Salford graduate to continue ‘first-of-its-kind’ research at Harvard Medical School
Alexander Woodman (pictured below) initially graduated from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with the prestigious Cum Laude and Chancellor’s Award, bestowed to those who have made significant contributions to the university. These efforts ranked him as one of the top performers in his class and in the top three percent of the UCLA graduating class.
Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, he received a scholarship to continue his graduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC). Although Los Angeles was the starting point, he looked to explore new frontiers of science, which led him to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – somewhere completely unknown to Alexander, that offered him opportunities to learn the history and culture, but most importantly, carry out his scientific research.
Alexander started to teach at a university in Al Khobar, the Eastern Province, when he noticed the Saudi youth shifting to adapt to a more western lifestyle, which included adopting unhealthy diets that could result in obesity. This led him to become increasingly interested in the health of the youth of Saudi Arabia.
After seven years of conducting scientific research and teaching, Alexander decided to undertake his doctoral journey in this very specific and unique geographic context. With extensive skills gained at UCLA and USC, he was extremely precise in choosing the university that would give him the knowledge, experience, and all the necessary tools to succeed in a rigorous doctoral programme.
Alexander states that: “I believe education in the United Kingdom has a special authenticity, deeply rooted in the minds of humanity, a distinct wisdom of reliable and proven knowledge that must be followed, adhered to, and trusted.”
He began a meticulous search, which led him to the University of Salford.
He added: “I chose to study at the University of Salford for my doctoral studies because of its academic excellence and expertise, particularly in relation to public health.”
Building on all of his knowledge and experience gained in Saudi Arabia, as well as his observations and reflections about the Gulf region, led to a novel research idea in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf population at large.
As a result, Alexander became the first researcher who aimed to explore the relationship between weight, nutritional behaviours, knowledge, and attitudes in relation to the Food Dome dietary guidelines among 18–25-year-old university students in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
“I can unequivocally say that my students inspired me to start this research, so I’m trying to improve their lifestyle as the future generation of Saudi Arabia.” He explained.
Since the results of his doctoral research were novel and to some extent contradicted established evidence, Alexander intends to continue his research on the causes of obesity in this region. He envisions that his PhD findings will lead to a development of interventions to support young people in making healthier food choices.
Hence, his vision for postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School is to investigate leptin gene mutations. Some of these mutations can lead to weight gain due to excessive hunger. Alexander also wants to explore the connection between one of the more common variants of this gene, G-2548A, with body weight, glucose levels and lipid (fatty compounds) profiles in overweight Saudis. Despite a large number of reports of LEP variants being associated with obesity in various populations, there have been few reports in Saudi Arabia, especially in the Eastern Province, where the rates of obesity are the highest.
Alexander’s background and research interests include inequalities in global health, reproductive health, molecular genetics, health policy development, and medical ethics. He is interested in the prevalence, trends, and factors of non-communicable diseases among Arab and Jewish populations in the Middle East.
Recalling his childhood and what he wanted to become before embarking on the path of research, Alexander believes that although he is fully engaged in science and medical research, he has also retained his creativity. For this reason, along with his research, he continues to meet people from all walks of life and has developed a deep sense of connection to explore their visions and aspirations. As a result, at all stages of his studies, from the University of California Los Angeles to the University of Salford, Manchester he always strived for harmony between science, arts, and culture.
Alexander emphasised that during his doctoral journey, the entire University of Salford team and faculty have put him in the best position to find and earn the meaning of each letter of the PhD, a simple term that encompasses volumes of knowledge and skills, stretching beyond the scope of the research aim.
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