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Biography

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 in 2006 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 in 2007 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 re-joined the SGDP Centre as a lecturer and member of the Executive Committee, promoting to Senior Lecturer in 2014 and Reader in 2018.  

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).  

I have over 25 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 currently am the President of the International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society (IBANGS: https://www.ibngs.org).  

In addition to my research role, I am the Psychology and Systems Sciences Divisional Education Lead with oversight of all our undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I have more than 30 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 established our successful MSc in Genes, Environment & Development in Psychology & Psychiatry which launched in September 2013.

I am Head of the “Preclinical Models of Neurodevelopmental Disorders” group at the SGDP Centre, IoPPN, KCL.

Research interests:

  • Genetic and environmental factors contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders 
  • Rodent genetic models of neurodevelopmental disorders  
  • Rodent environmental models such as prenatal stress (maternal obesity), early life stress (maternal separation), chronic stress (unpredictable chronic mild stress) and drug exposure (cannabis) 
  • Animal welfare 

Teaching:

Neuropharmacology, Animal behaviour, Brain anatomy, Behavioural genetics, Transferable skills (academic writing, oral communication) 

Expertise and Public Engagement:

Organised/contributed to a number of public engagement and widening participation lectures and science activities with Autistica, local schools, King’s K+ Academic Day (part of King’s long-term widening participation programme) and Linacre Institute (an organisation which works with high achieving students who are based in the north-east of England and who come from widening participation backgrounds).   

Consultant for the Science Media Centre (an independent press office helping to ensure that the public have access to the best scientific evidence and expertise through the news media when science hits the headlines) 

Promoted our PGT education as part of King’s recruitment trips to India, South East Asia and East Asia.