Linda Buck won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with her colleague Richard Axel for discovering the details of how our sense of smell works. She completed her degree and graduate studies later in life than most, taking time to find an endeavor that truly inspired her.
Beginnings and School
Linda Brown Buck was born on January 29, 1947 in Seattle, Washington, USA. Her father was an electrical engineer, her mother a homemaker: Linda was the second of their three daughters.
Educated at Seattle’s Roosevelt High School, a teacher recorded in the yearbook that Linda could become a “great biologist one day.”
15 Years for B.S. and Ph.D.
Buck graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1965, age 18, and spent the next 10 years intermittently at the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating in 1975, age 28, with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Microbiology.
Regarding how long it took to get her first degree, Buck commented:
Buck spent the next few years working with Professor Ellen Vitetta at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, resulting in the award of a Ph.D. in Immunology in 1980.
Research Positions and Nobel Prize Winning Research
Buck spent two years carrying out postdoctoral research at Columbia University, New York, and in 1982 joined Dr. Richard Axel’s research group at Columbia. In 1984, she became an associate in Axel’s laboratory.
In 1985, Buck read a paper from the eminent neuroscientist Solomon Snyder and his group about an odor-detecting protein. The article fired her enthusiasm for unraveling the puzzle of how we smell things.
In 1988, she began looking for genes that encode receptors for odor molecules. The paper she and Axel wrote in 1991 that led to the Nobel Prize was the culmination of working for three years with absolute dedication for 12-15 hours a day on the project, going home only to sleep. The paper was entitled A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: a molecular basis for odor recognition.
In 1995 she became an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Boston.
In 2001, Buck became a full professor at Harvard. In 2002, she returned to her hometown of Seattle to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
- 1992: Takasago Award for Research in Olfaction
- 1992: LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Science for Art Prize
- 1992: Sense of Smell Award, Fragrance Foundation
- 1996: Unilever Science Award
- 1996: R.H. Wright Award in Olfactory Research
- 1996: Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research
- 2002: Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize
- 2003: Gairdner Foundation International Award
- 2004: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Buck married the biologist Roger Brent in 2006.
Author of this page: The Doc
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Linda Buck & Richard Axel
A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: a molecular basis for odor recognition.
Cell. 65(1): pp 175-87. Apr 5 1991
A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors.
Soc. Gen. Physiol. Ser. 47: pp 39-51. 1992
Identification and analysis of a multigene family encoding odorant receptors
Chem. Senses 18: pp 203-208. 1993
Carol Smith & Jake Ellison
Scientist at Fred Hutch wins Nobel
October 4, 2004
A Nose for Science: Buck, ’75, Wins Nobel for Decoding Genetics of Smell
“Linda B. Buck – Biographical”.
Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014.
“Richard Axel – Biographical”.
Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014.