With a longstanding interest in science, especially chemistry, Amina S. Woods, PhD, began her career as a chemistry associate in the clinical chemistry laboratory at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1969 to 1972 while a student at Loyola University Maryland. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry in 1972 and subsequently joined the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she earned a Master of Science in pathology in 1975. During this time, she was the supervisor of the enzymology laboratory at the University of Maryland Hospital from 1973 to 1975. Dr. Woods went on to serve as a teaching assistant in the chemistry department at the University of Maryland College Park from 1975 to 1976 and as a laboratory scientist in the clinical chemistry laboratory at the University of Maryland Hospital from 1976 to 1979.
In 1979, Dr. Woods joined the School of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University as a laboratory coordinator and supervisor in the division of clinical pharmacology. She returned to her studies in 1989 as a doctoral student in the department of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins and achieved a Doctor of Philosophy in pharmacology in 1992. Pursuing further training as a postdoctoral fellow in the oncology and immunology department in 1993, she additionally served the department as a research associate from 1993 to 1997. Dr. Woods was also a research associate in the department of pharmacology and molecular sciences from 1997 to 1999.
Dr. Woods became the director of the structural biology unit in the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, in 1999, a role she held until 2021. Throughout this time, she maintained her professional relationship with Johns Hopkins as an adjunct assistant professor and an adjunct associate professor between 1999 and 2013 and spent time as a visiting professor at Taipei Medical University from 2010 to 2013. Since 2013, she has served as an adjunct professor in the department of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins and has sat on the executive advisory board for the department of pediatrics and division of neonatology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine since 2016.
Over the course of her career, Dr. Woods has garnered significant expertise in brain processes and interactions and what happens when they don’t function properly. She has notably done work with mental illness and addiction, as well as traumatic brain injury. Some of her research highlights include discovering a way to block neuronal cell death in traumatic brain injuries, being the first the study brain lipids and developing a method to locate the lipids in the brain, and her work on the “biological magnets” observed in proteins. Her decades of research have made her a well-respected author, and her works have received more than 18,000 citations. Dr. Woods has contributed her expertise to a variety of publications throughout the years, including the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry and the International Journal of Mass Spectrometry.
Holding numerous patents, Dr. Woods maintains professional affiliation with the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities and the American Chemical Society to keep abreast of new developments in her field. She has also served on various committees and boards, such as the committee for finding a director of the Designer Drug Research Unit, the organizing committee of the 3rd International Conference on Neurology and Therapeutics, and the committee to evaluate recipients for the Henslow Research Fellowship Competition at Downing College of the University of Cambridge.
Attributing much of her success to the support she received from her husband, colleagues and mentors, Dr. Woods has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades. Most recently, she was presented with the Al Yergey Mass Spectrometry Scientist Award in 2023 and was previously acknowledged for her contributions in developing the field by the American Society for Mass Spectrometry in 2021. She also received several awards during her time with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, including the NIDA Director’s Award of Merit in 2012 and multiple Paper of the Month awards between 2011 and 2019. Dr. Woods was notably honored with a Woman Scientist Achievement Award in 2011.