Meet our (genius) research team.

Learn the science. From the scientists themselves.

Alex Ruani, PhD cand Nutr Sc Ed

Research Director, Chief Science Educator

  • Nutrition biochemistry
  • Appetite and eating psychology
  • Nutrigenetics and microbiomics
  • Behavioural neuroscience

I lead our research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where our team of accomplished scientists and PhDs and I make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for 166,790+ working and aspiring nutrition professionals so they can stay on top of evidence-based advice and get ahead of the curve. I love everything to do with nutritional sciences, cravings and appetite neurochemistry, and nutritional epigenetics (how food compounds switch genes on or off).

Originally from Argentina, with Italian genetics, I’m a Harvard-educated scientist and UCL researcher who is fanatical about the latest developments in nutrition biochemistry, eating psychology, and personal genetics. My Master's and PhD studies are specifically on nutrition science education. As a scientist and science educator, I never hesitate to invest my time, my brain capacity and my finances into the absolute BEST scientific resources possible... Why? So I can pass my knowledge and teach everything I know to our amazing students. The work we do at The Health Sciences Academy is so meaningful and fulfilling, and I love waking up every morning knowing that I am making a difference.

What not many people know about me is that I’m also a trained lawyer (solicitor and barrister).  Thanks to my legal brain, I’m able to absorb copious amount of data and to spot mistakes, inconsistencies and unproven claims quickly. This trait comes quite handy in my job as a nutrition science educator: debunking misinformation and false beliefs about nutrition is one of my top strengths.

The reason why I started living and breathing nutrition sciences is because there’s just so much junk science out there: from the news, “evidence-based” blogs, coaching schools and even "celebrity doctors". Did you know that most of that information is pulled out of context, oversimplified, misinterpreted or just made up – up to the point of endangering your health? They say my virtue (or my curse!) is that I can smell a fad in two seconds… As a result, there are zero – and I mean zero – websites that I follow other than high-impact scientific journals. I’m passionate about cutting through bad science, myths and misconceptions, whilst emphasising the key research and context in which scientific studies are written. I have the ability to explain the research in practical terms and make it relevant to each individual because I believe that everyone is different.

Otherwise, what's the point of science if it doesn't get translated into something usable? Which is why I'm so obsessed about teaching personalised nutrition strategies to our certification students. Because, when it comes to nutritional advice, personsalisation is the ONLY way... In fact, you'll often hear me say: "If it’s not personalised, it’s not effective."

Besides my doctoral research at University College London, I continue leading a large number of educational and publishing projects, including the curriculum design for 15+ accredited certifications and 60+ continuing education courses helping nutrition professionals to stay on top of evidence-based nutrition and stand out in the field. I've also written 50+ science books and 1,000s of commentaries on trending scientific topics, and I'm regularly invited to deliver talks and workshops for major organisations like Food Matters Live, UCL and UKHCA.

I am also a REPs qualified personal trainer and during my spare time advise elite athletes, including those who have Olympic ambitions; this comes from my own childhood dreams of becoming a gymnast (inspired by perfect-10 Nadia Comăneci). I am in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Food Matters Live and other major publications like the Nutrition Society, and often interviewed by Insider, Bella and The Sun to set the record straight.

I love to talk science (I think it’s fun!) and if you want to learn the latest from the scientists themselves, stick around... or start here :-)

Dr Michelle de la Vega, PhD

Research Scientist and Science Educator

  • Cancer and molecular biology
  • Preventative nutrition and lifestyle medicine
  • Nutritional epigenetics
  • Published 12 scientific studies

My passion for science and biology began before I even knew it was happening. I spent my summers growing up in a trailer surrounded by nature, questioning everything.  This interest led to my pursuing an undergraduate degree in biology and my introduction to research. During my first three years of lab work at the Harvard Cancer Center, I compared the effects of nutritional compounds on normal cells and on cancer cells. Later on, in my PhD studies, I investigated epigenetic changes in cells and how they lead to cancer. In 2009, I received a PhD in molecular biology from Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. My further post-doctoral studies have focused on looking at alterations inside of cells that occur due to diseases like cancer, and I have since published 12 studies in high-impact scientific journals.

The more we know about our bodies, the better chance we will have at living a healthy life. That is why I got into teaching. I love learning about ways to make ourselves the healthiest we can be, so why not share all the knowledge? Besides training junior scientists in the lab, I have developed and taught university degree courses on cancer biology, focusing on all aspects of the disease: epidemiology, genetic and cellular changes, treatment and prevention, including the nutritional components.

I'm the proud Lead Instructor of our Nutrition for Cancer Prevention and Longevity Certification. We developed this advanced certification because of questions we get all the time at The Health Sciences Academy: “Does this thing/ingredient/diet CAUSE cancer?”; “My relative got cancer but has NO idea what to do. What should she eat?”; “Will I get cancer if it’s in my GENES? Do I need treatment now?”. Yes, we get questions like these even from medical doctors and university-trained dietitians! Questions like that inspired us to bring practical science closer to those who have been touched directly or indirectly by cancer...

The oldest description of cancer dates back to 1600BC in Egypt and yet we still don’t know that much about this disease. In fact, cancer is not one disease, but is a group of 200 different diseases. No two people even have the exact same cancer due to no two people have the same body.  Most of the research out there is looking for treatment, but why look for treatment when we can prevent it?  Up to 80% of cancers may be preventable from lifestyle factors like good nutrition and exercise.  The proverb, “an apple a day will keep the doctor away” is pretty close to truth because apples (and other fruits and vegetables) have nutrients and vitamins to help fight off diseases like cancer. Moving your body not only helps to burn off excess fat, but also increases your cells ability to repair themselves. And much of this repair happens when you sleep, so make sure to get a good night’s rest.

In my spare time, I train to run marathons and practise martial arts, and once won the British National Taekwondo Poomsae Championship (2009).

Remember to take the best care of yourself that you can and follow Dr. Seuss’s advice. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Dr Josephine "JoJo" Head, PhD

Research Scientist and Science Educator

  • Evolutionary biology and diets
  • Food and nutrition science
  • Behavioural change
  • Published 15 scientific studies

Originally trained as an Anthropologist at Durham University, after graduating I was keen to pursue a career in Primatology - a decision which led to me living in the rainforests of Central Africa for the next seven years. After volunteering for six months in the Republic of Congo with chimpanzees orphaned by the bushmeat trade, I went on to work in Gabon for the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology. Here I established a new project in Loango National Park, where I studied the feeding ecology and habitat use of wild chimpanzees and gorillas and completed my PhD. Together with my colleagues at the Max Planck Institute I published the results of my research in high quality scientific journals. This work was my first introduction into the field of diet and nutrition, albeit with apes and not humans!

So how did this background lead to my working at The Health Sciences Academy? I have always had a particular interest in the evolutionary basis of human nutrition, health and disease, and how evolutionary adaptations which were once advantageous to our survival (e.g. laying down fat easily) have become so detrimental to human health in the modern world that we live in. I am also very interested in the interface between personal health, the environment and animal welfare, and I am passionate about increasing people’s engagement with these issues when making food choices. But I feel that consumers can quickly become overwhelmed by the mass of complicated and contradictory information which is thrown at them by marketeers and tabloid journalists, and I believe there is an urgent need to reduce this disconnect, filter out the fads and provide a solid understanding of the science of nutrition.

So working for The Health Sciences Academy was a very natural progression for me, a place where I can equip students with a sound scientific knowledge about the food they consume, combine my skills in critical research and writing with my passion for nutritional sciences; and where I can reach out and share fascinating insights with those who also want to make a difference.

Dr Laurent Dumartin, PhD

Research Scientist and Science Educator

  • Cancer biology / physiopathology
  • Biomedical science
  • Nutrition for disease prevention
  • Published 6 scientific studies

I was born and grew up in a little village in the south-west of France where I actively enjoyed all the delights this region has to offer - sunshine, beach, mountains, culture and amazing food! It is natural that I early developed a strong interest for all the important aspects to a good quality of life.

Passionate about health sciences, I received a PhD in Cellular Biology from the University of Bordeaux. To pursue my career in scientific research, I then decided to move to London and now work as a cancer researcher at the Barts Cancer Institute, a world-renowned centre in the field. My research studies have been published in the best scientific journals and cited by top leading scientists. My main focus is to understand the earliest mechanisms and causes of disease development. Understanding how a disease starts is a prerequisite for its prevention. I therefore became a nutrition enthusiast for both professional and personal development. The influence of nutrition on health is scientific evidence. However, people can often feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of nutritional messages they receive every day.

To nurture my passion for communicating science, I joined the Health Sciences Academy as a Contributor. I enjoy using my expertise and love for teaching to help people make simple and healthy food choices for them, their friends and family.

Dr Chinmay R Munje, PhD

Research Scientist and Science Educator

My zeal for research started early. As a kid I would, almost innocently, question everything – much to the annoyance of my teachers and peers. For my undergraduate, I learnt the dynamics of the human body, specifically in context of disease, when I studied Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Lancashire (Preston, UK). I graduated with honours in 2008 and then pursued my doctoral studies to characterise the role of stress proteins in cancers, and graduated in July 2011 from the same university. As my career progressed I was involved in several research projects ranging from nanotechnology, pharmacy, arthritis, and stem cell biology and blood cancer. As a scientist, I love understanding the pathways/molecular mechanisms associated in a disorder. Why, When, What and How? These questions have been the driving force behind me. Solving problems, entering uncharted territories and pushing the ‘knowledge’ forward are some of the things I love.

