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.


Providing a Confidence Boost

Providing a Confidence Boost

More From Elizabeth

In this video

Blackburn has noticed that female scientists sometimes need a boost of confidence.

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

Julie Payette
Julie Payette
Astronaut, VP Canada Lands Company, COO Montreal Science Centre

Julie Payette was born in Montreal, Quebec, on October 20, 1963. She graduated cum laude from McGill University with a Bachelor of Engineering in 1986, and received her Masters in ...

Li Yinhe
Li Yinhe
China's First Female Sexologist

Li Yinhe is a sociologist, sexologist and LGBT rights activist from Beijing, China. Dubbed “China’s first sexologist,” Li is a pioneer for women and gender studie...

Maya Lin
Maya Lin
Artist, Architect & Memorial Designer

In nearly three decades of practice, Maya Lin has completed large site-specific art installations, intimate studio works, residential and institutional architecture, and, of course...

Lynn Povich
Lynn Povich
First Female Sr. Editor at Newsweek

Lynn Povich is an award-winning journalist and women’s rights pioneer. In 1970, she helped organize a landmark sex discrimination suit against Newsweek, and in 1975, became t...