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Nobel Prize Winner Elizabeth Blackburn’s Research on Slowing Down Aging

Elizabeth Blackburn by Samantha Hahn
Illustration of Elizabeth Blackburn by Samantha Hahn

Elizabeth Blackburn (1948–)

Molecular biologist and University of California, San Francisco professor Elizabeth Blackburn’s groundbreaking study of cell division shed light on the aging process, and earned her a Nobel Prize in 2009. Blackburn’s research revealed how the structures at the end of chromosomes, known as telomeres, rebuild themselves after cell division using an enzyme called telomerase. This research could provide valuable insight into chronic illnesses and aging. Born in Tasmania, Blackburn joined the University of California, Berkeley in 1989 before moving to the San Francisco campus in 1991. As a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics during the George W. Bush administration, Blackburn researched human embryonic cell research, defying the administration’s stance on the science. She is now president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California.

Samantha Hahn is a New York-based illustrator and author. With a focus on exploring the female experience, her ethereal watercolor paintings have been exhibited around the world and featured in publications from The Paris Review to Vogue Japan. She has published two books, “Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines” and “A Mother is a Story: A Celebration of Motherhood.”

This feature originally appeared in the Body issue. Find more inspiring stories from the Body issue here or check out our Women in History section.