Elizabeth Blackburn earned her B.Sc. (1970) and M.Sc. (1972) degrees from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and her Ph.D. (1975) from the University of Cambridge in England. She did her postdoctoral work in Molecular and Cellular Biology from 1975 to 1977 at Yale.
In 1978, Blackburn joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley in the Department of Molecular Biology. In 1990, she joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UC San Francisco, where she served as Department Chair from 1993 to 1999. Blackburn is currently a faculty member in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF. She is also a Non-Resident Fellow of the Salk Institute.
Throughout her career, Blackburn has been honored by her peers as the recipient of many prestigious awards. These include the Eli Lilly Research Award for Microbiology and Immunology (1988), the National Academy of Science Award in Molecular Biology (1990), and an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Yale University (1991). She was a Harvey Society Lecturer at the Harvey Society in New York (1990), and the recipient of the UCSF Women's Faculty Association Award (1995). Most recently, she was awarded the Australia Prize (1998), the Harvey Prize (1999), the Keio Prize (1999), American Association for Cancer Research-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award (2000), American Cancer Society Medal of Honor (2000), AACR-Pezcoller Foundation International Award for Cancer Research (2001), General Motors Cancer Research Foundation Alfred P. Sloan Award (2001), E.B.Wil son Award of the American Society for Cell Biology (2001), 26th Annual Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research (2003), and the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine (2004).
She was named California Scientist of the Year in 1999, elected President of the American Society for Cell Biology for the year 1998, and served as a Board member of the Genetics Society of America (2000-2002). Blackburn is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1991), the Royal Society of London (1992), the American Academy of Microbiology (1993), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2000). She was elected Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 1993, and was elected as a Member of the Institute of Medicine in 2000.