From studying in medical school to becoming a renowned scientific expert

Tim Spector
Spector poses with his award after being an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)Photo by Steve Parsons / POOL / AFP)

Professor Tim Spector is famous for many things — namely food and medical science- concerning the gut and microbiome (a collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi). 

Over time, he has positioned himself as a poignant and influential expert in genetic epidemiology, wrote books, headed a department at uni, and is a renowned food guru.

But how did it all begin? 

Tim Spector pursued medicine at the St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School. Source: Niklas Hallen/AFP

Where it all started

Spector pursued medicine at the St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School before securing the role of Consultant Rheumatologist. 

In 1983, Spector moved to Brussels for a year as part of the European Medical Rotation Scheme, where he practised General Medicine.

At that time, he was still a junior doctor and got transferred to Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc. 

Here, he met his future wife, Veronique Bataille, who was a student at that time.

Soon, he grew more interested in epidemiology — so much so that he completed an MSc in Epidemiology and did his MD Thesis at the University of London.

Finding the UK Twins Registry and a passion for journaling

In 1993, Spector founded the UK Twins Registry to explore gene discovery in traits and diseases. 

The registry is one of the largest collections of genotype and phenotype information on twins worldwide. Today, there are over 15,000 twins under the registry.

Specter excelled in his passion for epidemiology and became the Head of Department, Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London.

Today, the depth of his research has expanded globally and shaped expert opinions. 

What’s more, The Conversation states that Spector has published more than 800 research articles on common diseases. 

He’s also ranked in the top 1% of world scientists, according to the World Economic Forum. 

A world-leading expert in genetic epidemiology, Spector has written a few articles on the heritability of traits and diseases like back pain, snoring, acne, inflammation, obesity, and others.

He’s also authored books, “Spoon Fed”, “The Diet Myth”, and “Food for Life”. These books examine myths about food, diet, digestion, weight gain and health.

Take “Foood for Life”, for example. Spector writes as a foodie and not with the intention of telling people what to eat — a style that prompts readers to consider food for health, society and the planet. 

“Spoon Fed” exposes and debunks diet tips and misinformation.

Tim Spector

Tim Spector’s research has influenced the genetics field. Source: Karen Ducey/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

“The Diet Myth” features in-depth knowledge of the science behind what we eat daily. 

The book was inspired by a stroke he suffered while skiing in 2011 with his family. 

“Spector began having double vision at the top of a mountain and we realised it was something very serious,” Bataille told Guardian

“Luckily, he was fit enough to ski down and we quickly flew back to London for an MRI.”

Creating Zoe Health Study: An invaluable tool to combat COVID-19

Of all Spector’s contributions, the one that has probably been most prevalent in the last few years is being the man behind the Covid Symptom Tracker app, now known as the Zoe Health Study

The software was designed and launched in five days in April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic occurred. 

This app monitors the number of COVID-19 infections across the UK. Spector and his team are also uncovering how everyday behaviours can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, from cancer to dementia.

It is clear that Spector’s knowledge and passion for epidemiology have benefited many people around the world. Little wonder why he was elected Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.