Our Science Advisory Council

Our research is guided by our Science Advisory Council, which includes some of the foremost academics globally on nutrition and the brain. It is chaired by our Board member Professor John Stein, and includes fellow Board members Professor Michael Crawford and Dr Alice Parshall, along with seven other leading scientists.


Professor Tom Brenna

Tom is Professor of Human Nutrition, of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and of Food Science and Technology at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA. He is also Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester (NY) School of Medicine and Dentistry.

In 2013, Tom received the annual Robert Herman Award for Clinical Nutrition from the American Society for Nutrition, and was appointed by the US Secretaries of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which advised on food policy for the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines.

Tom’s interdisciplinary research group focuses on studies of fatty acid nutrition in the perinatal period, especially polyunsaturatedfatty acids (PUFA) and their role in neural and retinal development. Their studies of the efficacy of highly unsaturated PUFA as structural components of the central nervous system have helped to define the mechanism by which these fats support optimal visual and neural function. He has developed tracer methods based on stable isotopes and uses these extensively in metabolic studies.

More recently, he has been interested in the nutritional role of saturated branched chain fatty acids (BCFA) and their possible influence on the early development of the fetal and newborn gastrointestinal tract. His group also focuses on the development of biomedical molecular, isotopic, and elemental mass spectrometry. They focus on developing high precision isotope ratio mass spectrometry for detection of endogenous steroid doping, and more recently molecular mass spectrometry for designer steroid detection.


Professor Graham Burdge

Graham is Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton. He graduated in Cell and Immunobiology from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth in 1985 and was awarded a PhD from the Department of Medical Oncology, University of Southampton in 1990. 

In 1987 he joined the Department of Child Health at the  University of Southampton to study pulmonary surfactant biosynthesis and phospholipid metabolism. During this period he developed an interest in polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism in pregnancy and in fetal development. This work included projects on the effect of ethanol exposure on the developing brain, and the effect of fatty acids on neuroblastoma differentiation. 

Graham then moved to the Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, where he carried out research on polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism in humans. He was awarded a British Heart Foundation Intermediate Fellowship in 2006, and was appointed Lecturer in Human Nutrition (2007) and Reader in Human Nutrition (2009).

His current research interest is the role of nutrition in determining the risk of non-communicable diseases. His main areas of research activity are the epigenetic regulation of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism, and the development of epigenetic biomarkers of disease risk. He is a founding member of an international research consortium on epigenetics and the developmental origins of disease, EpiGen, composed of the University of Southampton, the Medical Research Council, AgResearch New Zealand, the University of Auckland, and the Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences.

Graham is Editor-In-Chief of the British Journal of Nutrition and of the Journal of Nutritional Science, and joint editor of ‘Nutrition, Epigenetics and Health’.


Professor Stephen Cunnane

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Stephen obtained a PhD in Physiology at McGill University in 1980, followed by post-doctoral research on nutrition and brain development in Aberdeen, London, and Nova Scotia. From 1986 – 2003 he was a faculty member in the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, where his research was in two overlapping areas – the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and human health, and the relation between ketones, the very high fat ketogenic diet and brain development.

In 2003, Stephen was awarded a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center on Ageing, and became a full professor in the departments of Medicine and Physiology and Biophysics at the Université de Sherbrooke. The main themes of his current research are to use brain imaging techniques to study changing brain fuel metabolism and cognitive function during ageing, and to understand how and why omega-3 fatty acid homeostasis changes during ageing. He has published over 280 peer-reviewed research papers, and was elected to the French National Academy of Medicine in 2009.


Captain Joe Hibbeln

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Joe is a Clinical Investigator and Acting Chief of the LMBB/SNN at NIAAA. He received his M.D. at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and completed his residency in Psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles.

He has been the principal investigator of numerous studies at the NIH Clinical Center over the past 20 years, and has participated in extensive international collaborative clinical trials of omega-3 fatty acids for the prevention of suicide, postpartum depression, and violence. He is a primary collaborator in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in Bristol, examining the residual effect of nutritional insufficiencies in pregnancy in childhood neuro-developmental outcomes and relevant gene-nutrient interactions.

Joe was one of the first investigators to draw attention to the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in psychiatric disorders.


Professor Margaret Rayman

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Margaret has a doctorate in Inorganic Biochemistry from Somerville College, Oxford, and has held post-doctoral fellowships at the Institute of Cancer Research and Imperial College.  In 1998 at the University of Surrey she set up the highly respected MSc Programme in Nutritional Medicine, of which she is Programme Director, and since 2007 she has been Professor of Nutritional Medicine there. In 2014, she was appointed Visiting Professor at the First Affiliated Hospital, Xi’an Jiaotong University School of Medicine, in Xi’an, China.

Margaret’s research includes a number of randomised controlled trials, and centres on the importance of trace elements to human health with particular emphasis on selenium and iodine in populations with marginal selenium or iodine status. She has published widely on the effects of selenium on human health, including a number of highly-cited reviews in The Lancet. As part of her extensive work on iodine, her group found a significant association between mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency in UK pregnant women of the ALSPAC cohort, and poorer IQ and reading ability in the offspring at ages 8 and 9 (Lancet 2013).


Professor Andrew Sinclair

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Andrew is Professor of Nutrition Science in the School of Medicine, based in the Metabolic Research Unit at Deakin University. He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students, and supervises higher degree students.

Andrew is the Chair of the Australian Academy of Science, Nutrition Committee. He is an active researcher in a range of areas related to fatty acid metabolism in man and animals and the composition of foods (lipids and fat soluble vitamins). His latest research interests are in the role of essential nutrients in brain function (zinc, DHA), metabolism of DPAn-3, lipidomic analysis of chylomicrons and omega 3 fatty acid metabolism in fish and mammals.


Dr Peter Willatts

Peter studies the development of thinking and problem-solving in infants and young children as an Associate Professor at the University of Dundee. His special interest is on the development of strategies that infants use to solve problems, particularly those involving planning. More recently, he has extended this work to consider individual differences in infancy, and the relation of measures of cognitive ability in infants to childhood IQ. 

He is also interested in the role of nutrition in early development, especially the importance of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) in infant formula.