Meet our (genius) research team.
Learn the science. From the scientists themselves.
Dr Alejandra "Alex" Ruani, LLD
Lead Scientist and Research Director
- Nutrition biochemistry
- Food and eating addiction
- Nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics
- Genetics of nutritional diseases
I lead our research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where the team and I make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. I love everything to do with nutritional sciences, cravings and appetite neurochemistry, and nutritional epigenetics (how food compounds switch genes on and off).
Originally from Argentina, with Italian ancestry, I’m a Harvard-educated scientific researcher who is fanatical about the latest developments in nutrition biochemistry, eating psychology, and personal genetics. What not many people know about me is that I’m also a qualified lawyer (SRA registered) and that I was an Executive Director at JP Morgan’s investment bank in London City, UK. Why do I share this? Because I’m living proof that it’s never too late to change careers and do something new. 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.
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 absorb copious amounts of data, filter out all the fluff and make it relevant to each individual because I believe that everyone is different. Besides, what's the point of science if it doesn't get translated into something usable? Which explains why I'm so obsessed about teaching personalised nutrition strategies to our students. Because, when it comes to nutritional advice, personsalisation is the only way. You'll often hear me say, "If it’s not personalised, it’s not effective."
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, Bella, and The Sun.
I love to talk science (I think it’s fun!) and if you want to learn the latest from the scientists themselves, stick around.
Dr Michelle de la Vega, PhD
Research Scientist and Lead Instructor
- Cancer and molecular biology
- Preventative nutrition and lifestyle
- 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.
This has inspired me to bring practical science closer to those who have been touched directly or indirectly by cancer. 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? I have developed and taught university courses on cancer biology focusing on all aspects of the disease: epidemiology, genetic and cellular changes, treatment and prevention, including the nutritional components.
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.”