About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 4, 2003 | Vol. 32 No. 41
Greider Named Director of Molecular Biology

Carol Greider

By Joanna Downer
Johns Hopkins Medicine

After an exhaustive national search, Carol W. Greider, a Johns Hopkins faculty member since 1997 and internationally known for her work on telomerase, has been named the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The appointment was effective Aug. 1.

Greider has served as interim director of the department since 2002. She was elected this year to membership in the National Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also received the National Academy's Richard Lounsbery Award in April.

In their letter recommending Greider for the post, the search committee, headed by Richard Huganir, professor of neuroscience, and Martin Abeloff, director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, noted her strengths in leadership, research and teaching, a sentiment echoed by colleagues at Hopkins.

"It's so wonderful to choose among highly qualified candidates and to select one from among your own ranks," said Edward D. Miller, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "With her experience and with the full support of the institution, Carol is going to be a wonderful addition to Hopkins leadership and an advocate for basic research. We're just so pleased."

Greider's career has focused on investigating basic biological questions, but the answers have turned out to have dramatic implications for disease research. As a University of California at Berkeley graduate student studying how a single-celled, pond-dwelling critter copied its chromosomes, Greider discovered the enzyme, called telomerase, that rebuilds chromosomes' ends. Now, 19 years later, telomerase is recognized as a major player in cancers and is a possible target for treating them.

"When you're pursuing answers to basic biological questions -- how DNA is copied, how cells divide--you aren't really expecting a disease-related application; you're trying to satisfy your curiosity," Greider said. "But such research usually does reach a point with implications for health and disease and is absolutely vital to the process of advancing knowledge and medicine."

Greider's plans for the department include hiring three new faculty. She herself was part of the last group of three added to the department.

"We have a diverse faculty with expertise in a wide range of areas, so we'll be looking for talented, thoughtful people engaged in fundamental work applicable to all organisms, rather than filling out any particular fields," Greider said. "We're intimately connected with the school's Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences, and so we want to bring together people studying similar problems through different approaches."

The department's current faculty--13 primary and 21 with joint appointments in Molecular Biology and Genetics--are working in yeast, fruit flies, worms, human cells, mice and rats on projects ranging from development, olfaction (smell) and vision to fundamental molecular processes inside cells.

Greider holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a doctorate in molecular biology from UC Berkeley. Her postgraduate training began in 1988 as a fellow at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, where she progressed to the rank of investigator before joining Johns Hopkins in 1997 as an associate professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. She was promoted to full professor in 1999 and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Oncology.

Greider has served on numerous national committees, including the National Bioethics Advisory Committee during the Clinton administration, and has received many prestigious awards in recognition of her contributions to science, including the Gairdner Foundation Award and the Rosenstiel Award. She was also a Pew Biomedical Scholar.

Molecular biologist Daniel Nathans, for whom Greider's professorship is named, was a longtime Johns Hopkins professor of molecular biology and genetics and shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1978 for using enzymes as biochemical "scissors" to cut DNA at precise, predictable places, an advance that revolutionized the study of genes and genetic material. He served as interim president of the university from June 1995 to August 1996. Recipient of the National Medal of Science, Nathans died in 1999.

Related Web Site
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 100 | 3003 N. Charles St. | Baltimore, MD 21218 | 410-516-8514 |