Recorded: 16 Jan 2003
It was the time of women’s liberation and so on, so there was a lot of discourse about women’s role in life. But for me, my parents had never turreted me any differently than my brother in terms of aspirations and education and so on.
And also my mother had been a ferry pilot in the war in England flying spit fires and vampires—not vampires, it was a later aircraft. But typhoons and four engine bombers around England. So I knew that and I knew what sort of things that you know that women could do obviously from growing up with this tiny mother of mine who despite being tiny had flown in the war.
So I never had any great trepidation or feeling that women couldn’t do things. But I do remember that biochemistry department when I was an undergraduate there was actually unusual in having two or three women on the faculty. And chemistry for example and one in a much, much larger faculty. But those women—none of those women were married nor did they have children. And I remember thinking, is that a decision you have to make that you, you know, go on in science but you don’t have a family. And it was a clearly a decision I made quite late in my life to do, but, no, I wasn’t, and in our honors year, which is the year that precedes a Ph.D. It’s more or less the equivalent of a first year of a Ph.D. in the U.S. for example. We were nine women and one young man. Unusual, that was unusual but that was our year. And Liz Blackburn who most people will know is a very eminent scientist now was my lab mate there. We were undergraduates together.
So it wasn’t a great worry. It was sort of wondering what the future would bring. But not a worry that it wasn’t possible at all.
So the year I was in the honors class was 1969 and then I went on to do a Ph.D. in the same department, which is quite common in Australia unlike in—even to this day, unlike in America where students tend to criss-cross the country from the town where they went to school to where they go to college to where they go graduate school. It’s—in Australia people tend to live and stay through their studies in the same city.
And it was—there were interesting times, I mean, they—as I've said earlier it was the full flood of the women’s liberation movement. In fact I was I think the sixth founding member of a political organization that goes on to this day called the Women’s Electoral Lobby. And I also, despite the fact I was nowhere having children, I was also a founding member of the was called the Community Control Childcare because I did see that if I was going to have a family it was going to be necessary to have childcare and there was none basically at that 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.