IMAGINE a bitterly cold January morning in the late Sixties and a young Australian family - mother, father and two children (one four years old, the other 20 months) - arriving in Oxford having left the warmth of an Australian summer. This was when I first met Joan Mott, with whom I would work for the next two years as a post-doctoral fellow, writes Professor Eugenie Lumbers.
I came to work with Joan, at the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research, because of our mutual interest in the role(s) of the renin-angiotensin system during intrauterine life. In collaboration with Fiona Broughton Pipkin (now at Nottingham University), our research into this endocrine system flourished over the next two years.
On the day of our arrival in Oxford, Joan Mott took it upon herself to help us in every way. She had organised accommodation for us. She took us shopping in the snow because I needed to buy nappies and a pram for the youngest child and she helped in many other small but significant ways. As a mother of two young children, trying to combine career and family, I would most likely have spent the years of my postdoctoral studies within the narrow confines of the laboratory and the home. Joan's thoughtfulness saved me from that limited environment. Most importantly, she nominated me for a Junior Research Fellowship at Wolfson College. This meant that both my husband and I had the opportunity to become acquainted with the rich and varied life of an Oxford college.
At that time, Wolfson was a college with a difference: it was a graduate college, it was not burdened by traditions, it was new, and its accommodation was temporary, in a house on Banbury Road. Joan, like other fellows, led by Isaiah Berlin, was very committed to Wolfson and its future growth and development. It was a college full of vitality and fun.
Today, British, Australian and American governments, and scientific journals like Nature and Science debate solutions to the particular problems that face women scientists. The support and generosity that Joan Mott showed to my family and me helped us to overcome them.