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 Moment

The Only Woman Once Again

The Only Woman Once Again

More From Elizabeth

In this video

When Blackburn was promoted to department chair in 1993, she was once again the only woman in the room.

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

Joan Sullivan
Joan Sullivan
Educator & Public Policy

Joan Sullivan has been actively involved in school reform for the last decade. She is a founding member of the Urban Assembly, a non-profit at the forefront of new school developme...

Lisa Leslie
Lisa Leslie
Champion Basketball Player

In 2002, Lisa Leslie became the first WNBA player to dunk a basketball. Throughout her trailblazing career, she was many firsts: the first WNBA player to win the regular season MV...

Maddy DeLone
Maddy DeLone
Prisoners' Rights Attorney

Maddy DeLone is the Executive Director of the Innocence Project, a non-profit legal organization committed to exonerating the wrongly convicted through the use of DNA testing and c...

Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros
Pioneering Latina Writer

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American novelist, poet, and short story writer. Her books include The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, and Woman Hollering Creek. She is the recipient...