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Our people

05 December 2023

Te Puna Toiora | Mental Health and Nutrition Research Team is backed by a world-class team. From Professor Julia Rucklidge to our graduates, meet our people.

Julia Rucklidge
Professor Julia Rucklidge

Julia is a Professor of Clinical Psychology in the School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing, and the Director of the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she completed her PhD at the University of Calgary in clinical psychology followed by a two year post-doctoral fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. In 2000, she joined the School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing where she teaches about child psychology in the Clinical Psychology Programme.

Over the last fifteen years, Professor Rucklidge has become well known for her research investigating the interface between nutrition and mental health, and has published over 150 scientific papers. Julia is also the recipient of numerous local and international awards, including named as one of the top 100 influential women in New Zealand in 2015, 2018 and 2021, the Ballin Award in 2015 from the NZ Psychologist Society, an award that recognises notably significant contributions to the development or enhancement of clinical psychology in Aotearoa New Zealand, and a Braveheart award in 2018 for her contribution to making Christchurch a better place to live. She is also frequently featured in the media discussing her work. Her 2014 TEDx talk has been viewed over 5 million times. She recently created a free EdX online course for the public on mental health and nutrition. Having witnessed conventional treatments failing so many people, Julia is passionate about helping people find alternative treatments for their psychiatric symptoms. Through her focus on translating research into practice, she hopes to help make nutritional interventions mainstream.

Roger Mulder
Professor Roger Mulder

Professor Roger Mulder is a Professor in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago, Christchurch and works clinically in the Consult Liaison Service at Christchurch Hospital. His academic interests include personality disorders, mood disorders, genetics, neurobiology, suicide, substance abuse, psychiatric aspects of medical illness and history and cultural aspects of mental illness.

Neville Blampied
Professor Neville M Blampied

Neville M Blampied is Professor of Psychology at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch NZ. His major research area for the past 20+ years has been in applied family psychology, notably pediatric sleep disturbances. Recently he has become concerned with methodological issues in research and has developed innovations in the visualization of data, incorporating aspects of the new statistics approach, that assist in understanding the outcomes of various psychological interventions.

In December 2012 he completed a 7-year stint as Head of Department (HoD) and member of the Executive of the College of Science, during which time he lead the Department’s research into the psychological effects of earthquakes. It is from this research that he developed a particular interest in the mental health benefits of nutritional and since retirement as HoD he has continued with active research in the Mental Health & Nutrition Laboratory.

He has also served as Director of Scientific Affairs for the New Zealand Psychological Society (2004-2010), as National President of the Association of University Staff (2000-2001), on the Board of the NZ Universities Academic Audit Unit (2001-2003), and was President, Division 6 of the International Association of Applied Psychology 2010 - 2014.

He has published ~ 100 peer-reviewed papers and chapters, and has supervised ~130 student theses and projects. He is currently co-editing a book on functional behavioural assessment and treatment of sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorder, to be published by Sage.

Aaron Stevens
Dr. Aaron Stevens

Aaron is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Gene Structure and Function Laboratory, University of Otago (Christchurch).  Part of his research focuses on chemical modifications that occur on our DNA (epigenetic marks) and human gut microbiome analysis. He is working in collaboration with the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab to investigate whether nutritional supplementation with micronutrients can influence these key aspects of human health.​

For more information on Aaron's research:

Nurina Katta
Nurina Katta

Nurina is a Masters student within Te Puna Toiora at the University of Canterbury. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Brussels, Belgium, and a Postgraduate Diploma of Science from the University of Canterbury (UC).

Nurina is passionate about the effects that nutrition has on the brain. As part of her Masters thesis, she is investigating the effects of a micronutrient formula on stress in undergraduate UC students. Nurina is excited to be involved in the first independent, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized controlled trial that explores the effectiveness of a new modality of micronutrients. 

The product tested in her research are powdered candy straws containing the micronutrients, and Nurina hopes that her study will add to the research on nutrition and psychological wellbeing.

Angela Sherwin
Angela Sherwin

Angela is a PhD candidate with Te Puna Toiora, the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.  As a mature student, Angela came back to study, after a career in broadcast media, with the aim of gaining a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology.  Enjoying the process of study, Angela quickly chose to do a double major in Psychology and Biology, topping that off with First-Class Honours in Psychology. 

During her Honours year, Angela became aware of a urinary component purportedly involved in mental health disturbance; with little research to back up its genesis and function.  A biological component with a psychological outcome - a perfect match to ignite Angela’s curiosity.

A large part of her PhD will be a double-blind, randomised, controlled trial investigating treatment of anxious participants using high doses of zinc and vitamin B6.  Angela will also work to accurately measure 3-ethyl-5-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-1,5-dihydro-2h-pyrrole-2-one, the urinary component apparently implicated in mental health disturbance, historically known as HPL.  The two parts of the trial will them come together to determine whether-or-not zinc and B6 supplementation can improve anxiety, whether-or-not HPL can be used as a predictor of anxiety, and whether-or-not levels of zinc and B6 in urine correlate with urinary levels of HPL.

Sophia Dawson
Sophia Dawson

Sophia Dawson is a PhD candidate with Te Puna Toiora, the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Sophia is also a Psychologist, and currently has her own private practice working with clients of all ages.

Sophia is passionate about researching how nutrition can impact mental health. As such, Sophia's PhD research is a pilot study exploring the impact of dietary intervention on symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The dietary interventions are centred on consumption of whole foods (and removal of ultra-processed foods), and are delivered sequentially in a stepped-care approach. Sophia will also be measuring biomarkers exploring vitamins, minerals and metabolic health, and whether these are implicated in dietary change and OCD symptom severity.

Graduates from the Mental Health and Nutrition Research Lab
  • Taryn Hale
  • Dr Pip Reihana
  • Dr Hāna Retallick-Brown
  • Peati Mene-Vaele
  • Alison Carley
  • Dr Heather Gordon
  • Dr Amy Romijn
  • Rachel Harrison
  • Joanna Lothian
  • Amy Harris
  • Ellen Sole
  • Grace McNatty
  • Sarah Dymond
  • Shelby Hantz
  • Dr Kathryn Darling
  • Dr Meredith Blampied
  • Dr Hayley Bradley
  • Dr Siobhan Campbell
  • Klara Richter
  • Jess Heaton
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