Women In Science …

Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson presents her award to Professor Jenny Graves at the 2007 event at Melbourne Convention Centre.




COMPERE: Well, in an age where people don’t tend to think very much it must be great to have a title The Australian Thinker of the Year. And Jenny Graves, Professor Jenny Graves, of the Australian National University has won that coveted title. Congratulations to you.
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Thank you very much.
COMPERE: How does one win the Australian Thinker of the Year, Jenny
PROFFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Well, it was a bit of a surprise for me too I must say. I am a scientist of course and I guess thinking is my business. I – my business is thinking new thoughts and making new observations and new interpretations and new theories and then thinking about the next big question.
COMPERE: Now, you’re the lady that thought about the possibility that the Y chromosome might not be around for much longer which means us blokes could be a thing of the past.
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: [Laughs] Well I think blokes will survive, but not the Y chromosome. You don’t actually need a Y chromosome to survive. You’ll be happy to hear that.
COMPERE: Oh, that’s food for thought then. That’s good, it gives me a reason to exists.
What about your kids, do they think you’re a thinker?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Well, they laughed like mad when I told them and they said something like, she can’t even program her mobile phone.
COMPERE: Or use the DVD player in my case.
COMPERE: How much time do you spend thinking? And a lot of people would be at work and kind of feel guilty by just sitting back on the chair and having a bit of a contemplation about what they’re going to do next. How important is that?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Well, I think you think all the time, it’s just a question – the direction of your thinking and I guess I spend a lot of time in the shower thinking and there are problems that I think about that I don’t let go of and maybe that’s the difference between being a scientist is that you have these problems require thought and you need to follow them all the way through.
COMPERE: I was always taught if you had a problem, the best thing to do was to think about it immediately before you go to bed and then just put it to the side and then when you wake up in the morning there’ll be a solution. Do you subscribe to that?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: [Laughs] I think problems – you sit around waiting for solutions and I do think that you can come on those solutions at any time and I often do, you know, get my brain cranking up in the morning and it does often have solutions that weren’t there the night before. I think there’s something in it.
COMPERE: All right. Do you have a thinking position?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: [Laughs] Well, really any position is a thinking position. I often find I am thinking as I go catch a bus or sit on the plane or suddenly something will pop into my head when I am talking to somebody else about something quite different.
COMPERE: Do you hum a lot?
COMPERE: Do you really?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Has that got something to do with thinking?
COMPERE: I think so, yeah. What kind of humming do you do?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Well, I am a singer so, you know, I have music in my head the whole time. And sometimes it comes out my mouth and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s alway there.
COMPERE: Give us an example.
COMPERE: Hey I’ll pose a question to you seeing you are the Australian Thinker of the Year. Which is the other side of the road?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: The other side of the road, I am looking at it right now.
COMPERE: [Laughs] Is the grass always greener on the other side, Jen?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Yes, I think so. Every horse knows that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
COMPERE: Ah, well, done. And now you’ll be going around Australia and everywhere you go now people would say, what do you think about this, Jen? And if you don’t have an answer you’ll be in strife.
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: I’ll have to think of an answer, won’t I?
COMPERE: You will indeed. Congratulations.
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Thank you very much.
COMPERE: And do you get a trophy?
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: Not that I know of but they have a really cool party on 4 July.
COMPERE: Sounds like fun. Hopefully…
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: It sounds like fun. All my friends and relations are coming.
COMPERE: That’ll give you plenty of time to think about it before you get there, obviously.
PROFESSOR JENNY GRAVES: You bet, thinking about it’s half the fun.
STEVE MILLS : Good on you. Congratulations and we’ll talk again soon.
COMPERE: Isn’t she a nice lady?
STEVE MILLS : She’s a doosy. I wonder if there’s an award for a ponderer, I like to ponder.
COMPERE: Ponder. Is there a difference between pondering and thinking?
COMPERE: I think pondering’s more light-hearted. I don’t think you’re necessarily having to make a decision when you ponder something, compared to thinking.
COMPERE: You’re talking about the meaning of life?
COMPERE: Well, see you ponder things like that, you don’t come up with an answer, you just ponder, you throw around a few things around in your head. But when you think of something, when you’re thinking, you’re trying to come up with a solution or resolve something.
COMPERE: You’d have a lot of time in the truck though, when you’re driving around, to think.
COMPERE: Oh, my word, yes. And I think a lot.
COMPERE: Do you, about what?
COMPERE: You think about money a lot. Do you find you think about money, how to make more, how to use it better.
COMPERE: Only when I haven’t got any.
COMPERE: Do you think about how to be a nicer person?
COMPERE: Yeah, some days. I think a lot at the race track.
COMPERE: At the race track?
COMPERE: How I am going to get home, how am I going to explain I’ve got no money left.
COMPERE: How are we going to buy the groceries now?
COMPERE: Do you reckon most people would think on the throne, though? I mean, was that the major spot where you do a bit of thinking?
COMPERE: See, I reckon that was – you did well, you stayed away from the obvious smutty humour that could have fallen trap there because that is one of the spots where a lot of people would think.
COMPERE: The worst place I believe to think is in bed even though you do reflect on things that have happened to you during the day. But if you really – you know when you get into a oh, I wonder if, scenarios and you’re lying in bed it’s difficult to get to sleep.
COMPERE: And if you’re thinking bad things, it is hard to fall asleep.

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