Barbara B. Knowles received her A.B. from Middlebury College, Vermont (1958), and her M.S. and Ph.D. (in Drosophila Genetics) from the Department of Zoology, Arizona State University (1964,1966). After a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Genetics at the University of California at Berkeley (1967), she moved to the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, progressing through the academic ranks to became a Member and Professor of the Institute and Wistar Professor in the Department of Microbiology and in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (1982).
In 1993, Dr. Knowles was appointed Senior Scientific Staff Scientist, Director of Research and Training and Associate Director of The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. In recognition of her role in establishing a trans-Maine Ph.D. program in Interdisciplinary Science she was appointed Presidential Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Maine, and in 2004 she became The Jackson Laboratory Vice President for Education and External Collaborations. In 2008 she was appointed Senior Principal Investigator at the Institute of Medical Biology, Biomedical Sciences Institute, A*STAR and Advisor to the A*STAR Graduate Academy.
Dr. Knowles is also an External Member of the Max Planck Society and has served as an advisor to the National Institutes of Health (US) first as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Institute for Dental Research (1989-1995) and until recently as an Advisory Council member to the National Center for Research Resources (2004-2008). She has served as a reviewer and on the editorial boards of several journals and is currently on the boards of Stem Cells and Hybridoma.
Dr. Knowles is known for her work on the role of immune responsiveness and tolerance to SV40 T-antigen in tumorigenesis and for developing human liver tumor-derived cell lines from hepatocellular carcinomas and hepatoblastomas. She collaborated with Dr. Davor Solter on the discovery and research into the cell surface markers, SSEA1 and SSEA 3 and 4, which mark mouse and human embryonic stem cells/embryonal carcinomas, respectively. During a joint sabbatical year at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1987) they initiated their studies of transcription during preimplantation embryogenesis. Dr. Knowles is currently studying mRNA stability and mRNA binding proteins that regulate the oocyte-to-embryo transition and the role of signal transduction and histone modifications in this process.