Dr. Carol Greider discovered telomerase, the enzyme responsible for repairing the tips of chromosomes that protect DNA from damage. The length of the tips, called telomeres, determine the lifespan of the cell. Telomeres and telomerase are critical to human health, because changes in the activity of telomerase indicate various genetic diseases and cancer. Along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak, Carol Greider was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for this discovery.
She was born in San Diego, California. During her childhood, she lived in many places in the United States and around the world. School was initially challenging for Greider due to dyslexia. However, her love of reading helped her to persevere and succeed academically. Dr. Greider noted in an interview that compensatory skills helped her become a better scientist because they helped her to “intuit many things happening at the same time and apply them to a problem.”
Greider earned her B.A. in Biology from the College of Creative Studies at University of California at Santa Barbara. As an undergraduate, Greider worked on a variety of biological questions ranging from light-dependent movement of chloroplasts to the action of microtubules and the structure of Z-DNA. These projects developed her passion for scientific problems and led her to pursue a PhD. In 1984, Greider joined Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn’s lab at University of California at Berkley to study how telomeres were elongated. Using Tetrahymena thermophila as a model organism, she identified telomere terminal transferase, later renamed telomerase, as the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length.
After completing her doctoral studies, Dr. Greider continued her work on telomeres as an independent fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. There she proposed a mechanism underlying telomerase operation and investigated its role in the cell. She joined the faculty in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 2004, Dr. Greider was promoted to the Daniel Nathans Professor and Department Director for Molecular Biology and Genetics, and in 2014 she was named one of the first three Bloomberg Distinguished Professors at JHU. Today Dr. Greider's lab at Johns Hopkins Medicine examines telomere function in the cell, to further understand their biology and role in disease.
Carol's bio contributed by REBECCA ALFORD.