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Blackburn, a Nobel Laureate, is currently Professor Emerita at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Throughout her long career in science she has been a leader in the area of telomere and telomerase research, having discovered the molecular nature of telomeres – the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving the genetic information – and co-discovered the ribonucleoprotein enzyme, telomerase.
As Professor Emerita in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Blackburn and her UCSF research team continue their work with various cells (including human cells), with the goal of understanding telomerase and telomere biology. She and her research team also collaborate in a wide range of investigations of the roles of telomere biology in human health and diseases, through clinical and other human studies.
Born in Australia, Blackburn earned her B.Sc. (1970) and M.Sc. (1972) degrees from the University of Melbourne, and her Ph.D. (1975) from the University of Cambridge in England. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department at Yale University from 1975 to 1977.
In 1978, Blackburn joined the faculty at the University of California Berkeley (UCB), in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1990, she joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UCSF, where she served as Department Chair from 1993 to 1999. She was also appointed a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF.
Blackburn has won many prestigious awards throughout her career. In 2009, Blackburn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She received the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award for Basic Medical Research in 2006, and in 2007 was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2008 she was the North American Laureate for L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991) and the Royal Society of London (1992), a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (1993) and a Member of the Institute of Medicine (2000). She was elected the 1998 President of the American Society for Cell Biology and the 2010- 2011 President of the American Association for Cancer Research. She served on the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2004 and has been awarded honorary degrees by 11 Universities.