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  • B.A. Psychology, Washington and Lee University, 2014
  • M.S., Clinical Psychology, VCU, 2018
  • Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, Behavioral Medicine Concentration, VCU, 2022

Research Interests

Genetic, environmental, and biological influences on one’s response to trauma exposure; Heterogeneity in response to trauma exposure.

Research Description

My primary line of work during graduate school, funded by a predoctoral NRSA fellowship from NIAAA, focused on the impact of resilience on the relationship between trauma exposure and alcohol use in college students and how genetic influences impact this relationship. During my postdoctoral fellowship, I am planning to extend this line of research to better understand the genetic underpinnings of psychiatric resilience through the use of novel statistical genetic techniques such as genomic SEM. A second ongoing line of research examines the environmental, genetic, and biological influences on physical health outcomes follow trauma exposure.


  • Post-doctoral fellowship, T32MH020030, Research Training: Psychiatric and Statistical Genetics (P.I., Dr. Michael C. Neale), 08/2022-Present
  • International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), COVID-19 student funding opportunity, Title: The Functional Relationship between Alcohol Use and PTSD in the Wake of a Global Pandemic , 08/2020-08/2021
  • Pre-doctoral fellowship, NIAAA, 5F31AA027703, 05/2019-08/2021

Selected Publications

Cusack, S.E., Sheerin, C.M., Aggen, S.H., & Amstadter, A.B. (in press). Comparing the association between and predictors of two domain-specific constructs of resilience. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Cusack, S.E., Bountress, K.E., Denckla, C.A., The Spit for Science Working Group, Vassileva, J.*, Dick, D.M.*, Amstadter, A.B.* (2022). A longitudinal investigation of resilience as a protective factor during the COVID-19 pandemic. Traumatology.

Sheerin, C.M., Bustamante, D., Bountress, K.E., Cusack, S.E., Aggen, S.H., Kendler, K.S., & Amstadter, A.B. (2021). Psychiatric Resilience and Alcohol Resistance: A Twin Study of Co-Heritability and Sex Differences. Behavior Genetics, Advance online publication.