Linda B. Buck
Linda B. Buck, Ph.D., (born January 29, 1947) is an American biologist who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, along with Richard Axel, for their work on olfactory receptors.
She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington, majoring in psychology. It is only later in her studies that she developed an interest in biology after undertaking a course on immunology. In 1975, she began graduate school in the Microbiology Department at the University of Texas Medical Center in Dallas. Her thesis compared the functional properties of subsets of B lymphocytes that differed in the class of cell surface immunoglobulin that they used as antigen receptors.
She began her post-doctoral research at Columbia University in 1980, where she began to work with Richard Axel with whom she would share the Nobel Prize. With Axel, she studied the nervous system of Aplysia, a sea snail. At the end of this project, she became interested in odor detection. In 1988, she embarked on a search for odorant receptors, After trying several different approaches, she identified the odorant receptor family Buck and Axel published their research in a landmark paper in 1991 descriping how they had cloned olfactory receptors, showing that they belong to the family of G protein-coupled receptors. By analyzing rat DNA, they estimated that there were approximately one thousand different genes for olfactory receptors in the mammalian genome. This research opened the door to the genetic and molecular analysis of the mechanisms of olfaction. In their later work, Buck and Axel have shown that each olfactory receptor neuron remarkably only expresses one kind of olfactory receptor protein and that the input from all neurons expressing the same receptor is collected by a single dedicated glomerulus of the olfactory bulb. They received the Nobel Prize in 2004 for their work on olfaction.
Distinctions and later scientific career
After spending 10 years at Harvard Medical School, Buck moved to Seattle where she is the Full Member of the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, an Affiliate Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington, Seattle and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 2004.
From her autobiography written after winning the Nobel Prize:
As a woman in science, I sincerely hope that my receiving a Nobel Prize will send a message to young women everywhere that the doors are open to them and that they should follow their dreams.