Dr Renata Gomes, Chief Scientific Officer

Renata established the Research department in 2017. She is a medical and forensic specialist, and has sub-specialised in regenerative bio-medicine. She has a degree (Hons) in Forensic Medicine, and a MSc in Cardiovascular Medicine and Biology from University College London, as well as an international PhD in Regenerative Medicine and Biochemistry with the University of Oxford (UK), University of Coimbra (Portugal) and the University of Eastern Finland (Finland). Renata’s PhD was followed by a series of research posts in the UK and Internationally and she is currently studying for an executive MSc in Health Economics, Outcomes and Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in addition to Business and Disruptive Strategy at Harvard Business School.

Renata has over 13 years’ experience of international multidisciplinary research, clinical trials, and innovation programmes and is also a senior academic in medical sciences. Her non-executive experience includes conducting peer reviews, providing expert witness testimony, and as a government advisor on science, technology and veteran affairs. 

Dr Claire Castle, Senior Scientist (Social & Welfare Research)

Claire joined Blind Veterans UK in 2019. She has an undergraduate degree (Hons) in Music with the University of Birmingham, and completed a Master’s in Applied Psychology of Music at the University of Leeds. Claire was awarded the University of Leeds 100th Anniversary Research Scholarship which allowed her to pursue her PhD in Applied Psychology. Members of Claire's family are retired from or still serve in the UK Armed Forces, and so her research interests naturally focus on serving personnel and veteran health and well-being. The topics of accessibility, and the value of the arts in meeting positive well-being outcomes, remain key elements in Claire’s work at Blind Veterans UK. Claire is also a member of the Social Research Association.

Photo of Dr Claire Castle

Nikki Heinze, Scientist (Social & Welfare Research)

Nikki joined Blind Veterans UK in January 2020. She has a BSc (Hons) Psychology with Drama at Kingston University, and completed a postgraduate diploma in Psicoterapia Integradora (integrative psychotherapy) awarded by the Universitat de Girona, Barcelona. She then completed a MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Nikki has gained professional research experience as a research assistant in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at the LSE, followed by research roles at the National Centre for Social Research where she worked on large-scale population surveys including the Health Survey for England, British Social Attitudes and the International Social Survey Programme.

She gained further experience on smaller research projects such as analysing secondary gambling data to produce a report on Gambling Behaviour in Great Britain in 2016 and cognitive testing of questions for the National Survey for Wales, the National Travel Survey and the Health Survey for England. Nikki is a member of the Social Research Association and the British Psychological Society.

Dr. Theo Kempapidis, Scientist (Innovations)

Theo joined Blind Veterans UK in January 2019 as a Scientist (Innovations). He is currently conducting research using innovative technology to support the lives and independence of the the visually impaired and disabled community. His academic career started at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he studied Agriculture (BSc & MSci), with a focus in Animal Science and Molecular Biology. He has worked as a Junior Scientist at the Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine of the Medical School, University of Sheffield. He studied an MSc in Biological and Bioprocess Engineering at the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, followed by his PhD in Biochemistry, between the Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Animal and Plant Sciences, at the University of Sheffield.

Syeda Hussain, Scientist (Biomedical Research)

Syeda joined Blind Veterans UK in 2017, initially as a volunteer in the Research and Innovation Department, and subsequently as a Scientific Officer and Research Assistant before taking on the role of Scientist. She graduated with honours from Queen Mary University of London with an integrated master’s degree in chemistry. Her work is mostly in Biomedical Research and she focuses primarily on ocular trauma, sight loss and visual dysfunction in relation to traumatic brain injuries. She is an expert in systematic reviews and meta-analysis, has been involved in carrying out well-being surveys and works within clinical trials in metabolism and circadian rhythms.

Zara Raza, Scientific Officer (Biomedical Research)

Zara joined Blind Veterans UK in 2017, volunteering as a Junior Biomedical Scientist and then transitioned into the role of Scientific Officer. Her responsibilities include the production of information, which guides us in many areas of specialised research and development. She is involved in producing literature reviews, supporting the research team, and is an expert in systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Zara has previously completed a Nuffield Research Placement at St Guy’s Hospital, which initially inspired her interest in the field of research. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences, accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, and is currently working towards a Medicine MBBS degree.

Greg Swaysland, Research Assistant

Greg joined Blind Veterans UK in October 2020 as a Research Assistant. With an undergraduate degree in Engineering and MSc in Organisational Behaviour, he is currently undertaking a PhD in Organisational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. His thesis is exploring disability identity and self-efficacy in a career context. Prior to this Greg served for over 16 years in the Royal Navy, leaving as a Chief Marine Engineer, before spending five years as a Project Manager for a Tier 1 construction company. He is also a blind veteran.