The joint 2004 recipient (with scientific collaborator Richard Axel) of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, she became known for her work on olfactory (smell) receptors and the genes controlling them in Mammals.
She studied microbiology and psychology at the University of Washington and went on to earn a doctorate in immunology from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
After completing postdoctoral work at Columbia University, she began teaching neurobiology courses at Harvard. She later accepted an academic appointment at her alma mater, the University of Washington.
She and her two sisters grew up in Seattle, Washington, as the children of a homemaker mother and an electrical engineer father.
She conducted research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland.