European Pressphoto Agency, Associated Press
Today was an exciting day for science, women, and mothers as the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three scientists, two of whom are women. Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak were jointly awarded the Prize today for their work in discovering telomerase, an enzyme involved in the lifespan of cells. This protein has potential applications for aging and cancer treatment. Today's award marks only the ninth time in the Nobel Prize's 100 year history that a woman has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Dr. Blackburn, who is at the University of California, San Francisco, is originally from Australia. She has been outspoken about the difficulties of being a woman in science. In an article about her in the Sydney Morning Herald today, Dr. Blackburn is described as having "spoken out against closing career avenues to women because of the responsibilities of mothering young children. She said culture needed to change so a woman who had a family would not feel damned as a serious scientist."
Carol Greider, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, trained under the mentorship of Dr. Blackburn. In The New York Times today, she described the field of telomere research as being unique in being largely populated by women. She said that this is in part because of "slight tendency of women to work with other women."