Anita Woods


Assistant Professor
Chair of Undergrad Studies

BSc Honors in Genetics, Western University
PhD Skeletal Physiology, Western University

Office:  Medical Sciences Building 208
p. 519.661.4007
f. 519.850.3827


See Publications by Anita Woods on PubMed

Why Science?

In grade 8, a teacher told me that I would likely not be good at science because I was a girl. I remember not being angry about it at that time, but it did give me motivation to prove that wrong later. In grade 11, I decided to take a risk and enroll in a chemistry course because I was interested in it. To my surprise, I was good at it, and I was outcompeting the grade 12 students in the course. I decided to sign up for a biology course as well, and I loved it, and I thought maybe I could be good at science, and that is when my love for science really started.

I come from an ethnic group that believed that education was frivolous, and teens were not encouraged to go to school beyond grade 8. However, my parents separated from that type of thinking, and I was allowed to continue my education. That made me see education as power, and I understood how unique of a privilege it was. I was thankful to my parents for allowing me to continue my education. I was addicted to school and wanted to learn as much as I could, so after high school, I decided to go on to obtain an undergraduate degree at Western University. At university, I again viewed education as a privilege and something that I was allowed to do while other people couldn’t do, and I saw how much of a difference that made. I originally wanted to be a high school biology and chemistry teacher, but after I finished my undergraduate degree, I didn’t feel like I was done with school. I didn’t want to leave so soon, and I decided to stay for a master’s degree because it would help with my teaching career trajectory. I wanted to pursue research in molecular sciences because I loved genetics and biochemistry, and I was looking for a supportive mentor. I chose to work in Dr. Beier’s lab, and it really was a perfect fit for me. It was a great environment to learn in, and I was encouraged to transfer to Ph.D, something I may not have considered without having support. However, throughout my graduate school experience, the desire to teach had never left me, and as soon as I started my graduate school, I wanted to become a TA. Over the years, one of the courses that stretched me the most was working as a TA in a second-year human physiology course, since I had not taken a physiology course previously. I was challenged to learn the material, and then figure out a way to help explain what I had just learned to students. It was a foundational time for how I teach now as a professor.

Teaching Goals:

During my graduate school, I realized that learning how to learn is a skill, and this is what drives me now with students. It is great if students like what I am teaching and the content of the courses, but my bigger goal is to teach them to learn how to learn and to find joy in learning.

Undergraduate Teaching:

PHYS 1021– Introduction to Human Physiology (instructor)
PHYSPHARM 2000-Introduction to the Integration of Physiology and Pharmacology (instructor)
PHYS 3120 – Human Physiology (course manager)
PHARM3620- Human Pharmocology and Therapeutics Principles (course manager)
PHYS/PHARM 3000E –Physiology & Pharmacology Laboratory (lab rotation instructor)
PHYS/PHARM 4980E – Seminar and Research Project (course committee member)
DENTS 5161-Human Physiology (instructor)


Most Rewarding Moments:

I love seeing students gain confidence and thrive in their education. A number of years ago, a student came for help, as she had struggled and failed my first-year course. She told me that she thought it may be best to drop out of the program because she earnestly didn’t think she was smart enough. I talked her through and together we identified some mistakes she made in trying to learn. She had made herself busy with learning by rereading notes repeatedly and rewriting material, but she was not actually learning by doing that. She was busy, but not productive. I suggested that she implement some more efficient strategies for learning, and she tried that out and ended up passing the course the second time around, but what was more important is that she gained confidence. It drives me to see confidence develop in students and to empower students to be able to succeed. That student is now in her desired career, and I am so glad she did not talk herself out of it. I was just in the right place at the right time for that student to help her understand what she’s capable of, and that is so satisfying.

Advice to Students From A Professor’s POV:

Do not do the things that you think you should be doing or what is expected of you but pursue the things that give you joy. Do not be ashamed of what gives you joy and do not think that it is not a valuable thing to do. I do not talk about happiness; happiness is a passing thing, it goes away, but joy is unique and deep-rooted, and that’s what I want students to find

Interests outside of Academia:

I like to bake treats with my kids and to hang out with my family to play LEGO® and to go on family nature walks. I used to be involved in musical theatre, but I unfortunately no longer have time for that. So instead, I sing randomly, even sometimes in the middle of lecture. I like to relieve stress by weightlifting and going for walks.

Awards and Recognitions:

April 2022 – Alumni of Distinction Award, Young Alumni Basic Science
May 2021 – The Vice-Provost Award for Excellence in Online Teaching and Learning, Western University
May 2019 – The Vice-Provost Award for Excellence in Collaborative Teaching, Western University
March 2017 – Western's Teaching with Technology Award
May 2015 – Schulich Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching - Leader Award
April 2013 – Marilyn Robinson Teaching Award
April 2013 – OUSA Teaching Award