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Biography

I am Professor of Developmental Behavioural Genetics at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. I direct the Emotional Development, Intervention and Treatment (EDIT) lab, and my work focuses on the interplay between genetic and environmental factors in the development and treatment of anxiety and depression.

For my undergraduate degree I studied Social and Political Sciences, with a focus on psychology, at Trinity College Cambridge. I undertook my PhD at the Institute of Child Health, University College London, where I studied the role of genetic and environment influences on depression and anxiety in young people. After two MRC research fellowships, I became a member of academic staff at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and was promoted to Professor in 2013.

My work is highly interdisciplinary using both the twin design and molecular genetic approaches, and drawing on cognitive, clinical and developmental psychology. I have written over 140 empirical papers and received numerous awards including the Spearman Medal from the British Psychological Society, the Lilly-Molecular Psychiatry Award, and most recently the James Shields Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Twin Studies. I am one of the Chairs of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium Anxiety Group.

I am really passionate about enabling early career researchers and was Chair of the Research and Innovation Committee for over 5 years, developing and leading numerous initiatives aimed at supporting this group. I am very keen to see greater diversity in those conducting, and taking part, in scientific research.

Research interests: 

I am particularly interested in finding ways in which genetic approaches can inform psychological practise as well as theory. Using molecular genetics, I am exploring the role of specific genetic markers in the development of anxiety and depression, and as predictors of psychological therapies response for these conditions. With my close colleague Prof Gerome Breen, head of the NIHR Maudsley BioResource centre, I am leading the new Genetics Links to Anxiety and Depression (GLAD) Study. You can watch us describing the purpose of this study here, and can watch an animation about the study here. I am particularly excited about this area of work as it has the potential to be useful in making clinical decisions.

I am also really interested in why anxiety and depression tend to run in families, and whether this is due to sharing home life or whether it is due to sharing genes. I am Deputy Director and Director Elect of the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), which is the largest longitudinal twin birth cohort in the UK. As our twins reach their mid-twenties we are particularly excited about recruiting the next generation into the Children of TEDS (CoTEDS) Study.

Expertise and Public Engagement:

EDITlab runs a blog. The GLAD Study participants are recruited via the media and social media so we have written and had lots of articles written about us, as well as featuring on TV, traditional media etc. We also worked closely with many charities (e.g. MIND) and with the British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists all of whom supported and promoted the study.

I have written blogs for Mental Elf and have spoken at Pint of Science twice.

Awards:

  • 2019 KCL Research project of the year (GLAD)
  • 2017 James Shields Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Twin Studies.
  • 2004 Lilly-Molecular Psychiatry Award
  • 2002 Spearman Medal from the British Psychological Society
  • KCL Graduate School IoPPN Supervisory Excellence Award

Teaching:

  • SGDP Education lead
  • Assessment Sub-Board Chair for SGDP DEV-PP Masters programme
  • Teaching on genetics of anxiety, depression and treatment response.