Meet our (genius) research team.

Learn the science. From the scientists themselves.
Alex Ruani, PhD cand Nutr Sc Ed
Chief Science Educator, Co-founder
  • 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 UCL doctoral researcher who is fanatical about the latest developments in nutrition science and eating psychology. My current 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.

Dr Michelle de la Vega, PhD
Research Scientist (PhD) and Science Educator
  • Cancer and molecular biology
  • Preventative nutrition and lifestyle medicine
  • Nutritional epigenetics
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.
Dr Josephine “JoJo” Head, PhD
Research Scientist and Science Educator
  • Evolutionary biology and diets
  • Food and nutrition science
  • Behavioural change
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.
Dr Laurent Dumartin, PhD
Research Scientist and Science Educator
  • Cancer biology / physiopathology
  • Biomedical science
  • Nutrition for disease prevention
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.

Dr Chinmay R Munje, PhD

Research Scientist and Science Educator
  • Cancer and molecular biology
  • Biomedical science
  • Preventative nutrition
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.
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.
Cassandra Ellis, MSc Nutr
Research Analyst and Science Editor
  • Eating psychology
  • Consumer food choices
  • Nutrition and public health
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.

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