Elizabeth Blackburn on CSHL Meetings: Unique aspects
  Elizabeth Blackburn     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jun 2000

When I think of what had been other kind of influential scientific conferences that you go to—say Gordon Conferences for example—something often where important advances happen in the field. The field is there. There’s a lot of interaction and so forth. It’s not a huge 10,000 person meeting in some giant city conference center. It’s really—these are real scientific meetings. And so, you say, “Well how does this [CSHL meetings] differ from a Gordon Conference?” Somewhat the size is bigger and there’s somewhat higher kind of energy level here. And I also suspect there is kind of this—at least for our field, which is very based and grounded in molecular biology—I think there is a kind of, there’s a little magic name happening to conjure with. You have, in my field particularly, someone like Barbara McClintock. But you have Jim Watson. You know that, you just sort of know, that there is kind of this history, which only the very subconscious level permeates, but it does say, “This was the site where interesting and important things happened.” And Gordon Conferences: there have been interesting meetings and so forth, but I think there isn’t the same sense that a lot of scientific history kind of went on in this site. And when you go to places, there’s a, I think it’s true, actually—this is somewhat different. Well, you know you could say what would happen if you had Cold Spring Harbor meetings and you transplanted them twenty miles down the road. Not Banbury, [CSHL Banbury Conference Center] but some completely different place. Just didn’t happen to be on the grounds of Cold Spring Harbor. You know, would that change the character?

Well, you see for me, I’m too deeply imbedded now. Cause you know, I’ve had too much, kind of, familiarity, but if you said, someone’s first Cold Spring Harbor Meeting is twenty miles down the road here, would that be the same kind of thing—the same experience for them? I don’t know. Who knows? Probably what’s important primarily is what’s going on at the conference. Places mean something to people.

Elizabeth Blackburn is a leader in the study of telomere function and biology. She 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 at Yale from 1975 to 1977. Blackburn is currently a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and a faculty member in the Program in Biological Sciences and Biomedical Sciences at UCSF as well as a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.

Blackburn discovered the ribonucleprotein enzyme, telomerase, and currently researches the effect that the manipulation of telomerase activity has on cells. Her laboratory work intends to elucidate the biology of telomerase and telomere.

She attended her first meeting at CSHL in the late 1970’s and has organized Telomeres and Telomerase meetings at the Lab. Blackburn was a mentor to former Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientist, Dr. Carol W. Greider.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009 was awarded jointly to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak "for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase".

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation, 2009

Blackburn is an elected Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), the Royal Society of London (1992), and the American Academy of Microbiology (1993). She is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (1993) and Past-President of the American Society for Cell Biology (1998).