Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

MAKERS Profile

Elizabeth Blackburn

Nobel-Prize Winning Biologist

More From Elizabeth

In this video

Elizabeth Blackburn on being a woman in science and the groundbreaking research that led to winning a Nobel Prize.

Elizabeth's Biography

Family Zoo: Growing up in Tasmania, her family had a dog, cats, parakeets, canaries, guinea pigs, rabbits, bantam chickens, and goldfish.
Best Advice Ever Received: Put yourself in the very, very best environment where the best people are and the best work is going on.
The Means Not the Ends:  “I’m actually more proud of the fact that I think we do our work well, than almost of the fact of what it was.”
Role Model She’s Never Met: Marie Curie

Elizabeth Blackburn is a Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research is focused on understanding a critical structure at the end of chromosomes, called the telomere, which protects DNA during the cell division. These small cell structures are thought to provide important clues for fighting chronic diseases and slowing down the aging process.

Blackburn was born on the Australian island of Tasmania and immigrated to the United States in 1975 in order to conduct her postdoctoral work at Yale University. She joined the faculty at University of California Berkeley in 1978, before moving across the bay to UCSF in 1990.

Her breakthrough discovery, for which she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, concerned the process by which cells replicate. Specifically, Blackburn co-discovered an enzyme called “telomerase”, which rebuilds telomeres following cell division. Scientists knew that telomeres broke down during cell division, but until Blackburn’s discovery they didn’t know how they were repaired afterward.

In the years since her discovery, Blackburn has teamed up with doctors from broad range of fields in order to learn more about the restorative potential of telomerase.

My research is now trying to understand how we can anticipate and alleviate some of the processes…that are leading to increased diseases of aging,” she says.

Related Videos

Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho
Comedian

Comedian Margaret Cho is a groundbreaking stand-up comedian who harnessed her identity as a queer woman of color to power her comedic voice and hit racism, homophobia and stereotyp...

Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin
Professor of Animal Science

Temple Grandin is world-famous for using insights gained from her autism to revolutionize the livestock industry. A professor at Colorado State for more than 20 years, Grandin is a...

Theresa Kane
Theresa Kane
Nun Who Confronted the Pope

In 1979, Sister Theresa Kane was serving as President of the US Leadership of the Women Religious when she was invited to publicly address Pope John Paul II during his visit to the...

Sherry Lansing
Sherry Lansing
Pioneer Studio Executive & Philanthropist

Sherry Lansing was a trailblazer, visionary, and leader in the motion picture business for almost 30 years and involved in the production, marketing, and distribution of more than ...