Advocate for female researchers honoured
East Melbourne resident Mary-Jane Gething, a professor emerita of biochemistry and molecular biology at The University of Melbourne, said she was surprised and proud to have received an Australia Day award.
Prof. Gething was honoured with an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award for her “distinguished service to biochemistry and molecular biology, to tertiary education, and to the arts”.
While humbled to be acknowledged, she said it did come with some “embarrassment” as she questioned, “why me?”.
“I belong to the Lyceum Club and have met so many remarkable women there, any one of whom would deserve an honour as much as or more than I do,” Prof. Gething said.
Prof. Gething has led a distinguished career in the field of biochemistry and molecular biology and has a passion for the performing and visual arts.
“I enjoyed a very interesting and fulfilling career in scientific research, but the performing and visual arts were always important in my life, although, lacking the talent, never as a practitioner,” she said.
As the first female head of her department at The University of Melbourne and a dedicated researcher, Prof. Gething has continued to champion and advocate for young female researchers working in the biomedical sciences.
Prof. Gething’s research has also allowed the opportunity to support performers in the arts through The Joseph Sambrook Opera Scholarship, which she co-founded with her late husband after contacting the Melba Opera Trust.
“An important outcome of my research, and that of my late husband and scientific collaborator Joseph Sambrook, was a patent for improvement of a drug used to treat heart attacks and stroke by dissolving blood clots,” Prof. Gething said.
“The income we received from licensing the patent to biotech companies allowed Joe and me, and now our daughter Honor and me, to contribute financially to a number of causes close to our hearts.”
Thus, we have been able to support early career scientists and young opera singers to flourish personally and professionally at a challenging time in the development of their burgeoning careers.
Prof. Gething and Prof. Sambrook also founded the Gething-Sambrook Family Foundation, which in 2019 made possible the establishment of the MJ Gething Equity Award at The University of Melbourne’s School of Biomedical Sciences.
Among other notable achievements, in the mid-1970s Prof. Gething helped establish the London Rape Crisis Centre, a first for Great Britain, and more recently has supported Launch Housing’s Education Pathways Program which benefits children whose education has been significantly disrupted because of family and domestic violence. •