Buck, Linda B.

Buck, Linda B., 1947–, American neurobiologist, b. Seattle, Wash., Ph.D. Univ. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 1980. Buck taught at Harvard Medical School (1991–2002) before becoming a researcher (2002–) at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and an affiliate professor (2003–) at the Univ. of Seattle. She was the co-recipient, with her former postdoctoral adviser, Richard Axel, of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. The two elucidated the human olfactory system and demonstrated how olfactory receptors are encoded in the nose. They discovered that a family of about 1,000 genes is responsible for how we recognize and remember some 10,000 different odors. Axel and Buck jointly discovered odorant receptors and, working in different laboratories, subsequently learned how the brain organizes signals from the receptors to perceive different smells. Their work was the first successful attempt to decipher a sensory system using molecular techniques, and it contributed to a better understanding of how the brain works.

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