Featured Faculty: Katie Bountress, Ph.D.

Katie Bountress, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU. Her interests in molecular and behavioral genetics are expanding daily, as her primary discipline is psychology. She recalls learning in a class while a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University that there is not a lot known about the underlying risk factors for peer deviance and substance use. Thus, she taught herself this literature while writing her (successful) F31 grant ...

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Stephen Hawking, who shined a light on black holes, dies at age 76

Stephen Hawking, the prodigious British theoretical cosmologist who became an international celebrity, died at his home in Cambridge, U.K., early today, at the age of 76. Hawking, who spent his entire career at the University of Cambridge, suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative nerve disease with which he was diagnosed in his 20s. The disease confined Hawking to a wheelchair for most of his adult life and eventually rendered him capable of speaking only through a computer-controlled voice synthesizer. ...

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Research Discovers Three New Genetic Risk Markers of Depression

Hinxton, (Scicasts) — A study published today (March 2) in the American Journal of Psychiatry details the discovery of three additional genetic risk markers for depression, building on the discovery of two genetic risk factors in 2015.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) and Wellcome Sanger Institute have found that the contribution of genetic variations to depression may differ between people who have experienced serious adversities in their life and those who haven’t. By carrying out a genome-wide ...

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Featured Postdoc: Meridith Eastman, Ph.D.

Meridith Eastman, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow at Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics working with Dr. Roberson-Nay, Ph.D. Her overall interest is the intersection of biological, psychological, and social influences on adolescent health and wellbeing. Dr. Eastman’s Ph.D. training in public health captured the social component of her interests while her post-doctoral training is fulfilling her biological and psychological interests. VIPBG is the perfect place for her to continue her training, as ...

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Featured Student: Sage Hawn

Sage Hawn is a Ph.D. candidate in the Clinical Psychology program at VCU. Her desire to be a scientist-practitioner dates back to her adolescent years. As a teenager, Ms. Hawn went on several mission trips and subsequently became interested in human behavior and, more specifically, the effects of trauma on human behavior. Wanting to be part of the solution, she majored in psychology as an undergraduate at VCU. By her senior year, Ms. Hawn’s interests had expanded ...

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Major mental illnesses unexpectedly share brain gene activity, raising hope for better diagnostics and therapies

Mental illness affects one in six U.S. adults, but scientists’ sense of the underlying biology of most psychiatric disorders remains nebulous. That’s frustrating for physicians treating the diseases, who must also make diagnoses based on symptoms that may only appear sporadically. No laboratory blood test or brain scan can yet distinguish whether someone has depression or bipolar disorder, for example.

Now, however, a large-scale analysis of postmortem brains is revealing distinctive molecular traces in people with mental illness. This week, an ...

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Featured Student: Eric Vornholt

Eric Vornholt is a Ph.D. student in the Psychiatric, Behavioral, and Statistical Genetics program at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has always been interested in psychology and as an undergraduate at The University of Arizona, expanded this interest to include genetics and neuroscience. As part of his coursework, Mr. Vornholt became keenly aware of how much these two fields intersect, but also how much this intersection is under-studied. After coming to VCU, his primary research interest naturally became ...

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