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Researcher Bio: Cathy Fernandes

I originally trained as a psychopharmacologist at Guy's Hospital, working on rodent models of behaviour (anxiety, exploratory activity and cognition) and mechanisms of drug dependence. I moved out of academic research in 1998 for a short period to gain experience in the field of science communication and education. I returned to academia in 2000 to take up a post at the Royal Free & University College Medical School on an innovative project studying the molecular mechanisms of antidepressant drug action. In 2001, I moved to the Institute of Psychiatry to work on a project investigating the functional genomics of mouse behaviour using both candidate gene association and gene expression profiling techniques.I subsequently was awarded a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship which I took to the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where I lead a project on gene x environment interactions in an animal model of depression.. I returned to the Institute of Psychiatry on a Research Councils UK (RCUK) Fellowship, joining the Department of Psychosis Studies. I lead a research project on the effect of cannabis use in adolescence as a risk factor for schizophrenia using animal models. At the end of this fellowship, I rejoined the SGDP Centre as a lecturer and member of the Executive Committee. I currently head the ‘Preclinical Models of Neurodevelopmental Disorders’ group at the SGDP Centre (IoP, KCL), investigating the contribution of environment and molecular mechanisms to a range of neurodevelopmental (schizophrenia, attention deficient hyperactivity disorder and autism) and psychiatric disorders (anxiety, depression). In addition to studying the role of genetics in behaviour, I also have a particular interest in the interaction of genes with environment using environmental models such as prenatal stress (maternal obesity), early life stress (maternal separation), chronic stress (unpredictable chronic mild stress) and drug exposure (cannabis) in my research.

I have over 20 years experience working with animal models of behaviour, environment, pharmacology and genetics. I have been responsible for developing new methods at the Institute, including using microarrays for gene expression, and establishing a mouse behavioural testing unit to assess a wide range of behaviours related to psychiatric disorders. I have more than 17 years teaching experience, ranging from undergraduate to specialist courses. In support of my teaching practice, I have a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP; King’s College London 2011) and I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I am currently developing a standalone MSc course for the SGDP Centre (MSc Genes, Environment & Development) which will launch in September 2013

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