Born in Waco, TX, Gwen Boles Sancar graduated from Baylor University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. She entered the Program in Molecular at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) in 1972 and received her PhD. in 1977. While at UTD, Gwen met Dr. Aziz Sancar, who was also studying there; they married in 1978. From 1977 – 1980 Gwen carried out research in the Department of Hematology and Oncology at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. She then joined Aziz in the laboratory of Dr. W. Dean Rupp in the Department of Therapeutic Radiology at Yale University School of Medicine.
In 1982 she and Aziz joined the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2007 they founded the Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation to promote understanding of Türkiye and the Turkish people and provide housing for visiting Turkish scholars in Chapel Hill. After many successful years, Gwen retired as an Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics in 2016 to concentrate on establishing the Sancar Turkish Cultural and Community Center in Chapel Hill.