Carol W. Greider is the Daniel Nathans Professor & Director of Molecular Biology & Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. Her research on telomerase (an enzyme she helped discover) and telomere function won her a 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Prior to joining the Johns Hopkins faculty, she obtained a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1997, and was a faculty member at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the 1998 Gairdner Foundation International Award.
Question: Have you encountered any gender-specific obstacles as a scientist?
Carol Greider: I think that that's a very complicated kind of question, because although I really feel like I never had a particular obstacle that I had to overcome as a female scientist—I never felt that I was singled out or had anything done against me—I do see that when one looks at where women are in science that there is a very large discrepancy, and that there does seem to be an inability for women to get to higher echelons in the scientific hierarchy or in academia. So I think that although I didn't feel like I had anything done personally to me, I think that there may be more subtle social interactions at play in the scientific world that does have a little bit of a negative effect on women advancing in their careers.
Question: What can be done to remove these obstacles?
Carol Greider: I think that as more women get into higher levels of science, and as it's very clear to younger women coming into the field that yes, it is possible to get to the higher ranks, that will help. And also I think that the way that women run meetings, and when the power structure is such that you have a larger representation of women at higher levels, that the conversation may change somewhat. And so that could also be helpful moving forward.
Question: What is your advice to female scientists starting out today?
Carol Greider: Just follow what you're excited about. I would say the same thing to female scientists as to male scientists, to all young people, really: the fun thing is to be able to do something that excites you. A lot of times what we do is a lot of hard work, but hard work is actually okay if you really are engaged in it. And so that really, I think, is the main thing, is find something that you're passionate about and be able to follow that.
Recorded November 10th, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen