Researcher biography

Prof Hawkins is a medical graduate with postgraduate qualifications in Higher Education and Medical Science, and specialist qualifications in Anatomical Pathology (FRCPA). He is currently Director of the Office of Medical Education, within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland. He also leads the Biomedical Education Skills and Training (BEST) Network of online biomedical educators.

Nick is an experienced and innovative teacher of pathology in the undergraduate tertiary setting. He has a Master's Degree in Higher Education, and nearly 30 years of experience in the teaching of pathology to undergraduate students in both science and medicine. In his role as Convenor of Phase 1 of the Medicine Program at UNSW (2003-June 2007), he was responsible for the effective running of the first two years of medical student training at UNSW. He has a track record of innovation in the teaching of undergraduate Pathology, including production of the Images of Disease CD of over 3500 pathology images. Since 2012 he has led the Biomedical Skills and Training (BEST) network, a collaboration of universities (The University of Queensland, UNSW Australia, Melbourne University and James Cook University) and industry groups, along with their educational technology partner Smart Sparrow. The BEST Network is developing collaborative online educational resources to support undergraduate and postgraduate students in a diverse range of biomedical disciplines. After joining the University of Queensland in 2015 as Professor of Innovative Technology in Medical Education, Nick was appointed to his current role in September 2016.

Since completing his doctoral thesis in 1993 (NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship), Prof Hawkins has pursued research interests in the molecular basis of colorectal carcinogenesis. He has worked as a Visiting Research fellow at the Scripps Institute, La Jolla (1993), and at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London (1999). Drawing on his professional expertise in Anatomical Pathology, and his research training in molecular and cellular biology, he has pursued research in the correlation of histopathological features of colorectal neoplasia to the molecular characteristics of the disease. In this work, a key achievement has been the accumulation and documentation of a large series of colorectal cancer tissues that serves as the basis for the ongoing work of the research group. Using this tissue resource, he has been able to clearly demonstrate the critical role of precursor lesions in microsatellite unstable colorectal cancers. He and his colleagues have been at the forefront of descriptions of the phenomenon of CpG island methylation in colorectal cancer, and its biological significance. More recently, he has led efforts to develop processes for integration of biobanking and consenting processes within routine pathways of hospital care. He has over ninety publications in international peer reviewed journals, including first author publications in highest ranking journals in the fields of gastroenterology, pathology and cancer research. His work has been cited over 3700 times by other scientists (H Index 29). To date, he has obtained >$8M in peer-reviewed grant funding from diverse sources including NHMRC, Cancer Institute NSW and DEEWR.

Since 1996, a total of six PhD students, three Masters students and seven Honours students have successfully completed their degrees under his supervision. Active areas of research include colorectal cancer pathology and carcinogenesis; Genotype-phenotype correlations in cancer; Tumor immunity; Gene methylation in neoplastic progression.

Prof Hawkins is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, with specialist qualifications in Anatomical Pathology. The development of these professional skills has allowed him to better achieve his career goals in both research and teaching, and to maintain and further develop academic values within the profession of Anatomical Pathology.