Mary Jane Gething on Scientific Life and Mind
  Mary Jane Gething     Biography    
Recorded: 16 Jan 2003

Well, I think this is many obviously—as many different scientific lives and minds as there are scientists. I mean, I don’t think there’s one philosophy.

For me it was always—as I said earlier, I just decided at a very young age on no evidence whatsoever that this is what I’d like to do. And never turned back from that. Now maybe that was just lack of imagination—failure of imagination, I don’t know. For me early on, I was quite selfish about science. I mean I just found it fascinating. And I just did any experiment that I found interesting without any real desire to save the world or to cure the common cold. In fact I’d always compared myself with a contemporaneous Ph.D. student and for her—she had to work on what she called “important applied research.” And it was actually much more difficult then to do that. And I couldn’t do the sort of experiments that she was doing because you couldn’t control them. You know, they were much more vague experiments and you couldn’t be sure that the answer was correct. Whereas for me I always had to do very precise science.

So for the first half of my scientific career it was just what turned me on. It was not a need to do good at all. But the funny thing is looking back—the thing I’m now most proud of is the tissue plasminogen activator work, because it is out there now finally. And it is saving lives. It was an amazing bit of science as well. And it was an amazing collaboration…

Mila Pollock: With Joe?

With Joe, with Doug Hanahan, with the people at UT Southwestern—Betsy Goldsmith who did the structural work, an amazing graduate student called Ed Madison who did most of the actual mutagenesis experiments there. Lots of people. The whole—the chief of cardiology there, who was really the one who, you know, in a sense moved it from the realm—for me and for Joe, I’m sure—you know, just an interesting protein into: this is crucial!

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.