AAUW Member Awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

October 12, 2009

Sitting at my desk here at AAUW, I can see a framed photograph and handwritten thank-you note from Marie Curie, dated 1920, in which she expresses her gratitude for AAUW’s support of her groundbreaking research on radium. It serves as an inspiration and a reminder as to why it is so important to continue to build support for women in science. While the number of women in science fields has increased since the days of Marie Curie, women are still greatly underrepresented in science as well as in the fields of math, engineering, and technology.

This year I was thrilled to see that the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to three outstanding scientists, two of whom are women. Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery of “telomerase,” an enzyme that allows cells to divide without dying and could play a role in the uncontrolled spread of cancer cells. It is the first time two women have been among the winners of the medicine prize. Of the 192 individuals awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine over the years, only eight have been women, with Marie Curie being the only woman to have received an award twice. You can see a complete list of women Nobel laureates here.

Carol Greider, an AAUW member, is a molecular biology and genetics professor at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Elizabeth Blackburn teaches biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Greider and Blackburn, like Curie, are examples of how supporting women in science has brought groundbreaking changes within their disciplines and society as a whole. AAUW supports women in science and other underrepresented fields through fellowship and grant programs, the National Girls Collaborative Project, and other educational programs.

Let us recognize these women for their accomplishments and continue to encourage women and girls to achieve in science.

Author’s Note:
I would like to make an update to my blog since there has been more encouraging news since its post. Five women in total have been awarded a Nobel Prize this year, more than any other year before.  This includes Elinor Ostrom, the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize in economics. While it can be discouraging to look at the stats, only 40 Nobel Prize winners out of 762 have been women, I think it’s exciting that we can look forward to evening out the ratio as more women break through barriers and as more people recognize women for their achievements. Like our commenter Betty said, “Let’s spread the word high and low”!

Avatar By:   |   October 12, 2009


  1. Here is AAUW’s press release celebrating Carol Greider:




    “AAUW has a long history of supporting women in the sciences, and we are thrilled to count another Nobel Prize winner among our ranks,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. In 1920, AAUW awarded two-time Nobel Prize recipient Marie Curie a grant to assist with her groundbreaking research on radium. AAUW member Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, was nominated for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his work supporting education for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  2. Avatar tempest1970 says:

    Read this on Twitter via @herr2010: I have a paperweight from AAUW (long ago) that has a good quote: “Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.” (– Robin Morgan)

    Here’s to the Nobel Laureates who aimed high and proved what is possible.

    • Avatar Shada Malhas says:

      I am really astonished by AAUW efforts and supports to women , and I would love sincerely to congratulate Dr.Carol for her amazing nobel discovery in cells telomerase . am from the Middle East working for the Refugees Rights , and am really proud even of her scientific knowldege and medicine .

  3. Let’s spread the word high and low–in villages, suburbs, and cities–in clubhouses and schoolrooms–across the Internet and across the street. Throughout history, the achievements of women have been under recognized and under publicized. Thank you for doing your part in spreading the word.

  4. How fantastic that Dr. Greider is an AAUW member and to have that connection with Marie Curie.

    Congrats to all of this year’s winners!

    Danine Spencer
    Danine N. Spencer

  5. Avatar KG says:

    Thanks for posting this and pointing out the AAUW connection!

  6. Avatar Zabie says:

    What an amazing year for women, as five phenomenal ladies have set the record in Nobel Prize History:


    We are certainly on our way…

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