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Prof Elizabeth Blackburn AC

Don't be afraid to do what you think is the most important thing in your life.

Honour Roll

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, a world leader in molecular biology, was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with colleagues from the United States, Professors Jack Szostak and Carol Greider. They discovered how the ends of chromosomes are protected by telomeres and that they are built by telomerase.

Through this groundbreaking discovery, Professor Blackburn has shed new light on disease mechanisms and stimulated the development of potential new cancer and ageing treatments.

After completing her schooling at University High School in Melbourne, Professor Blackburn obtained a B Sc and MSc at the University of Melbourne. She completed a PhD at the University of Cambridge and postdoctoral research at Yale University, where she studied chromosomes and the molecular nature of telomeres; the tiny structures that cap the ends of chromosomes and contribute to the stability of all the genes in cells.

Professor Blackburn joined the University of California, SanFrancisco (UCSF) in 1990 as a professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Microbiology and Immunology. In 1993, she was the first woman to head the UCSF, School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, a position she held until 1999.

Professor Blackburn is currently the Morris Herzstein Professor of Biology and Physiology at the University of California, and over the years she has received a multitude of prestigious awards in recognition of her achievements. A mother as well as a world renowned scientist, Professor Blackburn understands the challenges faced by women in managing work and family commitments and believes that every woman has the right to choose a career without fear of discrimination for embracing motherhood. She is clearly an inspiration for all scientists in Australia, and especially young women entering the fields of science and medicine.