A lifelong passion that began at Seymour

Professor Jenny Graves AC (Marshall, ’58) is a strong advocate and role model for changing the traditional landscape of gender inequity within the science industry.

Jenny’s journey to becoming a globally recognised pioneer

Professor Jenny Graves AC (Marshall, ’58), studied at PGC between 1954 and 1958 and has become one of Australia’s most prolific scientific figures.

After completing her Bachelor and Master degrees at the University of Adelaide, a Fullbright Travel Grant took Jenny to the University of California Berkeley, where she would complete a PhD in molecular biology. Joining La Trobe University in 1971, Jenny established a group working on the genes and chromosomes of Australian animals, which has delivered major new theories about animal sex and sex chromosomes. Moving to Australian National University in 2001, Jenny founded the Comparative Genomics department, and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Kangaroo Genomics. Returning to La Trobe in 2011 as Distinguished Professor and Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, Jenny is also a Professor Emeritus at ANU, Thinker-in-Residence at Canberra University and Professional Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Jenny has produced more than 400 research articles and several books. She has received many honours and awards including the MacFarlane Burnet medal in 2006, an AO in 2010 and AC in 2022, as well at the 2006 L’Oreal-UNESCO Prize for women in science and the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. She was elected to the Australian Academy of Science in 1999, and served on the Executive for eight years as Foreign Secretary, then Secretary for Education. She was recently elected to the US National Academy of Science.

Jenny combines her love of science with a love of music. She is a choral singer and sometimes a songwriter, and has just completed the libretto for a major choral work called “Origins” that showcases the beauty of scientific understanding of the Origins of the Universe, of Life, of Species, and of Man, to be premiered in Melbourne next July.

Jenny’s love of biology can be traced back to her time at Seymour. Whenever asked if a teacher inspired her decision to study genetics, Jenny always reflects on the story of Miss Doreen McCarthy, who taught Year 12 biology at PGC. Jenny admits to not being particularly fond of biology, until Miss McCarthy one day expounded on the patterns of colours you see when breeding budgies. In her own words, “I was hooked!”

Jenny is an incredible advocate for women in STEM and with her experience of often being the only female in many of her workplaces, implores the girls of today to work to blitz the misconceptions and stereotypes in a sector traditionally dominated by men.

From that very first lesson I was hooked!