Mary Jane Gething on James Lab Seminars
  Mary Jane Gething     Biography    
Recorded: 16 Jan 2003

Well, I remember two sort of apocryphal stories I suppose. I believe they’re true but they’ve been—we’ve told them so many times that they may not be exactly true. But one of them was a guy who came, an outside speaker, who came and I don’t even remember the topic. But he started and he didn’t get more than two or three minutes in and the first challenge came. And he sort of answered that and then, not that his work was not interesting or, but then he said a few more things and it raised another question and that as afar as his seminar got. Because it turned into this free for all which he enjoyed but he never gave a seminar. All he did was I suppose raise the topic and then it just took over and people were yelling and, not angry, you know not an argument but it was just sort of—

Mila Pollock: Do you remember what was the topic?

No! I’ve no idea. I don’t know who the person was. I remember the day. And then the other joke that it revolved, talked about a lot, involves Winship Herr who tries to continue the James tradition of seminars, but he doesn’t have so much support from the current people in James. But he, you know, he does his bit to keep it going. But anyway, he had come down from Harvard, he’d been a graduate student in Harvard and then spent a year I think in Cambridge and then came to be a postdoc in James. And I think he’d been a year, I don’t know. And he’d been asked to go up to—back to his own lab or department in Harvard to give a seminar. And he’d given James in-house talks and then I think, I believe he practiced this talk, and it was fine. It has the usual number of interjections and questions and so on. So he goes up to Harvard to give this talk and apparently it went all right except he came back and we asked him how it went. And he laughed hysterically and said, “It only took twenty minutes!” And it was the same seminar that he’d practiced in James that twenty minutes worth of talking was an hour’s worth of seminar because of all the questions and discussion and so on. But in Harvard he was listened to in silence. So it only took him twenty minutes. So I think those two give a feeling of, they’re perhaps extreme examples, but it was everybody, you know, from the most junior student to Joe were expected to take part and to really you know question and not be ashamed to say I have no clue what you’re talking about. Or to say rudely I have no clue what you’re talking about, one or the other. But it was an amazing, amazing time.

Mary-Jane Gething, biochemist is Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne where she earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1974. Subsequently she went to Cambridge to do post-doctoral work.

In 1976, she moved to London to work on protein sequencing and in 1980, Gething and Joseph Sambrook received a NATO grant for travel to collaborate on virus research. She began working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1982 where she continued her research of proteins. In 1985, Gething and Sambrook moved to Dallas to work at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. They moved back to Australia in 1994.

Her current research involves protein folding in the cell and the role of molecular chaperone BiP.