Dubbed the "Fly Room," Craig Woodard's laboratory is nearly always buzzing with activity. It's here that Woodard and his students breed the common fruit fly—Drosophila melanogastar—to study how steroid hormones affect animal development, analyzing genes that act to turn a fruit fly from a larva into an adult insect.
Says Woodard, "From what we learn we can make inferences about how genes are controlling the development of a human. By studying a model organism like a fruit fly we're learning the rules."
In 1997, Woodard's research won the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which honored the scientist with an Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award. The program aims to enhance academic careers "in which the excitement of research is enhanced by inspired teaching and enthusiastic learning." Recently Woodard won a three-year grant of $350,000 from the NSF to study tissue-specific gene regulation inDrosophila.
The company of flies hasn't dampened Woodard's interest in other pursuits. When he isn't dissecting maggots, lecturing, or supervising his research assistants, Woodard might be found plunging down a mountain bike trail somewhere in the Holyoke Range. It's one of the passions the wiry, energetic professor has managed to keep burning in his life as a teacher, researcher, husband, and father of two young boys.
Woodard's findings on Drosophila metamorphosis have been published in Cell, the Journal of Comparative Physiology, andPerspectives in Comparative Endocrinology.