I have a follow-up post coming about that enigmatic Lebbeus shrimp, but today here’s a quick shout out for Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, the first Australian woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. (While the article’s title paraphrases one of Dr Blackburn’s anecdotes, I can’t help but cringe at “What’s a nice girl like you doing with a Nobel prize?” – a sentiment echoed by the excellent Clem Bastow over at The Dawn Chorus. The ABC did rather better. Hopefully you’ll forgive my terrible pun title…)
Dr Blackburn, along with her US associates Jack Szostak and Carol Greider, are awarded the Nobel prize in Medicine for research into telomeres, repetetive protein strings on the end of DNA which protect them. As cells divide and reproduce, the telomerase string at the end of the DNA gets shorter, until there is eventually not enough left to protect the chromosome and it suffers damage. Their research has had big implications for aging, cancer, cloning, forensic science and indeed genetic medicine in general.
Dr Blackburn is a model scientist in many ways – the longest part of her Wikipedia entry is her list of awards and prizes – and she’s well known as a strong, rational voice for ethical concerns in genetics. Somewhat unsurprisingly, but no less disappointingly, she was booted from a Bush administrations advisory panel on stem cells for questioning it’s bias back in 2004.
Congratulations, Dr Blackburn. You’re a rock star, and now you’re in the hall of fame.