2017 Silver Innovator Award

Congratulations to our 2017 Silver Innovator Award Winners, Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel.


Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn became President of the Salk Institute on January 1, 2016.

Dr. Blackburn is a pioneering molecular biologist. Since 2001 she had served as a Salk Non-Resident Fellow while she was a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Blackburn won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for discovering the molecular nature of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that serve as protective caps essential for preserving genetic information, and for co-discovering telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomere ends. Both telomeres and telomerase are thought to play central roles in aging and diseases such as cancer, and her work helped launch entire new fields of research in these areas.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Dr. Blackburn has received nearly every major award in science including the Lasker, Gruber, and Gairdner prizes. She was named to the TIME 100 in 2007, the magazine’s yearly list of the most influential people in the world. She is a member of numerous prestigious scientific societies including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the Royal Society of London. She has served as president of both the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Society for Cell Biology, and has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals including the influential journals Cell and Science.

Helping to guide public science policy, she was a member of the Stem Cell Research Advisory Panel for the California State Legislature and a member of the President’s Council of Bioethics, an advisory committee to the President of the United States.


Elissa Epel, Ph.D, is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, at University of California, San Francisco. She is the Director of the Aging, Metabolism, and Emotions Center. She studies psychological, social, and behavioral processes related to chronic psychological stress that accelerate biological aging, with a focus on the telomere/telomerase maintenance system. She also studies the interconnections between emotional processes, eating, and metabolism. With her collaborators, she is conducting clinical trials to examine the effect of mindfulness training programs on cellular aging, weight (including during pregnancy), and parenting stress for parents of children with developmental disorders. She leads or co-leads studies funded by NIA and NHLBI, including a Stress Measurement Network, and a multicampus center on obesity funded by UC Office of the President. She has been involved in National Institute of Aging initiatives on role of ‘stress’ in aging, and on reversibility of early life adversity, and on Science of Behavior Change. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and a fellow of the Association of Psychological Science, and Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. She is on the scientific advisory boards for the Mind and Life Institute, and the European Society of Preventive Medicine.

Epel studied psychology and psychobiology at Stanford University, and clinical and health psychology at Yale University. She completed a clinical internship at the Palo Alto Veterans Healthcare System and an NIMH postdoctoral fellowship at UCSF. Epel has received several awards including the APA Early Career Award and Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research Neal Miller Young Investigator Award.