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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Mary Ellen Jones (1922–1996)

Mary Ellen Jones became interested in biology while she was in high school and went on to major in biochemistry at the University of Chicago. She received her undergraduate degree in 1944 and earned her doctorate from Yale in 1951. A faculty member at Carolina for thirty years, Jones was the first woman to chair a department in the School of Medicine and the first woman to be named a Kenan professor. In her research, she studied how cells make the building blocks of DNA and how enzymes are involved in the synthesis of nucleotides. She received national recognition for her research when she was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 1981, the National Academy of Sciences in 1984, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. The university named a medical school building in her honor in 1978 and awarded her the Thomas Jefferson Award in 1990.