Elizabeth H. Blackburn is a leader in telomere and telomerase research. She discovered the molecular nature of telomeres – the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information – and the ribonucleoprotein enzyme telomerase.
Currently Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, Blackburn and her research team are working with various cells with the goal of understanding telomerase and telomere biology.
Blackburn earned her B.Sc. (1970) and M.Sc. (1972) degrees from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and her Ph.D. (1975) from the University of Cambridge in England. She did her postdoctoral work in Molecular and Cellular Biology from 1975 to 1977 at Yale.
In 1978, Blackburn joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1990, she joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UC San Francisco, where she served as Department Chair from 1993 to 1999. Blackburn is currently a faculty member in Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF. She is also a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.
Throughout her career, Blackburn has been honored with many prestigious awards. She was elected President of the American Society for Cell Biology (1998) and as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), the Royal Society of London (1992), the American Academy of Microbiology (1993), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000). She was elected Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 1993, and a Member of the Institute of Medicine in 2000. In 2006, she was awarded the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award in Basic Medical Research. In 2007, she was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most influential People,” and she is the 2008 North American Laureate for L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science. In 2009, Blackburn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.