Professor Stephen Wood is a Welsh-Australian, a category which includes such luminaries as Rolf Harris and Kylie Minogue.
In 1991 he went up to Cambridge to read Natural Sciences, where Stephen developed a keen interest in neuroscience. This was followed by a PhD at the Institute of Child Health in London, where he got to combine his clinical interest with neuroscience research through the study of children with temporal lobe epilepsy. As well as direct interaction with the children and their families, Stephen learnt various brain imaging techniques in order torelate memory problems to damage in specific regions.
In 1997 he left the UK for Melbourne, Australia to get married. With an almost-complete PhD and not much idea of exactly where and with whom he would work, he spent the first year of married life living with his grandmother-in-law downstairs from his wife’s parents.
After a couple of months in Melbourne he wrote letters to every person he could find who was leading clinical neuroimaging research in the city. He only got one reply, from a group at the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria, who were studying patients in the early stages of psychotic disorders. It turns out that this was one of the most fortuitous phone calls Stephen has ever received, as this group were at the forefront of research into the brains of people at ultra high risk for the development of psychosis. Stephen’s work in this field has resulted in major advances to our knowledge of the brain as people develop psychotic disorders, including ways to predict who is at greatest risk.
In 2010 Stephen accepted the offer of a chair at the University of Birmingham, and the chance to set up a new research group in collaboration with Prof Birchwood. He is now a Board Member of the International Early Psychosis Association, an Associate Editor at the journal Early Intervention in Psychiatry and recently co-edited a major book for CUP, called The Neuropsychology of Mental Illness. He has appeared on the ABC television science programme Catalyst, and in 2009 was a scientific advisor to and appeared on a five-part documentary series called ‘Whatever! The Science of Teens’.