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About me

I am a behavioral geneticist focusing on child and adolescent psychiatry. I have been working as a postdoc at MEB since April 2015.

My background is in psychology. I completed by BSc in Psychology at the University of Exeter in the UK in 2009, followed by an MSc in Psychological Research Methods at the University of Exeter in 2010. I then completed my PhD in Behavioural Genetics at the UCL Institute of Education in 2013. I was supervised by Prof Tony Charman and co-supervised by Prof Angelica Ronald, and focused on the comorbidity between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Research description

I am broadly interested in neurodevelopmental disorders, with a particular focus on autism spectrum disorders (ASD). My research to date falls into three related areas:

1. Aetiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. I am interested in the degree to which genetic and environmental factors contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders, and have predominantly used twin methods to focus on this question. My recent focus in this area is on the hypothesis that neurodevelopmental disorders are the extreme manifestation of multiple continuous traits that are present to varying degrees throughout the population, and arise following strong exposure to causal factors associated with them. This research has shown moderate genetic links between subclinical traits of neurodevelopmental disorders and clinical diagnoses of these disorders using twin methods.

2. Development of neurodevelopmental disorders. In this area, I am interested in the emergence and subsequent development of symptoms of neurodevelopmental disorders, and potential differences in the etiology of these disorders at different periods of development. My work in this area has shown that ADHD has an early age of onset, even if when diagnoses are not received until adulthood, and that traits of ASD persist into adulthood, are almost as heritable as in childhood, and are influenced by a combination of overlapping and unique genetic influences between childhood and adulthood.

3. Comorbidity of neurodevelopmental disorders. A complicating factor in neurodevelopmental disorders is that they often co-occur with one another, with psychiatric disorders, and even with somatic diseases. My research in this area uses longitudinal twin methods to test various hypotheses to explain this comorbidity. I have found that traits of ASD and ADHD dynamically influence one another across development in childhood, and that ASD, ADHD, and their associated traits during childhood are genetically linked with the first emergence of symptoms of adult-onset disorders during adolescence. 

Teaching portfolio

I have previously taught on the VetU course in semester 5 of the medical program at KI, and currently offer supervision to undergraduate, Masters, and PhD students. Students who want to work on projects that use genetically informative designs are welcome to contact me to discuss potential projects. 

 

Education

2010-2013 PhD Behavioural Genetics, Institute of Education, London, UK

2009-2010 MSc (with Distinction) Psychological Research Methods, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

2006-2009 BSc (Hons) Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

 

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