I began to realise how food can treat various health problems, going back to Hippocrates dogma that ‘All disease begins in the gut’. I stumbled upon The Health Science Academy in my quest to gain more knowledge about nutrition and fitness. Things soon changed when I noticed a job vacancy and today I am a proud contributor at the Health Science Academy. With them I am able to address the health questions/concern that surrounds us. We aim to filter out ‘junk’ theories and focus on providing clear, succinct and precise information. I believe that knowledge is the ultimate power, with the right education we can make the world a healthier place to live in.

So come on board and feel empowered: ‘To find yourself, think for yourself" – Socrates.

Dr Peter H. Kay, PhD

Research Scientist and Science Educator

I was born in the UK and in the early part of my scientific career, I specialised in blood group serology and haematology. In 1974, I moved to Australia to establish a kidney transplant unit at the Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia. I later became a member of the Department of Pathology at the University of Western Australia, specialising in Immunopathology. In the late 1980s, I was awarded my PhD on immuno-genetics.

In 1989, I founded the first Molecular Pathology laboratory in Western Australia in the Faculty of Dentistry and Medicine at the University of Western Australia. I remained as Head of the Molecular Pathology laboratory until I retired from Academia in 2001. During that time, I conducted world-class research into tissue regeneration, genetics and epigenetics (especially with respect to DNA methylation), cancer biology and molecular genetic aspects of cancer diagnosis. I supervised well over 20 PhD students and helped launch their scientific careers in many areas of clinico-pathological research.

As part of my supervisory role, I always taught my PhD students the importance of scientific ethics and explained their responsibilities as future senior scientists. For example, I taught them how important it is to properly acknowledge the intellectual contributions of others. I also gave students the confidence to develop original thought processes and critically assess the validity of information. Thinking originally means that you shouldn’t accept news headlines or hear-say as the final truth. Instead, it is critical that you equip yourself with the necessary skills to become an independent thinker. At The Health Sciences Academy, we recognise the importance of critical thinking and offer world-renowned educational programmes to teach you how to develop critical assessment qualities.

Because of the scientific quality and originality of our work, I and my PhD candidates are proud to have published 93 papers in world-class scientific journals.

In recognition of the fact that I had become skilful in distinguishing between bad science and good science, I was invited by the National Health and Medical Research Councils of Australia and New Zealand as a senior peer reviewer to assess the suitability and validity of new scientific research and many grant applications for funding. I undertook these assessments over many years. Now, as part of The Health Sciences Academy team, I am delighted to be able to contribute the results of these experiences to our educational programmes.

Hybrid vigour is one of the most important biological phenomena ever recognised. It involves the breeding together of two genetically different members of plant or animal species. The application of hybrid vigour has enormous commercial and health benefits. Even so, after almost a century of research, it is still unclear what drives hybrid vigour. As a reflection of my original thinking, I put forward an exciting new way in which hybrid vigour may be brought about. The new proposed mechanism is shown in the submitted Patent Applications WO 2005/075668 and WO 2007/012138. As part of The Health Sciences Academy team, I enjoy discussing these possibilities with our students, showing them how I developed new original thoughts throughout my scientific career.

Finally, I am both a lifelong learner and a lifelong science educator. That is why I am proud to be part of The Health Sciences Academy’s team, so that I can fuel my curiosity and that of our students with new discoveries and add a further layer of teaching experiences.

Cassandra Ellis, MSc Nutr

Research Analyst and Science Editor

I studied Psychology as an undergrad which I thoroughly enjoyed learning. We learnt so much about human behaviour, it was fascinating. But we didn’t only learn about the behaviour, we learnt about the biological mechanisms behind these behaviours which affect decision making, how we perceive things, how we feel… (I could go on!).

Armed with this knowledge, and a passion for nutrition which I had never lost, I studied for an MSc in Human Nutrition. Combining these two disciplines has allowed me to focus on what motivates people when it comes to food choice, how the food industry affects the nutrition decisions we make (their goal is to make money after all), and how we can use intervention strategies to improve public health.

My MSc thesis was on the effects of cost led marketing on macronutrient intakes.  After many weeks of interviewing individuals on the key motivators for their purchases, it was clear to me that people were confused by an overload of conflicting nutrition messages leading their decisions to be made from the pocket, rather than the (healthy) heart.

It is important to me that people understand the importance of good nutrition for their health. To understand that, they must know what good nutrition is. This message should not be based on preconceptions or marketing schemes, it must be based on scientific research. And this research must be currently interpreted and communicated. It is the responsibility of researchers and science communicators, to help the public make informed decisions and about their health.

That is why I am driven by research, but more importantly, how that research is disseminated and communicated, and believe our work at The Health Sciences Academy plays a vital role in helping individuals understand how to use nutrition to support their health.

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