Oral history interview with Carol W. Greider

  • 1993-Sep-22
  • 1993-Sep-24
  • 1993-Sep-30
  • 1993-Oct-05

Carol W. Greider was born in San Diego, California. Her father was a physicist; her mother was a biologist who died when Carol was young. Her father had a position at Yale University when Carol was a child, and they lived in New Haven for a couple of years. Then they returned to California, to the University of California at Davis, where they continued to live while Carol grew up, except for a year in Germany when Carol was about ten. She learned to speak German there and continued to study the language when she was in high school. Beatrice Sweeney, a friend of her father, inspired Greider to attend the University of California at Santa Barbara. She studied circadian rhythms there, working with a graduate student who was studying microtubules in chicken brains. She spent her junior year in Göttingen, Germany. In part because of Elizabeth Blackburn, Greider decided to attend graduate school at University of California at Berkeley. In Blackburn's lab she cloned telomeres by functional complementation and became interested in how sequences are added into telomeres. She began searching for the telomerase enzyme; when she discovered it she determined its nucleic acid component, finding that telomerase is sensitive to RNase and has an RNA component. After completing her PhD she accepted a postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where she remains. Greider continued work on telomerase, relating it to human aging and cellular senescence and attempting to clone the RNA component of telomerase. She found herself in competition with Blackburn's lab to some extent. But her collaboration with Calvin Hurley, who was recruited into Geron Corporation, led to a position as an advisor there; she has, therefore, what many scientists consider a great deal of funding. Competitors have risen in what used to be Greider's own area, but still telomerase remains uncloned. Greider has organized and held a conference on telomerase; she is editing a textbook; and she meets with others—most recently in Sweden—who are interested also in telomeres and telomerase.

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