The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

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The Woolcock farewells its leader

The Woolcock farewells its leader

Tuesday, July 02, 2024

From mentoring students to mastering building codes, retiring Executive Director Professor Emerita Carol Armour reflects on the challenges and rewards of her time at the Woolcock.

Professor Emerita Carol Armour started her career in asthma research, investigating a wide range of topics from cellular mechanisms to the translation of new ways to treat asthma within the health system. She then contributed to the research community in a number of senior positions, including NHMRC Research Committee member and Pro Vice Chancellor, Research, at The University of Sydney, before taking up the Woolcock leadership in 2012.

During her 48-year career, Prof Armour has received numerous awards for her achievements. She was made a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society in 2005, awarded the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association medal for research in 2007, and made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant services to medical education in the 2019 Honours List.


Even with her many successes, Prof Armour admitted that her early days as Woolcock Executive Director were a steep learning curve.

“The board took me on 12 years ago. I was so naive; I look back a bit shocked,” she said.

“However, at every step, the board has encouraged and supported me, even though at the beginning there were so many things I didn’t know.”

Despite a challenging start, Prof Armour said her time as Executive Director had been overwhelmingly positive, especially her final major achievement shepherding the Woolcock to its state-of-the-art new facility at Macquarie University this year.

“I have had so many memorable experiences here at the Woolcock. The opportunity to work with the best people in research and a support team here who really care about the Woolcock and the amazing people in it,” she said.

“The experience of changing our affiliation and being involved in decisions about our new facility has been a highlight.

“I now know lots more about the details of a building project and learned about my valued colleagues, who stepped up to share the load to make this last project a success.”


After all her impressive achievements in research and administration, Prof Armour’s greatest legacy, and the one of which she is most proud, is in passing the torch to future generations. Her lifelong passion for mentoring and career development of staff and students was recognised in 2020 with the prestigious Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.

“Earlier in my career, I had the wonderful experience of speaking to undergraduates and then recruiting PhD students. It was a privilege to share the passion for research with someone who shared your passion and helped to make it a reality. Now those PhD students all have successful careers of their own,” she said.

“Later, I worked in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney to develop a whole program of support for NHMRC applicants and a mentoring program for early career researchers. In fact, some of the current researchers at the Woolcock were beneficiaries of those programs.

“Whenever I have had an opportunity, and I have been very lucky to have fantastic opportunities, I have tried to make life better for researchers.”

As Prof Armour retires from the Woolcock after a rewarding and successful career, she reflected on what she had learned.

“Research training changes you forever. A PhD enables you to problem solve. So at each step of my career I have used this to find solutions rather than see a wall or a barrier in the way,” she said.

“I have also made a lot of good friends and each one has made my many jobs so much easier and enjoyable.

“It’s been an amazing 12 years here. I have had experiences so wide-ranging it’s been unbelievable.

“Now it’s up to the next generation to continue – the Woolcock is in very good hands.”

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