Devil researcher stepping back from the front line

Devil researcher stepping back from the front line

At the end of July one of Menzies best-known faces, Tasmanian devil researcher Professor Greg Woods, hung up his lab coat and retired from full-time research.

Professor Woods completed his PhD at the University of Tasmania in 1984, “when computers were essentially high-end typewriters and only useful for playing games such as Pacman”. In 1988, Professor Woods accepted a lectureship teaching immunology at the University of Tasmania’s Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine. He has remained at the University, joining Menzies in 2005. As well as teaching immunology he studied human cancer, until 2006, when his research began to focus on the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease.

In 2011, Professor Woods was part of the five-member team that won the National  Eureka Award for Environmental Science.
In 2015 he was awarded the Australian Society for Medical Research certificate recognising Distinguished Service to Medicine, Science and Community. Other career highlights include being nominated for the Pride of Australia Medal in 2015 and nominations for Australian of the Year in 2016 and 2017. “These nominations tell me that someone in the community values my contribution to research and the community,” Professor Woods said.

His most memorable career highlights are those he has shared. “When a paper gets accepted, when a research grant is awarded, whenever postgraduate students graduate – especially those that I have mentored from their undergraduate years – or in a teaching session when there is great interaction with the students. They are the more important highlights for me,” he said.

Ultimately the goal with the Tasmanian devil research is to develop a ‘one-shot’ vaccine that can be used on wild devils and on captive devils that are to be released into the wild.  However a bigger challenge, as with all research groups, is to obtain sufficient research funding to enable the group to continue.

Professor Woods is retiring from his full-time role but will stay involved in the research and will continue to mentor postgraduate students. “I’ll miss the day to day interactions with staff and students. There are so many great people in the building,” he said.