La Trobe geneticist receives prestigious honour

La Trobe University geneticist, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science winner, Distinguished Professor Jenny Graves AC, has been awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s Ruby Payne-Scott Medal and Lecture.

The award is one of the Academy’s highest honours and is given in recognition of Professor Grave’s incredible contribution to the biological sciences.

The Academy recognises Professor Grave’s position as an international leader in the comparative genomics of vertebrates and in particular her work demonstrating Australian animals are a powerful source of information for investigating the evolution and mechanisms of sex chromosomes.

Through her study of kangaroos, platypus, dragons, Tasmanian devils and more, Professor Graves has made fundamental discoveries including how the X chromosome is genetically silenced in female mammals, and that the Y chromosome is decaying and could ‘self-destruct’ in a few million years.

La Trobe Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Industry Engagement, Professor Susan Dodds congratulated Professor Graves on her outstanding achievement.

“It is wonderful to see Distinguished Professor Graves receiving this second prestigious award from the Australian Academy of Science, following her 2006 MacFarlane Burnet Medal,” Professor Dodds said.

“While her research focuses on Australian animals, Jenny is truly a global leader in the field of animal genomics. Her work has led to important discoveries about sex chromosomes, sex determination and the environment.

“Above all, Jenny has an infectious passion to explore unexpected avenues in her research and to share the joy of discovery,” Professor Dodds said.

Professor Graves said she was honoured to receive this prestigious award.

“I’m thrilled to be the recipient of the Academy’s Ruby Payne-Scott Medal,” Professor Graves said.

“I find the belated recognition of Ruby Payne Scott’s work particularly inspiring; a lesson in perseverance that has also been important in my career as a woman in science.”

About Professor Jenny Graves, AC

Professor Graves received Australia’s most coveted prize for science, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in 2017, the first woman to individually recognised for this honour. She was also awarded the Macfarlane Burnet Medal from the Australian Academy of Science in 2006 for her contribution to research in the biological sciences and in the same year won the 2006 International L’Oreal UNESCO Prize for Women in Science. She was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1999 and has served on the Academy Executive, first as Foreign Secretary, then as Secretary for Education. Professor Graves was elected to the coveted National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the USA in 2019, one of only a handful of Australian scientists to receive this esteemed honour. She is a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe University and a role model and leader for women in STEM disciplines.
Professor Graves has published more than 430 scientific works, including four books, and has made seminal contributions to the understanding of mammalian genome organization and evolution, exploiting the genetic diversity of Australia's unique animals as a source of genetic variation to study highly conserved genetic structures and processes. Her recent work, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Canberra, explores epigenetics and sex determination, using reptile models that have sex chromosomes, but undergo sex reversal at high temperatures.

About the Ruby Payne-Scott Medal and Lecture

The Ruby Payne-Scott Medal and Lecture is a career medal awarded by the Australian Academy of Science that recognises researchers of the highest standing in the physical and/or biological sciences. Along with the Macfarlane Burnet and Matthew Flinders Medals, it is one of the most prestigious career awards of the Academy and honours Ruby Payne-Scott’s pioneering contribution to radiophysics and radio astronomy. The Lecture is given at an Annual General Meeting of the Academy and complements that of the other prestigious awards.

Read more about the Australian Academy of Science's latest awards here.

Media contact: Kate O’Connor – k.o’, 0436 189 629