Mary-Jane Gething - TC '65

Having a mother who flew Spitfires as a ferry pilot in World War II England, Mary-Jane Gething believed that women could do anything they wished. On leaving school Mary-Jane studied science at the University of Melbourne, majoring in chemistry and biochemistry, and then went on to complete her Honours and a PhD in Biochemistry....

Having a mother who flew Spitfires as a ferry pilot in World War II England, Mary-Jane Gething believed that women could do anything they wished. On leaving school Mary-Jane studied science at the University of Melbourne, majoring in chemistry and biochemistry, and then went on to complete her Honours and a PhD in Biochemistry. Her university years coincided with the beginnings of the women’s movement in Australia, and so Mary-Jane became an early member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby. ‘I’d noticed that of the small number of senior women academics I’d encountered at the university, most were either unmarried or childless, so I joined the newly founded Community Controlled Child Care group – a collective dedicated to persuading government, industry and the public that women could not play a full role in society without the availability of high-quality child care.’ In 1973 Mary-Jane became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Shell Scholarship in Science and Engineering to undertake postdoctoral research in England. It was here she began to use the emerging techniques of recombinant DNA to study protein structure and function and began a career-long scientific collaboration with her future husband, Joseph Sambrook. Mary-Jane’s women’s movement activities also continued as she helped to establish the first Rape Crisis Centre in London. In 1981 Mary-Jane moved to the USA, where her daughter was born. Working alongside Joe, a major outcome of their work was the generation of variant forms of an enzyme whose function in the body is to dissolve blood clots. Their patent for an improved form of the enzyme was licensed by biotech companies to produce pharmaceuticals that have been used for nearly twenty years to successfully treat heart attack and stroke. When the family returned to Melbourne in 1994, Mary-Jane rejoined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Melbourne, serving as the first female head of the department.

Mjgething Tc140 Portrait