Mary Jane Gething on Marriage to Joe Sambrook
  Mary Jane Gething     Biography    
Recorded: 16 Jan 2003

When I first met Joe I thought he was very—not full of himself but certainly bordering on obnoxious. And he caught me in the corridor one day just when he was first in London and visiting ICRF, not on sabbatical there. He was at University College. And he just asked me what I was doing and I gave sort of a relatively flippant answer and it was clear he wouldn’t take that. And he kept probing and probing and pushing me further and further into thinking through something that I hadn’t bothered to really think through before. And then I didn’t—I didn’t even know who he was actually. That first conversation I, you know, he’s just some jerk who came and you know argued with me. And then I was up in Bob Kamen’s lab and somebody told me who he was. Which didn’t really mean even a lot even then, though the way they talked about him he was obviously somebody important in the tumor virus field but didn’t mean much to me

And then when he came over to work and he was just very—he was a very intense and alive person. I suspect that was what attracted me in the first place. And then working together is a very intense experience, both scientifically and personally obviously. But I suspect you know that if we hadn’t been in different countries it might have been too much. It’s sort of—that commuting was actually probably very important in our relationship to not—particularly because he is a very strong person and you know you could so easily go under I think, but it was important for me to establish myself a bit more as a scientist without sort of coming completely under the sway.

And even now you know I have to push back. It would be very easy to be crumpled by a personality as large as Joe’s. I’m a more relaxed person, obviously, than he is. But it needs a certain amount of steadfastness to cope with Joe, I suppose.

But he’s an amazing person. And he’s so selfless in a way. I mean all the way through his scientific career he’s built things for—much more for other people than for himself. And he never, in fact he shies away from you know the limelight or from honors or recognition. He hates it! And he just loves to think. I mean he just—you can see him going into a state of excitement in a sense about a new idea or something like that and then he just wants to give it away. And he wants to persuade—he’s known along that he hasn’t got the time to do the science to underlie these or that comes out of these ideas. So it’s important for him that he can talk other people into doing it. And then he gives it away, you know, he says, “Not mine.” It’s, you know—where lesser people would claim all of this stuff. And it’s true of everything. He’s a very—not just in science but in life in general he’s incredibly generous person. But it has this overlay of gruffness and so I guess that the part that I love is that generosity inside and I put up with some of the rest because I know what’s motivating it. What the good stuff is, underneath.

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.