography as Professor.  He also serves as advisor to the NSU Office of Research and Technology Transfer.
His research interests and expertise span human and comparative genomics, genetic epidemiology, HIV/AIDS, retro-virology, bioinformatics biodiversity and species conservation. Dr. O’Brien served as Editor of six editions of Genetic Maps: Locus Maps of Complex Genomes (1980-1993) (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Publications); Editor of Journal of Heredity (American Genetics Association) from 1987-2007; Editor of “Atlas of Mammalian Chromosomes” (John Wiley Inc. NYC, 2006) and author of “Tears of the Cheetah And Other Tales From The Genetic Frontier” (St. Martin’s Press NYC, 2004).
Dr. O’Brien received his B.S. in Biology in 1966 from St. Francis College, which presented him with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994. In 1971 he earned a Ph.D. in Genetics from Cornell University which honored him as “Andrew Dixon White Endowed Professor at Large” in 1998. Dr. O’Brien has a strong dedication to education, evidenced by his appointments as adjunct professor at twelve universities. He has mentored more than fifteen Ph.D. students and multiple postdoctoral fellows. Since 1996 he has directed an internationally heralded short course sponsored by Smithsonian and American Genetics Association, entitled “Recent Advances in Conservation Genetics”, the most recent (2012) edition at The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute , Panama. He chaired the most recent G10K conference ( in Hollywood, Florida.


2013 - Present Director of Research, Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Arts and Sciences - Department of Biological Sciences

Curriculum Vitae

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Honors and Awards

  • 1966-1971: NIH Genetics Traineeship
  • 1971-1973: NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1972-1978: Co-Chairman and Founder, Mid-Atlantic Drosophila Society
  • 1975-1976: Elected Council Representative, NCI Assembly of Scientists
  • 1979-Present: Elected New York Academy of Science
  • 1979-Present: Member, International Committee on Comparative Gene Mapping
  • 1982-Present: Appointed Research Fellow of Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
  • 1983-Present: Elected Board of Trustees, American Type Culture Association, Rockville, MD
  • 1984-Present: Appointed, Executive Board, American Type Culture Collection, Rockville, MD
  • 1984-Present: Elected Board of Directors, American Genetics Association (AGA)
  • 1985: National Geographic Society Research Award (for study of genetics and reproduction of East African cheetah)
  • 1985-Present: Appointed, Chairman, Long Range Planning Committee, AGA
  • 1985-Present: Founder and Co-Director, NOAHS (New Opportunities in Animal Health Sciences) Center for Wildlife Sciences, Smithsonian Institution
  • 1985-Present: Member, Cat Specialist Group, International Union for Conservation of Nature, I.U.C.N., Geneva
  • 1986: Recipient World Wildlife Fund Research Award (for study of genetic structure of relict populations of giant pandas)
  • 1986-Present: Member, Captive Breeding Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission, I.U.C.N., Geneva
  • 1986-Present: Advisor, Special Survival Plan - Cheetah, American Zoological Association
  • 1987-Present: Secretary-Treasurer, Board of Trustees, American Type Culture Collection
  • 1987-Present: Chairman, International Committee on Comparative Gene Mapping
  • 1987-Present: Elected Member Cosmos Club, Washington, DC
  • 1988: Explorer's Club Annual Dinner Prinipal Lecture Award in Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the National Geographic Society
  • 1988-Present: Elected Fellow Explorer's Club, New York, NY
  • 1994-Present: Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1994: Distinguished Alumnus in Natural Sciences, St. Francis College, Loretto, PA
  • 1997: Visiting Fellow, Merton College, Oxford University, Oxford
  • 1998-Present: Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1998: Oscar W. Schlam Lectureship Award School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis
  • 1998-2004: Andrew Dixon White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University
  • 2006: Chairman Board of Trustees Cheetah Conservation Fund
  • 2006: Annual Citation Award for Outstanding Research in AIDS Cancer and Public Health
  • University of St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • 2006: Institution of the Stephen J. O'Brien Award for Outstanding Paper Published by American Genetic Association
  • 2009: Honorary Doctarate Degree in Veterinary Medicine conferred by the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2012: Senior Fellow, American Humane Association, USA
  • 2018: Elected to National Academy of Sciences


1971 Ph.D. Genetics, Cornell University
1966 B.S. Biology, St. Francis College

Contact Information

(954) 262-3591


Autobiography (1)

Books and Book Contributions (5)

Comparative Genomics (4)

Molecular Evolution (9)

Conservation Genetics (5)

Human Disease Gene Discovery (4)