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Doudna at a lecture
Jennifer Doudna kicks off the Tseng Lecture Series at UH Hilo in September 2018 (Photo credit: Bob Douglas)

A world-renowned biochemist who connects part of her early fascination with science to time spent in a University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo biology lab captured the prestigious Nobel Prize in Chemistry. University of California, Berkeley chemistry and molecular and cell biology Professor Jennifer Doudna, a Hilo native, won the award for her work in developing genome editing technology that enables scientists to edit the DNA of plants and animals.

Doudna and her colleagues created the technique called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats)-Cas9 which is now being used as a cancer therapy.

woman smiling
Jennifer Doudna

Doudna’s roots firmly cling to Hawaiʻi Island. The Hilo High School graduate’s mother Dorothy taught at Hawaiʻi Community College, her father was an English professor at UH Hilo. She credits him for encouraging her curiosity in science. As a teenager, that interest led to an opportunity to work in a UH Hilo lab. In 2018, the connection to the university returned full circle when the pioneer in genome editing was invited to present her work at UH Hilo’s Rose and Raymond Tseng Distinguished Lecture Series.

Considered a rock star in the world of modern science, Rolling Stone has included her in its Women Shaping the Future issue, saying she helped make a discovery “that could change life on Earth.” Doudna’s also been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.

Doudna’s shares the Nobel Prize with colleague and fellow researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist.

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