Mary Jane Gething on Generosity in Science
  Mary Jane Gething     Biography    
Recorded: 16 Jan 2003

Well I think the most important thing about Joe is his generosity of spirit, you know. Somebody who doesn’t know him well might now, sort of, notice that because he does have this abrasive exterior. And he pushes people. But the reason he pushes people is to make them do the best that they can possibly do. And also to give them more. He’s always been a generous spirit inside, both in the day to day giving away of ideas and also in the way he’s built things but built them for other people.

So he was so important at Cold Spring Harbor, building it from a tiny scientific enterprise to set it on its feet, in partnership with Jim [Watson], of course. But in the scientific aspects of it, setting it on its feet to become what it is now. He’s not been there for—we left there in ’95 [‘85] so it’s seventeen or eighteen years but you can see what’s there now has grown out of how he set it scientifically.

And then to move to UT Southwestern and to build a department up again from almost nothing. Since Cold Spring Harbor he’s had about a five year attention span. He spent five years rejuvenating the biochemistry department and then moved over to the MacDonald Center for Development and spent five years doing that. And then he was about five years as head of Peter Mac [Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute] and again took that from a very moribund place into what’s now a flourishing exciting place for young people to work. And then he hands it on. He doesn’t have the patience to—he doesn’t like to keep things going; he just likes to build. And now the last five years on this Kathleen Cunningham, the breast cancer consortium—building that from nothing! I mean, he started it. But he—it’s this gift all the time—a gift of himself. And he pushes himself hard and he pushes other people hard. But people take it because they [realize] his motives are pure. He has only the best motives in the way he behaves.

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.