Carol Greider

Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins University

"There’s clearly something going on in terms of women’s advancement in the higher ranks of science," says Carol Greider. Greider, now a professor of molecular biology at Johns Hopkins University, began her work under the mentorship of Liz Blackburn at Berkeley. She’s noticed that only about ten percent of the upper echelons of genome research are women, even though the gender ratio is about fifty-fifty at the graduate level. "I don’t think the reasons for this are so simple as women not getting recognition," she says. "There are more subtle, societal issues that go on that contribute to this."

Role models are important, she says, but not as vital as someone opening the doors of opportunity for female students. "I don’t think it’s so important necessarily to have a woman mentor," she says. "What's important is to have a mentor that promotes women’s careers."

Greider had some inspiring role models, though. Among them was the Nobel-winning Barbara McClintock, whose research was in a similar area as Greider’s when Greider arrived at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1988. She reminisces about those days. "I would see her walking around the laboratory," Greider remembers. "It was a number of months, probably closer to a year, to get the courage up to actually go up to her and talk to her, because I really did feel like I wanted to have something important to say before going to talk to this amazing person."

Both Greider and McClintock were doing what most researchers do at Cold Spring Harbor: basic science. There are two ways of approaching research, Greider explains. Taking cancer as an example, one can study specific diseases, or investigate the general functions within cells. Those general explorations are vital, she says, because "by curious people following up lines of research, unexpected discoveries occur that turn out to have implications." The fact that Cold Spring Harbor is largely—and uniquely—devoted to this "curiosity-driven" research means the environment emphasizes the importance of exploration. "It feels like coming home here," she says, "because those points are made time and time again."


Carol Greider
"If you have a new and exciting discovery and you walk down the hall, you want to tell someone. And who do you run into? You want to run into people that are going to be excited about that discovery."

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