Featured Student: Chelsea Sawyers

Chelsea Sawyers Rooney is a PhD student in Human and Molecular Genetics with a concentration in quantitative genetics. She has been interested broadly in the field of genetics since middle school, and became interested in psychology during high school. Naturally, these interests led her to double-major in psychology and genetics at Iowa State University. As an undergraduate, she worked in an evolutionary biology lab that studied the heritability of mating behaviors in painted turtles. Here, she discovered that she wanted to pursue graduate training to further develop her research skills and pursue her interests in both psychology and genetics. As she was researching graduate programs, she came across Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics and the Human Genetics degree program, and knew it was the perfect fit.

Chelsea’s current research interests broadly involve PTSD, neuroimaging endophenotypes, fear, and anxiety. Her dissertation focuses on investigating brain regions associated with PTSD and the genetic influences on those brain regions. A secondary aim is to investigate these same brain regions in children and how they relate to fear and anxiety, since PTSD has a basis in fear processing.

“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath.”

Michael Caine

Outside of work, Chelsea enjoys water activities on the James River, such as rowing and white water kayaking. She also enjoys volunteering with Sportable, rock climbing and spending time with her dogs, Huckleberry and Quetico.


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