One of four sisters she was born in Hobart in 1948. The family moved to Launceston where she attended Broadland House from 1953–1964. Whilst at Broadland she was awarded Dux of every class from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and won prizes for French, Music and Science.
She gained her BSc in 1970 and MSc in 1972 from the University of Melbourne and her PhD at Cambridge, England in 1975, and then went on to do her postdoctoral work in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Yale from 1975–1977. In 1978, Elizabeth joined the faculty at the University of California (Berkeley) in the Department of Molecular Biology and in 1990 joined the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California.
Elizabeth’s most recent work has been in studying the aging of cells and the propagation of cancer cells. In this work she is recognised as the co-discoverer of Telomerase, the enzyme that makes and repairs telomeres, the DNA caps that protect the ends of the chromosomes, which also allowed her to describe the key enzyme necessary for chromosomes to make copies of themselves. The discovery gives hope for a deeper understanding of growth, ageing and disease.
Few have achieved what she has accomplished and her induction to the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women in 2008 for service to Science, is most appropriate. We honour Professor Blackburn for her curiosity which brought about a very important scientific breakthrough in the area of biological research.
Professor Blackburn is the recipient of the School’s Peter Sculthorpe Award for 2019.