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

Sarah Weddington
Sarah Weddington
Roe v. Wade Attorney

Sarah Weddington stepped into the national spotlight when she successfully argued the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, at the tender age of 26. The daughter of a Methodist...

Angela Salinas
Angela Salinas
Major General, US Marine Corps (Ret)

Angela Salinas is a retired Major General of the US Marine Corps and a role model for women in the armed forces. Raised by two Mexican immigrants, Salinas was the first in her fam...

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer
CEO of Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer is the President and CEO of Yahoo!. Before taking the reins at Yahoo!, she spent most of her career at Google, going from one of its early engineers to Vice President...

Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa
Director, Johnson Space Center

Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go into space when she served on a mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. After graduating with a master of science degree and...