Research

My research focuses alcohol use and related outcomes, like conduct problems in kids, depression, and other drug use, and how these outcomes are a product of our genetic predispositions and our environments.

I work across multiple types of research projects. I’m involved in gene identification efforts, where we are trying to find the specific genes involved in why some people are more likely to develop problems than others.

I work on twin studies, where we compare different types of twins who differ in how much of their genetic variation they share, in order to figure out how much of the variability in an outcomes is due to genetic influences or environmental influences. This was originally called the so-called nature-nurture debate. We now know that most everything is influenced by both our genes and our environments, and so we’re studying more complex questions like how the importance of genetic and environmental influences changes across time, or the extent to which certain environments can change the importance of genetic effects.

The last type of study I work on is longitudinal studies of kids, where we are trying to understand how the risk associated with genes that we’re identifying unfolds across time. So, for example, what do kids who are carrying genetic predispositions associated with an increased risk for adult alcohol dependence look like as they grow up, and importantly, we know that genes aren’t destiny, so what environments can change the likelihood that an individual who is genetically at risk will actually go on to develop problems.

On this website, you’ll find more information about my on-going research projects and how you can learn more or get involved.

FinnTwin


Two population-based studies of all twins born in Finland over a 5 year period – nearly 10,000 twin individuals followed from age 12 to mid-20s, with self, parent, teacher, and peer reports



ALSPAC


An epidemiological sample of ~10,000 children born in a geographical area of England over a 1.5 year period and followed from before birth to the mid-20s

 

 

 

 

Recent Grants

Preventing underage and risky drinking among college students. Principal Investigator. June 2015-June 2016. Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. $7,500
Gene-environment Interplay in the Development of Alcohol Use and Related Problems. Principal Investigator. September 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 2R01 AA015416-A1, $2,687,133

Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2014-August 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 5 U10 AA008401, $1,372,500

Characterizing Pathways of Risk Associated with Identified Genes and Gene Networks (Project 5 of the VCU Alcohol Research Center Grant). Principal Investigator, Project 5. August 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 1P50 AA022537, $6,942,968 (Center)

A Longitudinal Study of Genes, Environment and Alcohol Misuse in College Students. Acting Multiple PI (with Kendler). September 2012-August 2017. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R37 AA011408, $2,372,763

Family Etiology and Prevention of Young Adult Addictive Behavior. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2011-May 2016. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). R01 DA007031-A1, $1,274,408

Pathways to Alcohol Use Disorders in ALSPAC: A Genetic-Developmental Study. MPI (with Kendler). September 2010-August 2016 NCE. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R01 AA018333, $668,791

Awards

Nominee for VCU Student Affairs Collaboration Award (Spit for Science), 2015
Indiana University Department of Psychology Young Alumni Award (inaugural), 2013
International Society of Psychiatric Genetics Ted Reich Young Investigator Award, 2012
International Society of Psychiatric Genetics Richard Todd Award in Child Psychiatry, 2011
Research Society on Alcoholism Young Investigator Award, 2010
Selection for Who’s Who in American Women, 2010