Healthy Life

Meet Brain Health Network’s Director of Science and Research Impact: Professor James Goodwin PhD

April 5, 2024

Professor James Goodwin has a wealth of experience prior to joining Brain Health Network, having formerly held the position of Chief Scientific Officer at Age UK, and as a founding staff member of the Global Council on Brain Health – a collaborative between AARP in the US and Age UK.

He is an international speaker, science communicator and author, having presented at the UN, the WHO, and at numerous corporate clients. He is also author of the UK best-seller on brain health, ‘Supercharge Your Brain’, published by Penguin Random House.

We sat down with Professor Goodwin to find out more about his role at Brain Health Network and what his day often looks like as one of the most sought-after brain health academics.

​”When I was appointed as Director of Science and Research Impact at Brain Health Network, way back (it seems a long time now) in 2021, I had no idea really about how my role would work out.  I didn’t realise how varied the work would be, how challenging and frankly, how rewarding and motivating.  And I was going to be led by two of the nicest people ever in my career. So, unlike the experience of many in the workforce, I know I won’t be taken for granted, disrespected, sidelined or treated unfairly.  In fact, the opposite.  

This morning I had to get up early to get my ‘ducks in a row’ because I was going to be interviewed via Zoom by a Mail Online journalist who wanted to talk to me about what seems an unusual idea – scent and the brain.  How did she know how to contact me?  She mentioned the topic to someone at the Telegraph and was told, ‘get hold of Prof Goodwin – he always has some interesting ideas’.  So, we are going to get a prominent profile in the Mail Online for two reasons – I always try to forge good relationships and try to be helpful, plus having one or two neat ideas along the way doesn’t hurt.  The readers of the Mail will now get to hear how scent plays a massive part in our quality of life and our wellbeing, not to mention our brain health.  Did you know that women are so clever that through their combined visual and olfactory skills, they can actually ‘measure’ the level of testosterone in a potential partner?  There aren’t many things more important than relationships for health and wellbeing!

I would say, getting on with people is as important as the science I know.  I learned about people not from my academic background but from the Army, which I joined straight from university.  And I wasn’t sitting behind a desk. I was a ‘roughie-toughie’ infantry officer.  It taught me how to lead, how to team build and how to overcome challenges, all skills which put me way ahead when I left (to go back to university).  The parting shot I got from my CO when I left was, “Mmmm.  Academics. Know the chemical formula of marmalade but can’t get the top off the jar….”  It stood me in good stead.

After my journalist interview I had one of those unexpected, out-of-the-blue calls that make my role so rewarding – it was a call from a conference organiser in Norway, asking me to speak at the KATAPULT FUTURE FEST in Oslo at the end of May.  We had an interesting conversation.  She wanted me to speak to a mixed audience of entrepreneurs, business people, charities, academics and lay people about the future of health.  No pressure there, then! I agreed and it left me wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew.  But she did agree for a book signing which will add to the experience. And income (0.90p per book!).

Tomorrow I’m going to meet one of my heroes and one of the people who had a massive influence on my life.  It is Prof Sir Denis Pereira-Gray, Head of the Medical School at Exeter where I did my PhD.  He is one of the most influential people in Britain in General Practice and I will be trying to convince him to advise us as we try to produce a resource to support the 55,000 GPs in the UK, so that they can advise their patients on how to maintain their brain health, as they get older.   

Now at the end of the day, my favourite activity: walking my three year-old Rottweiler.  She has so much energy, shows me what’s important in life and keeps me fit.  Three rewards in one.” 

Next – Read ‘A day in the life of Professor Jeremy Spencer, Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry and Medicine at the University of Reading.