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02 May 2023

IoPPN researchers receive the Gottesman-Shields Prize for best PhD theses 2020-2022

Dr Olakunle Oginni and Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh, Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre (SGDP) alumni PhD students at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), were each awarded Gottesman-Shields prizes for the best PhD theses 2020-2022.

SGDP Gottesman-Shields award 2020-23
Gottesman-Shields Prize winners, Dr Olakunle Oginni (centre left) and Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh (centre right), pictured with Dr Chloe Wong (left), Chair of the SGDP PhD Sub-Committee, and Professor Cathryn Lewis (right), Head of Department at the SGDP.
Dr Olakunle Oginni SGDP gottesman-shields award
Dr Olakunle Oginni (right) receives the Gottesman-Shields Prize. Pictured with Professor Cathryn Lewis (left), Head of Department at the SGDP.

Dr Olakunle (Kunle) Oginni was awarded the Gottesman-Shields Prize for his thesis Sexual orientation and health disparities: Investigating etiological mechanisms using genetically-sensitive designs’, completed in 2021. For this, he combined the twin design and genomic information to show that the higher rates of psychological distress among those who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual are better considered as resulting from non-genetic processes rather than shared genetic influences. Dr Oginni is presently a higher trainee in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Wales and will be starting on the Welsh Clinical Academic Track fellowship later in the year. He is also co-lead investigator on an Erasmus exchange grant aimed at facilitating behaviour genetic research and teaching in the Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria) and the Semmelweis University (Hungary).

I am very grateful to have been selected for the Gottesman-Shields PhD award. I have benefited immensely from the nurturing and academically stimulating environment of the SGDP Centre and hope to carry this forward.

Dr Olakunle Oginni
Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh SGDP gottesman-shields award
Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh (right) receives the Gottesman-Shields Prize. Pictured with Professor Cathryn Lewis (left), Head of Department at the SGDP.

Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh was awarded the Gottesman-Shields Prize for her thesis Familial risk for anxiety and depression: intergenerational effects and genetic transmission, completed in 2020. In this research, she collated studies of anxiety and depression in parents and children, examining how parents and children may influence one another’s mental health, alongside the role of genetic factors. Dr Ahmadzadeh is now Postdoctoral Research Associate at the IoPPN, where she is working in Dr Tom McAdams’ research group specialising in genetically informed, intergenerational research. She is the Principal Investigator on the Emerging Minds funded TRADE project (‘exploring the Transmission of experiences of Racism, Anxiety and DEpression in families’).

I am very grateful to have received this award from the SGDP Centre, where I was lucky to learn from extremely talented and inspiring students and staff. It’s also been special to have a belated moment of celebration, having been in the midst of national lockdown when I finished my PhD in 2020!

Dr Yasmin Ahmadzadeh

Professor Irving Gottesman (1930 – 2016) was world-renowned as one of the pioneers of modern psychiatric genetics. He worked closely with James Shields at the IoPPN in 1962, developing liability threshold models to analyse data on schizophrenia from the Maudsley Twin Register. He sponsored the Gottesman-Shields Prize at the IoPPN, which continues to run thanks to his generous donation. The prize is awarded annually to the PhD student in the SGDP who completed their studies to an outstanding level. The winner is also invited to give the Gottesman-Shields Prize lecture.

This year, the awards were presented at the first SGDP Alumni Network Event on Thursday 20 April 2023, which celebrated the successes of their current and alumni PhD students. Speakers included Professor Cathryn Lewis, Head of Department at the SGDP, Professor Peter McGuffin, Emeritus professor and previously MRC SGDP Centre Director, Professor Robert Plomin, Professor in Behavioural Genetics and previously MRC SGDP Centre Director, Dr Chloe Wong, Chair of the SGDP PhD Sub-Committee, as well as 13 SGDP alumni.

The SGDP is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on how genetics (‘nature’) and the environment (‘nurture’) interact to affect psychiatric disorders, neurodevelopmental conditions and individual differences across development. Scientists at the SGDP lead some of the UK’s foremost longitudinal cohort and twin studies, including TEDS, eRISK, Dunedin and GLAD. The SGDP hosts more than 50 PhD students, and their alumni have gone on to be outstanding scientists and clinicians at leading institutions internationally. SGDP Centre alumni can join the network here.

Photos are taken by Nathan Clarke Photography.

For more information, please contact Amelia Remmington (Communications & Engagement Officer).

In this story

Yasmin Ahmadzadeh

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Cathryn Lewis

Professor of Genetic Epidemiology & Statistics

Chloe Wong

Senior Lecturer in Epigenetics

Olakunle Oginni

Postdoctoral Research Associate