Carol Greider is famous for her discovery of telomerase, an enzyme that protects the end of a chromosome and thereby safeguards the genetic data that make us who we are. For this finding she was named co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
Her success has stemmed from a young biochemist’s curiosity—she was still a grad student at the University of California, Berkeley, at the time—and her discovery has gone on to form the basis for studying clinical applications to combat diseases such as cancer and dyskeratosis congenita.
It’s this connection between basic science and clinical application that most excites Greider, who also serves as the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics in the School of Medicine, about the Bloomberg Distinguished Professorship. In bridging the disciplines of biology and medicine, she hopes to help her students see how “a primary, basic understanding of cells really does drive innovation in terms of human disease.
The learn-by-doing technique at the Homewood campus in the form of a “flipped classroom” where students learn from recorded lectures on their own time and instructor-led problem-solving during class time intrigued Greider. She anticipated teaching undergraduate students in the Biology Department. It gives her the opportunity to participate more firsthand in those changes happening at the undergraduate level and she takes what she learns and applies it to her graduate-level courses at the medical school.
Greider’s group has continued to study the biochemistry of telomerase and determined the secondary structure of the human telomerase RNA. She also expanded her work on a mouse model of dyskeratosis congenita and stem cell failure in response to short telomeres.
She currently directs a group of scientists studying both the biochemistry of telomeres and telomerase as well as the cellular organismal consequences of short telomeres. Future work in the lab will focus on identifying genes that induce DNA damage in response to short telomeres, identifying how telomeres are processed and how telomere elongation is regulated.
In addition to the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Greider also shared the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with Elizabeth Blackburn and Jock Szostak for their work on telomeres. She received the 2007 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize and the 2003 Richard Lounsbery Award “for her pioneering biochemical and genetic studies of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains the ends of chromosomes in eukaryotic cells.”
She graduated from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a B.A. in biology and completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Greider then completed her postdoctoral work, and also held a faculty position, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory before joining Johns Hopkins in 1997. She was named one of ten internally selected Bloomberg Distinguished Professors in 2014.
She is also the Daniel Nathans Professor & Director of the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics.