In the Dunn Lab, we use the tools of developmental and translational epidemiology to identify strategies for reducing the burden of mental illness and promoting brain health throughout the lifespan.

Our research seeks to understand the drivers of both mental illness and mental wellbeing across the lifespan. To date, much of our work has focused on the social and biological underpinnings of depression and anxiety among women, children, adolescents, and other vulnerable populations, including racial/ethnic minorities and people of low socioeconomic status. 

We study a range of biological factors and processes contributing to mental health—including the role of genetic variation and epigenetic mechanisms—as well as biological markers of future risk, such as markers captured in children’s primary or “baby” teeth.  

We also study multiple social factors, including the role of early life environmental exposures and stressors such as childhood adversity, on mental health across the life course.  

Our long-term goal is to translate discoveries about causal mechanisms underlying risk and resilience into population-based preventive strategies that not only reduce the onset of brain-related health problems, but also promote brain health. 

Recognizing that interdisciplinary approaches can lead to breakthrough discoveries, we routinely collaborate with scientists across several disciplines, spanning epidemiology, genetics, epigenetics, dentistry, anthropology, pediatrics, and developmental neuroscience.  

Our work has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, One Mind, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Current Studies

Current Studies

Current work in our group focuses on three primary areas.

1. Identifying individuals most at risk for depression. Experts have known for decades that exposure to stress is one of the biggest risk factors for depression. However, not everyone who experiences stress or adversity goes on to experience mental health problems, and we don’t yet know which individuals might be more susceptible to, or at risk for, developing depression following a stressful event. Given that depression is known to be partially genetically determined, we are studying the role of genetic variation in shaping risk for depression, by asking which genes confer an increased susceptibility to the effects of stress. Through our involvement in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), a massive collaborative effort to understand the genetic basis of psychiatric disorders, we’re working to identify the full spectrum of genetic variants underlying risk for depression. Using prospective data gathered over many years from large birth cohorts, we’re also exploring the genomic predictors of depressive symptom trajectories from childhood to adolescence. Finally, recognizing that non-European populations are dramatically underrepresented in genetics research, we are also working to complete genome-wide association study (GWAS) with more diverse racial/ethnic samples.  


2. Understanding how stress gets biologically embedded. Although we know that people are more likely to develop depression after experiencing a stressor, we don’t yet know how stress “gets under the skin”, or causes biological changes to create this long-term vulnerability. We’re working to understand the mechanisms linking stress to depression risk by identifying biomarkers, such as epigenetic signatures, that do not alter the sequence of the genome, but rather shape how genes are expressed. Our currently funded work in this area is exploring how early exposure to stressors—including poverty, maltreatment, and other adversities—can leave epigenetic marks known as DNA methylation (DNAm) changes, which in turn can increase risk for depression in childhood, adolescence, and even adulthood. Understanding the biological pathways connecting stress to depression can help us better understand the etiology of depression and therefore focus our interventions on potentially modifiable biological targets.


3. Determining sensitive periods in development, or periods of heightened plasticity. There is a growing body of evidence from our research group and others to suggest that the impact of certain exposures on mental health outcomes might also depend on whether those exposures occur during “sensitive periods” in development. Sensitive periods are high-risk/high-reward stages in the course of the lifespan when the brain is highly plastic and when experience, whether exposure to adversity on the one hand or health-promoting interventions on the other, can have lasting impacts on brain health. Using large-scale epidemiological samples, we’re working to identify when these sensitive periods occur and how they shape risk across multiple different domains—spanning social-emotional skills (e.g., emotion recognition, social cognition), biological processes (e.g., epigenetic changes), and risk for depression. We’re also actively exploring the use of teeth and other tissue types as novel biomarkers of past stress exposure, the timing of those exposures, and future mental health risk. Teeth in particular represent a promising new tool for identifying sensitive periods because they preserve a kind of “fossil record” of their growth and disruptions to that growth, like rings in a tree marking its age.  After determining when these sensitive periods occur, our ultimate goal is to design interventions that not only promote brain health across the lifespan, but are also uniquely timed to minimize the consequences of stress exposure and prevent depression years before it onsets. 


Our Team

Our Team

We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers from a range of fields, including epidemiology, public health, genetics, education, neurology, psychiatry, and psychology.




Google Scholar Profile

Research Gate

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Erin C. Dunn is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist with expertise in genetics and epigenetics.  Her research laboratory uses interdisciplinary approaches to better understand the social and biological factors that influence the etiology of depression among women, children, and adolescents.  The goal of her work is to identify the causal mechanisms underlying risk for depression, translate that knowledge to population-based strategies for prevention, and target those strategies to “sensitive periods” in development.  Sensitive periods are high-risk/high-reward stages in the course of the lifespan when experience, whether exposure to adversity on the one hand or health-promoting interventions on the other, can have lasting impacts on brain health. Through her efforts to determine when these sensitive periods occur, her goal is to design interventions that not only promote brain health across the lifespan, but are also uniquely timed to minimize the consequences of stress exposure, prevent depression before it onsets, and make the most efficient use of limited public health dollars.  Dr. Dunn is currently an Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School and is affiliated with the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, and the Henry and Allison McCance Center for Brain Health at MGH.  She has led several genetic association studies and gene-environment interaction studies that were the first of their kind, including publishing the first genome-wide environment interaction study of depression; this work was recognized by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America through the Donald F. Klein Early Career Investigator Award and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation through the Gerald R. Klerman Award, Honorable Mention.  She is a 2017 recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS).  In 2018, she was awarded a Rising Star award from One Mind.

POST-Doctoral Research Fellows


Karmel Choi, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and a postdoctoral collaborator with the Dunn Lab. She is mentored by Drs. Jordan Smoller and Karestan Koenen through the T32 Training Fellowship in Psychiatric Genetics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the interplay of genetic and environmental factors that influence trauma and resilience across the life course, leveraging methods from statistical genetics, network science, and developmental epidemiology. Her clinical work focuses on treatment of mood and anxiety disorders and stress-related health conditions, particularly among women. Karmel completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Duke University and her predoctoral clinical internship in Behavioral Medicine at MGH. 


Alex Lussier

Alex Lussier, Ph.D., joined the Dunn Lab in April 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow. He was previously a joint postdoc in computational biology in the Clark and Keinan laboratories at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he worked on the role of X chromosome variation in psychiatric and common diseases. He earned his Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from the University of British Columbia in 2017, where he studied the epigenetic patterns associated with prenatal alcohol exposure in animal models and clinical cohorts. He is broadly interested in the intersection of omics data (genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic, etc.) to model the development of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders and assess the impact of early-life events on long-term health outcomes. 


Becky Mountain

Becky Mountain, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Dunn Lab. She completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Arizona in 2019 and received her B.A. in Anthropology and Archaeology from Boston University in 2010. Her research focuses on the impacts of stress on skeletal health and disease in past and present human populations. In the Dunn Lab, Becky will be working on a new project exploring the use of teeth as biomarkers of early life exposures to psychosocial stress and their potential relationship to later mental health outcomes.



Jiaxuan (Jessie) Liu

Jiaxuan (Jessie) Liu is a doctoral student in Population Health Science at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. She received her Master’s degree in Epidemiology from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research interests include genetic and epigenetic epidemiology of mental health, neuropsychiatric disorders, and social risk factors. In the Dunn Lab, her current work focuses on assessing the relationships between childhood socioeconomic disadvantage, DNA methylation, and socioeconomic wellbeing in adolescence.


Kristen graduated from UC Berkeley in 2012 with a B.A. in Psychology and completed a M.P.H. in 2016 at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Science. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Population Health Science at Harvard University. Her research examines the impact of early life adversity and trauma on mental and physical health outcomes, focusing on understanding the processes of psychological resilience. In the Dunn Lab, her work focuses on identifying sensitive periods to early adversity on psychological outcomes later in development or in adulthood. 



Meg Min-Jung Wang

Meg graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 with a B.A. in the Biological Basis of Behavior, and received a M.Sc. in Epidemiology from Imperial College London in 2012. She is currently a doctoral student in Epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Her prior work includes research on the genetics of nicotine addiction and social risk factors on workplace mental health, which prompted her interest in both genetic and environmental risk factors and how their interplay leads to psychopathology. Meg is now using data from the Nurses’ Health Study II to determine how childhood adversity and the developmental timing of the exposure moderates the impact of genetic risk variants on mental disorders.



Krista headshot1.png

Krista Caasi

Krista is a Senior at Princeton Day School in Princeton, NJ. She is interning at the Dunn Lab as part of her school’s Research Experience program (REx), in which a select group of students learns about the process of scientific research through class discussion and independent study. As part of REx, Krista conducted a study on the relationship between academic stress and overall happiness within her high school. She is excited to learn more about the genetic basis of depression and how developmental adversity affects mental health. She will present her summer work at the Dunn Lab to the Princeton Day School community next fall.


Kristina Jacobsson

Kristina is a Sophomore at Harvard College concentrating in History of Science with sub-field in Psychology. She is also pursuing a secondary in Spanish. Previously, she interned with The Global Bioethics Organization, where she studied and helped to educate the public on bioethics. Kristina is passionate about issues in children’s health, and particularly how these issues can impact adulthood. In the Dunn Lab, she hopes to learn more about how childhood adversity affects mental health outcomes.


Clara Parsons

Clara is a rising sophomore at Georgetown University on the pre-medicine track majoring in psychology. Prior to joining the Dunn Lab, she interned in the MGH main hospital on Blake 14, observing labor and delivery practices. She has focused her studies on childhood and adolescent development in the past, and will be exploring cognition and abnormal psychology. Clara is particularly passionate about making connections from adult mental health conditions to prior childhood adversities, and finding which populations are most susceptible to these outcomes. In the Dunn Lab, she hopes to explore the biological underpinnings of mental illness that can lead to stronger prevention efforts.


Janine Cerutti

Janine joins the Dunn Lab as a Clinical Research Coordinator. She graduated from Union College in 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Mathematics. Prior to joining the Dunn Lab, Janine worked as a practice development assistant at Ropes & Gray where she supported the life sciences practice group. Her research interests include childhood adversity and resilience. In the Dunn Lab, she hopes to help identify who is more susceptible to depression following adversity and why.

10622807_10202923349223734_4362123033565309015_n (1).jpg

Katie Davis

Katie graduated from Brown University in 2012 with a B.A. in Gender & Sexuality Studies, and received an M.A. in Psychology from Brandeis University in 2017.  Her research at Brandeis focused on the developmental sequelae of childhood abuse in a sample of male juveniles who had sexually offended.  As a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Dunn Lab, Katie hopes to continue to explore the extent to which early life adversity and genetic variation predict subsequent psychopathology.

KDAVIS Headshot copy.jpg

Olivia Pickett

Olivia is a Junior at Northeastern University studying Health Sciences and has minors in both Global Health and Ethics. Prior to joining the Dunn Lab, she has completed various internships at Brigham and Women’s/Dana Farber Cancer Center, the South End Community Health Center and The Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory. As a research assistant in the Dunn Lab, she is looking forward to learning more about the biological pathways of depression and how early stressors can impact mental health later in life.


Yiwen Zhu

Yiwen graduated from Smith College in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Statistical & Data Sciences. She also received a Master of Science degree in Biostatistics from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2017. Her past research experience includes applying integrative approaches for causal mediation analyses as well as examining latent trauma subtypes on the population level. Joining the Dunn Lab as a data analyst, Yiwen is excited to apply her statistical skills and explore the underlying biological mechanisms (especially epigenetic changes) that connect early life adversity to psychopathology.



Natalie Harrington

Natalie Harrington joins the Dunn Lab as a new Staff Assistant. She comes to the lab with a degree in Sociology and a varied career focusing on families. Prior to joining the Dunn Lab, Natalie ran her own small business as a Home Manager, assisting multiple families in the administrative aspects of their lives. New to the field of science and research, Natalie hopes to bring her expertise in organization and planning to the office, while learning as much as she can about our studies.


Kenzie Rzonca 

Kenzie Rzonca graduated from Kansas State University in 2014 with a B.S. in Elementary Education (concentration in English), and minor in French. She recently received her M.A. in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College in May. After spending a year as a third-grade teacher in Fort Riley, Kansas, Kenzie went on to complete several editorial internships at literary agencies during her time at Emerson College, along with a sales internship within a children's book publishing house. As a children’s book development consultant, Kenzie is looking forward to working with the rest of the Dunn Lab to create a children's book that will showcase the lab's research and goals in a way that is engaging and informative for kids.


Tannu Singh joined The Dunn Lab in May 2019 as a Program Manager. Most recently, she spent over three years at the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Project Coordinator for the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Brain Bank funded by the National Center for PTSD. She graduated from the University of New Haven with a double major in Criminal Justice and Psychology. She continued her education at the Boston University School of Medicine earning a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine. Rather than going into clinical work, Tannu wanted to pursue a career in research to help contribute to unlocking the mystery behind the understanding of mental illness and brain health. The hope is that a better understanding of these topics will improve treatments options and the quality of life for those experiencing mental illness. Her research interests lie in exploring the relationship between mind, body, and environment in mental illnesses like trauma disorders, depression, and anxiety. 





Under Review

Marini, S., Davis, K.A., Soare, T.W., Suderman, M.J., Simpkin, A.J., Smith, A.D.A.C., Wolf, E.J., Relton, C.L., & Dunn, E.C. Predicting cellular aging following exposure to adversity: Does accumulation, recency, or developmental timing of exposure matter? bioRxiv dio:

Coleman, J., Purves, K., Davies, K., Rayner, C., Choi, S., Hübel, C., Gaspar, H., Kan, C., Van de Auwera, S., Adams, M., Lyall, D., Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, UK Biobank Mental Health Consortium, Dunn, E. C., Vassos, E., Danese, A., Grabe, H., Lewis, C., O’Reilly, P., McIntosh, A., Smith, D., Hotopf, M., Eley, T. C., & Breen, G. Genome-wide gene-environment analyses of depression and reported lifetime traumatic experiences in UK Biobank. bioRxiv dio:

Glanville, K.P., Coleman, J., Hanscombe, K., Euesden, J., Choi, S.W., Kirstin, P., Breen, G., Air, T., Andlauer, T., Baune, B., Binder, E., Blackwood, D., Boomsma, D., Buttenschøn, H., Colodro-Conde, L., Dannlowski, U., Direk, N., Dunn, E., Forstner, A., Eco de Geus, E., Grabe, H., Hamilton, S., Jones, I., Jones, L., Knowles, J., Kutalik, Z., Levinson, D., Lewis, G., Lind, P., Lucae, S., Magnusson, P., McGuffin, P., McIntosh, A., Milaneschi, Y., Mors, O., Mostafavi, S., Müller-Myhsok, B., Pedersen, N., Penninx, B., Potash, J., Preisig, M., Ripke, S., Shi, J., Shyn, S., Smoller, J., Streit, F., Sullivan, P., Tiemeier, H., Uher, R., Van der Auwera, S., Weissman, M., MDD Working Group of the PGC, O'Reilly, P. & Lewis, C. Genetic variation in the Major Histocompatibility Complex and association with depression. bioRxiv dio:

Accepted/In press

Dunn, E.C., Nishimi, K.,Neumann, A., Renaud, A., Cecil, C. A.M., Susser, E.S., & Tiemeier, H. Time-dependent effects of exposure to physical and sexual violence on psychopathology symptoms in late childhood: In search of sensitive periods in development. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.


Dunn, E.C., Soare, T.W., Simpkin, A.J., Suderman, M.J., Zhu, Y., Klengel, T., Smith, A.D.A.C., Ressler, K. & Relton, C.L. (2019). Sensitive periods for the effect of childhood adversity on DNA methylation: Results from a prospective, longitudinal study. Biological Psychiatry, 15;85(10):838-849. PMID: 30905381. Supplemental Materials.


Dunn, E.C., Soare, T.W., Raffeld, M.R., Busso, D.S., Crawford, Davis, K.A., K.M., Fisher, V.A., Slopen, N., Smith, A.D.A.C., Tiemeier, H., & Susser, E.S. (e-pub). What life course theoretical models best explain the relationship between exposure to childhood adversity and psychopathology symptoms: recency, accumulation, or sensitive periods? Psychological Medicine, 48(15), 2562-2572. PMID: 29478418.

Dunn, E.C., Crawford, K.M., Soare, T.W., Button, K.S., Raffeld, M.R., Smith, A.D.A.C., Penton- Voak, I.S., & Munafo, M.R. (e-pub). Exposure to childhood adversity and deficits in emotion recognition: Results from a large, population-based sample. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(8). 845-854PMID: 29512866. PMCID: PMC6041167

Dunn, E.C., Nishimi, K., Gomez, S.H., Lott, A.P., & Bradley, B. (2018). Developmental timing of trauma exposure and emotion dysregulation in adulthood: Are there sensitive periods when trauma is most harmful? Journal of Affective Disorders, 227. 869-877. PMID: 29254068. PMCID: PMC5805641.

Dunn, E.C., Sofer, T., Wang, M., Soare, T.S., Gallo, L.C., Gogarten, S.M., Kerr, K. F., Chen, C., Stein, M.B., Ursano, R.J., Guo, X., Jia, Y., Yao, J., Rotter, J.I., Argos, M., Cai, J., Perreira, K., Wassertheil-Smoller, S., & Smoller, J.W. (2018) Genome-wide association study (GWAS) of depressive symptoms in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). Journal of Psychiatric Research, 99. 167-176. PMID: 29505938.

Milliren, C.E., Evans, C.R., Richmond, T.K., & Dunn, E.C. (2018). Does an uneven sample size distribution across settings matter in cross-classified multilevel modeling? Results of a simulation study. Health & Place, 52. 121-126. PMCID: PMC6171360 PMID: 29885555.

Vaughn-Coaxum, R., Wang, Y., Kiely, J., Weisz, J.R., & Dunn, E.C.  (2018).  Associations between trauma type, timing, and accumulation on current coping behaviors in adolescents: Results from a large, population-based sample.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47(4). 842-858. PMCID: in progress PMID: 28555292.

Peyrot, W.J., Van der Auwera, A., Milaneschi, Y., Dolan, C.V., Madden, P.A.F., Sullivan, P.F., Strohmaier, J., Ripke, S., Rietschel, M., Nivard, M.G., Mullins, N., Montgomery, G.W., Henders, A.K., Heat, A.C., Fisher, H.L., Dunn, E.C., Byrne, E.M., Air, T.A., Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, Baune, B.T., Breen, G., Levinson, D.F., Lewis, C.M., Martin, N.G., Elliot, N., Boomsma, D.I., Grabe, H.J., Wray, N.R., Penninx, B.W. (e-pub). Does childhood trauma moderate polygenic risk for depression? A meta-analysis of 5,765 subjects from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Biological Psychiatry. PMID: 29129318 PMCID: PMC5862738. 

Wassertheil-Smoller, S., Qi, Q., Tushar, D., Mitchell, B., Jackson, R., Liu, S., Park, K., Salinas, J., Dunn, E.C., Leira, E., Smoller, J. (2018). Polygenic risk for depression increases risk of ischemic stroke: from the Stroke Genetics Network (SiGN) study.  Stroke , 49(3): 543-548. PMID: 29438084.

Van der Auwera, S., Peyrot, W.J., Milaneshi, Y., Hertel, J., Baune, B.T., Breen, G., Byrne, E.M., Dunn, E.C., Fisher, H.L., Homuth, G., Levinson, D.F., Lewis, C.M., Martin, N., Millis, N., Mullins, N., Nauck, M., Pistis, G., Preisig, M., Rietschel, M., Ripke, S., Sullivan, P.F., Teumer, A., Volzke, H., Major Depressive Disorder Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, Boomsma, D.I., Wray, N.R., Penninx, B.W.J.H., & Grabe, H.J. (2018). Genome-wide gene-environment interaction in depression: A systematic evaluation of candidate genes. American Journal of Medical Genetics: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 77(1). 40-49. PMID: 29159863 PMCID: PMC5726923.


Dunn, E.C., Wang, Y., Tse, J., McLaughlin, K.A., Fitzmaurice, G., Gilman, S.E., & Susser, E.S. (2017). Sensitive periods for the effect of childhood interpersonal violence on psychiatric disorder onset among adolescents. British Journal of Psychiatry, 211(6): 365–372. PMID: 29097401. PMCID: PMC5709674.

Dunn, E.C., Sofer, T., Gallo, L.C., Gogarten, S.M., Kerr, K. F., Chen, C., Stein, M.B., Ursano, R.J., Guo, X., Jia, Y., Qi, Q., Rotter, J.I., Argos, M., Cai, J., Penedo, F.J., Perreira, K., WassertheilSmoller, S., & Smoller, J.W. (2017). Genome-wide association study (GWAS) of generalized anxiety symptoms in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics. PMCID: PMC5501086. PMID: 27159506

Dunn, E.C., Nishimi, K., Lott, A.P., & Bradley, B.  (2017). Is developmental timing of trauma exposure associated with depressive and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in adulthood?  Journal of Psychiatric Research.  84, 119-127. PMCID: PMC5479490. PMID: 27728852

Gomez, S.H., Tse, J., Wang, Y., Turner, B., Millner, A., Nock, M.K., & Dunn, E.C. (2017).  Are there sensitive periods when child maltreatment substantially elevates suicide risk? Results from a nationally-representative sample of adolescents.  Depression & Anxiety. PMCID: In Progress. PMID: 28544045

Salinas, J., Ray, R., Nassir, R., Kamakshi, L., Dording, C., Smoller, J.W., Wassertheil-Smoller, S., Rosand, J., & Dunn, E.C.  (2017).  Factors associated with new-onset depression following ischemic stroke: The Women’s Health Initiative.  Journal of the American Heart Association. PMCID: PMC5523739. PMID: 28151400

Milliren, C.E., Richmond, T.K., Evans, C.R., Dunn, E.C., & Johnson, R.M.  (2017).  Contextual effects of neighborhoods and schools on adolescent and young adult marijuana use in the United States.  Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, 11, 1-10.  PMCID: PMC5462815. PMID: 28615949

Bigdeli, T., Ripke, S., Bacanu, S., Abdellaoui, A., Andlauer, T., Beekman, A., Berger, K., Blackwood, D., Breen, G., Buttenschøn, H., Byrne, E., Cichon, S., Clarke, T., Couvy-Duchesne, B., Craddock, N., de Geus, E., Degenhardt, F., Dunn, E.C., Edwards, A., Frank, J., Gill, M., Gordon, S., Grabe, H.J., Hayward, C., Heath, A., Henders, A., Herms, S., Hickie, I., Hoffmann, P., Homuth, G., Hottenga, J., Ising, M., Jansen, R., Kloiber, S., Knowles, J., Lang, M., Li, Q., Lucae, S., MacIntyre, D., Madden, P., Martin, N., Nyholt, D., Mors, O., Nauck, M., Montgomery, G., Müller-Myhsok, B., Nöthen, M., McIntosh, A., Medland, S., McGuffin, P., Mehta, D., Middeldorp, C., Milaneschi, Y., McGrath, P., Owen, M., Perlis, R., Pergadia, M., Rivera, M., Peyrot, W., Rice, J., Porteous, D., Potash, J., Rietschel, M., Schoevers, R., Shi, J., Schulze, T., Shyn, S., Smit, J., Smoller, J., Streit, F., Strohmaier, J., Teumer, A., Treutlein, J., Van der Auwera, S., Peterson, R., Webb, B., van Hemert, A., van Grootheest, G., Weissman, M., Witt, S., Willemsen, G., Boomsma, D., Lewis, C., Wray, N., Fanous, A., Flint, J., Sullivan, P., Kendler, K., Levinson, D., Forstner, A., Hamilton, S., Riley, B., Völzke, H., Wellmann, J., Penninx, B., Mott, R., Hardiman, O. Genetic effects influencing risk for major depressive disorder in China and Europe. (2017) Translational Psychiatry. PMCID: PMC5404611. PMID: 28350396


Direk, N., Williams, S., Smith, J.A., Ripke, S., Amin, N., Bennett, D.A., Blackwood, D.H.R., Boomsma, D., Breen, G., Buttenschøn, H.N., Bryne, E.M., Børglum, A.D., Castelao, E., Cichon, S., Clarke, T., Cornelis, M.C., De Jager, P.L., Demirkan, A., van Duijin, C.M., Dunn, E.C., Eriksson, J.G., Faul, J.D., Ferrucci, L., Fornage, M., de Geus, E., Gill, M., Gordon, S.D., Jörgen Grabe, H., van Grootheest, G., Hamilton, S.P., Heath, A.C., Hek, K., Hofman, A., Homuth, G., Jan Hottenga, J., Kardia, S.L.R., Kloiber, S., Koenen, K., Kutalik, Z., Ladwig, K.L., Lahti, J., Lewis, C.M., Lewis, G., Llewellyn, D.J., Lucae, S., Lunetta, K.L., MacIntyre, D.J., Madden, P., Martin, N.G., McIntosh, A.M., Milaneschi, Y., Monthgomery, G.W., Mors, O., Mosley Jr., T.H., Murabito, J.M., Müller-Myhsok, B., Nöthen, M., Nyholt, D.R., Penninx, B., Pergadia, M.R., Preisig, M., Purcell, S.M., Räikkönen, K., Rice, J.P., Rietschel, M., Rivera, M., Schulze, T.G., Shyn, S., Smit, J., Smoller, J.M., Tanaka, T., Teumer, A., Uher, R., Van der Auwera, S., Ware, E.B., Weir, D.R., Willemsen, G., Yang, J., Zhao, W., Tiemeier, H., Sullivan, P.F. An analysis of two genome-wide association meta-analyses identifies a new locus for broad depression phenotype.  (2016). Biological Psychiatry. PMCID: PMC5462867. PMID: 28049566

Richmond, T.K., Dunn, E.C., Milliren, C.E., Evans, C.R., & Subramanian, S.V.  (2016.) Disentangling overlapping influences of neighborhoods and schools on adolescent body mass index.  Obesity. PMCID: PMC5479485. PMID: 27863090

Dunn E.C., Wiste A., Radmanesh F., Almli L.M., Gogarten S.M., Sofer T., Faul J.D., Kardia S.L.R., Smith, J.A., Weir D.R., Zhao W., Mirza S.S., Hek K., Tiemier H.W., Goveas J.S., Sarto G.E., Snively B.M., Cornelis M., Koenen K.C., Kraft P., Purcell S., Kessler K.J., Rosand J., Wassertheil-Smoller S., & Smoller J.W. (2016) Genome-wide association study (GWAS) and genome-wide environment interaction study (GWEIS) of depressive symptoms in African American and Hispanic women. Depression and Anxiety, 33(4), 265-280. Supplemental Materials. PMCID: PMC4826276. PMID: 27038408

Dunn, E.C., Busso, D.S., Raffeld, M.R., Smoller, J.W., Nelson, C.A., Doyle, A.E., & Luk, G. (2016) Does developmental timing of exposure to child maltreatment predict memory performance in adulthood? Results from a large, population-based sample. Child Abuse and Neglect, 51, 181-191. PMCID: PMC4713298. PMID: 26585216

Wang, Y., Raffeld, M.R., Slopen, N., Hale, L., & Dunn, E.C. (2016). Childhood adversity and insomnia in adolescence. Sleep Medicine, 21(2016), 12-18. PMCID: PMC4964593. PMID: 27103664

Salinas, J., Ray, R.M., Nassir, R., Lakshminaraya, K., Dording, C., Smoller, J.W., WassertheilSmoller, S., Rosand, J., Dunn, E.C. (2016). Factors associated with new-onset depression after stroke. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. PMCID: PMC5474200. PMID: 27056020

Pabayo, R., Dunn, E.C., Gilman, S.E., Kawachi, I., Molnar, B.E. (in press). Income inequality within urban settings and depressive symptoms among adolescents. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. PMCID: PMC5473150. PMID: 27103664

Carliner, H., Keyes, K.M., McLaughlin, K.A., Meyers, J.L., Dunn, E.C., & Martins, S.S.  (in press).  Childhood trauma and illicit drug use in adolescence: A population-based National Comorbidity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement Study.  Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. PMCID: PMC4964281. PMID: 27453084


Dunn, E.C., Masyn, K.E., Jones, S.M., Subramanian, S.V., & Koenen, K.C.  (2015).  Measuring psychosocial climates using individual responses: An application of multilevel factor analysis to examining students in schools.  Prevention Science. PMCID: PMC4444407. PMID: 25421872.

Dunn, E.C., Masyn, K.E., Johnston, W.R., & Subramanian, S.V. (2015). Modeling contextual effects using individual-level data and without aggregation: An illustration of multilevel factor analysis (MLFA) with collective efficacy. Population Health Metrics. PMCID: PMC4445268. PMID: 26019691.

Dunn, E.C., Brown, R.C., Dai, Y., Rosand, J., Nugent, N.R., Amstadter, A.B., & Smoller, J.W.  (2015).  Genetic determinants of depression: Recent findings and future directions.  Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 23 (1), 1-18. PMCID: PMC4309382. PMID: 25563565.
Dunn, E.C., Milliren, C.E., Evans, C.R., Subramanian, S.V., & Richmond, T.K.  (2015).  Disentangling the relative influence of schools and neighborhoods on adolescents' risk for depressive symptoms.  American Journal of Public Health, 105 (4), 732-40. PMCID: PMC4358201. PMID: 25713969.

Dunn, E.C., Richmond, T.K., Milliren, C.E., & Subramanian, S.V. (2015). Using cross-classified multilevel models to disentangle school and neighborhood effects: An example focusing on smoking behaviors among adolescents in the United States. Health & Place, 31, 224-232. PMCID: PMC4443928. PMID: 25579227.
Gilman, S.E., Ni, M.Y., Dunn, E.C., Breslau, J., McLaughlin, K.A., Smoller, J.W., & Perlis, R.  (2015).  Contributions of the social environment to first-onset and recurrent maniaMolecular Psychiatry, 20, 329-336. PMCID: PMC4206672. PMID: 24751965.
Murphy, J.M., Guzman, J., McCarthy, A., Squicciarini, A.M., George, M., Canenguez, K., Dunn, E.C., Baer, L., Simonsohn, A., Smoller, J.W., & Jellinek, M.  (2015). Mental health predicts better academic outcomes: A longitudinal study of elementary school students in Chile.  Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 46 (2), 245-256. PMCID: PMC4443903. PMID: 24771270.

Germine, L., Dunn, E.C., McLaughlin, K.A., & Smoller, J.W. (2015). Childhood adversity is associated with adult theory of mind and social affiliation, but not face processing. Plos One. PMCID: PMC4466913. PMID: 26068107


Dunn, E.C., Masyn, K.E., Yudron, M., Jones, S.M., & Subramanian, S.V. (2014). Translating multilevel theory into multilevel research: Challenges and opportunities for understanding the social determinants of psychiatric disorders. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49, 859–872. PMCID: PMC4067412. PMID: 24469555.

Dunn, E.C., Solovieff, N., Lowe, S. R., Gallagher, P. J., Chaponis, J., Rosand, J., Koenen, K.C., Waters, M., Rhodes, J., & Smoller, J. W. (2014). Interaction between genetic variants and exposure to Hurricane Katrina on post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth: A prospective analysis of low income adults. Journal of Affective Disorders, 152-154, 243-249. PMCID: PMC3873605. PMID: 24161451.

Pearson-Fuhrhop, K.M., Dunn, E.C., Mortero, S., Devan, W.J., Falcone, G.J., Holmes, A.J., Hollinshead, M.O., Roffman, J.L., Smoller, J.W., Rosand, J., & Cramer, S.C. (2014). Dopamine gene score predicts depressive symptoms in healthy adults and adults with depression. Plos One, 9 (5), e93772. PMCID: PMC4023941. PMID: 24834916.

Dunn, E.C., Winning, A., & Subramanian, S.V. (2014). Does poor health predict moving, move quality, and desire to move?: A study examining neighborhood selection in US adolescents and adults. Health & Place, 30, 154-164. PMCID: PMC4467831. PMID: 25282124.

Green, J.G., Johnson, R.M., Dunn, E.C., Lindsey, M.A., Xuan, Z., & Zaslavsky, A.M. (2014). Mental health service use among high school students exposed to interpersonal violence. Journal of School Health, 84 (2), 141-149. PMCID: PMC4126199. PMID: 25099429.


Dunn, E.C., McLaughlin, K.A., Slopen, N., Rosand, J., & Smoller, J.W. (2013). Developmental timing of child maltreatment and symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation in young adulthood: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Depression and Anxiety, 30, 955-964. PMCID: PMC3873604. PMID: 23592532.

Slopen, N., McLaughlin, K.A., Dunn, E.C., & Koenen, K.C. (2013). Childhood adversity and cell-mediated immunity in young adulthood: Does type and timing matter? Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 28, 63-71. PMCID: PMC4180230. PMID: 23108062.

Duncan, D.T., Piras, G., Dunn, E.C., Johnson, R.M., Melly, S.J., & Molnar, B.E. (2013). The built environment and depressive symptoms among urban youth: A spatial regression study. Spatial and Spatio-Temporal Epidemiology, 5, 11-25. PMCID: PMC3734378. PMID: 23725884

Theall, K.P., Brett, Z.H., Shirtcliff, E.A., Dunn, E.C., & Drury, S.S. (2013). Neighborhood disorder and telomeres: Connecting children’s exposure to community level stress and cellular response. Social Science and Medicine, 85, 50-58. PMCID: PMC3615150. PMID: 23540366


Dunn, E.C., Gilman, S., Slopen, N.B., Willett, J.B. & Molnar, B.E. (2012). The impact of exposure to interpersonal violence on gender differences in adolescent-onset major depression. Depression and Anxiety, 29, 392-399. PMCID: PMC4136968. PMID: 22447513.

Dunn, E.C., Johnson, R.M, & Green, J. G. (2012). The modified depression scale (MDS): A brief, no-cost tool to estimate the level of depressive symptoms in students and schools. School Mental Health, 4 (1), 34-45. PMCID: PMC3359067. PMID: 22639697

Tendulkar, S.A, Koenen, K.C., Dunn, E.C., Buka, S., & Subramanian, S.V. (2012). Neighborhood influences on perceived social support among parents: Findings from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Plos One, 9 (4), e34235. PMCID: PMC3320905. PMID: 22493683


Dunn, E.C., Uddin, M., Subramanian, S.V., Smoller, J.W., Galea, S., & Koenen, K.C. (2011). Gene environment (GxE) interaction research in youth depression: A systematic review with recommendations for future research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52 (12), 1223-1238. PMCID: PMC3202044. PMID: 21954964

Johnson, R.M., Kidd, J.D., Dunn, E.C., Green, J.G., Corliss, H.L, & Bowen, D. (2011). Associations between caregiver support, bully victimization, and depressive symptomatology among sexual minority and heterosexual girls: Results from the 2008 Boston Youth Survey. Journal of School Violence, 10 (2), 185-200. PMCID: PMC3375119. PMID: 22707917

Green, J.G., Dunn, E.C., Johnson, R.M., & Molnar, B.E. (2011). A multi-level investigation of the association between school context and adolescent non-physical bully victimization. Journal of School Violence, 10 (2), 133-149. PMCID: PMC3083921. PMID: 21532943


Dunn, E.C., Wewiorski, N.J., & Rogers, E.S. (2010). A qualitative investigation of individual and contextual factors associated with vocational recovery among people with serious mental illness. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80 (2), 185-194. PMID: 20553512 

McLaughlin, K.A., Kubzansky, L., Dunn, E.C., Waldinger, R., Vaillant, G., & Koenen, K.C. (2010). Developmental origins of emotional reactivity to stress and life course associations with mood and anxiety disorders. Depression and Anxiety, 27, 1087-1094. PMID: 21132844

Tendulkar, S.A, Buka, S., Dunn, E.C., Subramanian, S.V., & Koenen, K.C. (2010). A multi-level investigation of neighborhood effects on parental warmth. Journal of Community Psychology, 38 (5), 557-573.

2009 and before

Azrael, D., Johnson, R.M., Molnar, B.E., Vriniotis, M., Dunn, E.C., Duncan, D.T., & Hemenway, D. (2009). Creating a youth violence data system for Boston, Massachusetts. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 42 (3), 406-421. 

McCorkle, B.M., Dunn, E.C., Wan, Y.M., & Gagne, C. (2009). Compeer Friends: A qualitative study of a volunteer friendship programme for people with serious mental illness. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 55 (4), 291-305. PMID: 19553360 

McCorkle, B.M., Rogers, E.S., Dunn, E.C., Wan, Y.M., & Lyass, A. (2008). Increasing social support for individuals with serious mental illness: Evaluating the Compeer model of intentional friendship.  Community Mental Health Journal, 44 (5), 359–366. PMID: 18481176

Dunn, E.C., Rogers, E.S., Hutchinson, D.S., Lyass, A., MacDonald Wilson, K.L., Wallace, L.R., & Furlong-Norman, K. (2008). Results of an innovative university-based recovery education program for adults with psychiatric disabilities. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 35 (5), 357-369. PMID: 18553131

Dunn, E.C., Wewiorski, N.J., & Rogers, E.S. (2008). The meaning and importance of employment to people in recovery from serious mental illness: Results of a qualitative study. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 32 (1), 59-62. PMID: 18614451

Ellison, M.L., & Dunn, E.C. (2006). Empowering and demedicalized case management practices: Perspectives of mental health consumer leaders and professionals. Journal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation, 5 (2), 1-17.

Hutchinson, D.S., Anthony, W.A, Ashcroft, L., Johnson, E., Dunn, E.C., Lyass, A, & Rogers, E.S. (2006). The personal and vocational impact of training and employing people with psychiatric disabilities as providers. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 29, (3) 205-213. PMID: 16450932

Webster, D., & Dunn, E.C. (2005). Feminist perspectives on trauma. Women and Therapy, 28 (3/4), 111-142.




Available Positions

Research coordinator II

The Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU) in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) has an immediate opening for a Research Coordinator II to assist with a new set of projects exploring the use of shed primary teeth as novel biomarkers of exposure to stress and subsequent risk for mental health problems.

Working under the direction of Dr. Erin Dunn, candidates will gain valuable experience and knowledge working in all phases of the research process, ranging from project conceptualization, to study design, data analysis, and dissemination of results. Candidates with a MA degree of several years of research experience are preferred. The ideal candidate must exhibit excellent problem-solving skills, as well as a high level of expertise and comfort in facilitating objectives within a complex cross-functional project team that spans MGH clinics/departments and external sites. Opportunities for co-authorship of papers are available. To apply, please send a single email containing your CV and a brief statement describing your qualifications to Tannu Singh at

Data analyst I

The Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU) in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) is seeking highly motivated and enthusiastic candidates with expertise/interests in epigenetics and statistics for a Data Analyst I position

Working under the direction of Dr. Erin Dunn, the Data Analyst will contribute to an innovative project funded by the NIMH that focuses on integrating longitudinal data with insights from genetics, epigenetics, and human development to examine the developmental causes and consequences of DNA methylation (DNAm) on risk for depression in adolescence and young adulthood. Responsibilities will involve working with genetic and phenotypic data from a 20-year longitudinal study to perform epigenome-wide association analyses (EWAS) and implement several methods, including causal mediation analysis, Mendelian Randomization, and machine learning approaches. Ideal applicants will have a strong research background with 1-2 years of experience in the field of epidemiology, epigenetics or genetics and knowledge of R, Unix, and related data analysis pipelines.

PostDoctoral Fellow

The Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) is seeking highly motivated and enthusiastic candidates with expertise/interests in epigenetics for a post-doc opening to begin summer 2019.

Working under the mentorship of Dr. Erin Dunn, the post-doc’s responsibilities will involve working with genetic and phenotypic data from a 20-year longitudinal study to perform epigenome-wide association analyses (EWAS) and implement several methods, including: causal mediation analyses, Mendelian Randomization, and machine learning approaches. The post-doc will function as a high-level contributor, coordinator, and team member in this work, with numerous opportunities for interactions with investigators from across the world. To apply, please send a single email containing your CV and a brief statement describing your qualifications for this position to Dr. Erin Dunn at

Master’s or Doctoral-Level Part-Time Data Analyst

The Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit (PNGU) in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic master’s or doctoral-level part-time data analyst with expertise/interest in epigenetics to start immediately.  Working with a multidisciplinary team under the direction of Dr. Erin C. Dunn at MGH, the data analyst will be responsible for conducting data management and data analysis tasks for a study exploring the epigenetic pathways—and particularly DNA methylation (DNAm) changes—through which exposure to stress becomes biologically embedded during sensitive periods in development.

Candidates with backgrounds in multiple disciplines, including but not limited to epidemiology, genetics, and epigenetics are encouraged to apply.  Ideal applicants would have training in statistics or biostatistics and experience with R or SAS.  Experience working with large-scale epidemiological datasets is a plus, but not required. This is a highly unique opportunity for someone seeking an interdisciplinary experience to work with epigenetic, genetic, and rich phenotypic data while receiving outstanding team-based mentorship.  The position will begin immediately and could be extended based on interest. Opportunities for co-authorship of papers are available. To apply, please send a single email containing your CV and a brief statement describing your qualifications for this position to Tannu Singh at


We are always open to inquiries from individuals wishing to join the lab. In general, we are looking for people who have strong statistical skills and capacity to work with large epidemiological datasets. We are also open to working with those who have a good quantitative background, are highly motivated, and able to quickly learn new statistical techniques. Most importantly, we are looking for team players who are curious, interested in interdisciplinary approaches, and deeply passionate about finding ways to prevent mental illness. 

To apply, please send a single email containing your CV and a brief statement describing your qualifications to Tannu Singh at