Allison Cowin is a world leader in wound healing. She has worked in research for over 25 years, and currently leads a team of 12 research scientists and students investigating all aspects of wound healing and regenerative biology at the University of South Australia.
She obtained her PhD in Molecular Endocrinology at the University of Manchester before moving to Australia in 1996 with her husband, with a view to explore new experiences abroad for a short time. Allison initially received a three year contract in Adelaide within the CRC for Tissue Growth and Repair, however she went on to forge a career here in Australia rather than return to the UK.
While establishing a research team in Australia, Allison was also starting a family. As the primary caregiver to two young children, with no local family support, she took time off work and forwent conferences and networking events. While juggling work and family has been a challenge for Allison, with perspective she can see that the time spent out of her career was invaluable for her family and had little overall impact on a research career spanning over 25 years.. Her two children are now in high school, and she continues to support them while maintaining her career.
Following her contract with the TGR-CRC, she was awarded several grants and fellowships, including the first of many NHMRC grants, a fellowship at University of Adelaide, the MS McLeod Fellowship from the WCH Foundation, a Career Development Fellowship from NHMRC, and two more NHMRC senior research fellowships. Allison is grateful for these, as they have enabled her to have an independent and successful career in research.
Several years ago, Allison faced a big decision in her career: continue under existing conditions at The University of Adelaide, or take on new opportunities at the University of South Australia. This was a complete leap from what she was used to, but she saw an opportunity to take her research in a new direction. The negotiations with the universities weren’t easy, and she faced challenges in putting herself forward confidently as a woman to negotiate the terms she wanted.
She has continued her work at the University of South Australia for the past five years, and has been working on commercialising the outcomes of her research. Her experience has seen her translate strong, NHMRC-funded science into clinical outcomes and establish a spin-out company, AbRegen, of which she is Chief Scientific Officer.
Allison has always focused on finding solutions. For example, when Australia didn't have a society for wound healing that she could seek support from, she decided to establish one, and the Australasian Wound and Tissue Repair Society has now been in existence for 10 years. She has excellent experience in engagement, having worked with industry, clinicians and end-users. As a mentor, Allison is pragmatic, an excellent listener, and can offer her own perspectives on how she has navigated challenges. She is also an editor of a journal, so she understands the publishing process. Allison never really had a mentor, and is looking forward to the opportunity to give back to others.