Molecular & Cellular Biologist
Elizabeth Blackburn was born in the small city of Hobart in Tasmania, Australia, to a family of doctors and scientists. Her parents were both family physicians and her grandfather and great-grandfather were geologists. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biochemistry from the University of Melbourne, and received her doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Cambridge in England in 1975. She conducted postdoctoral research at Yale University from 1975 to 1977. Blackburn joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in 1978. She moved to the University of California, San Francisco in 1990 and chaired the Department of Microbiology and Immunology from 1993 to 1999. Starting in 200 Blackburn served as a Salk nonresident fellow, one of a group of leading scientists that advise the Institute’s leadership and play key decision-making roles in the appointment and promotion of Salk professors. She served as Salk’s president from 2016 to 2018. In 2009 Blackburn was awarded The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine alongside Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase." Blackburn has received nearly every major award in science, including the Lasker, Gruber and Gairdner prizes. She is a member of numerous prestigious scientific societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the Royal Society of London. Blackburn has served as president of both the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Society for Cell Biology, and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, including the influential journals Cell and Science. Helping to guide public science policy, she was a member of the Stem Cell Research Advisory Panel for the California State Legislature and a member of the President’s Council of Bioethics, an advisory committee to the President of the United States.
"Finding out how life works is incredibly important."