We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers from a range of fields, including epidemiology, public health, genetics, education, neurology, psychiatry, and psychology.
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.
I was born and grew-up in Pistoia, Italy, where I’ve done most of my studies, including high school, where my strong interest in science began. Following my university studies, I graduated from medical school cum laude with a thesis on the genetics of memory at the University of Florence in 2009. I started the neurology residency right after at the same University, graduating cum laude last year. I was trained in the stroke Unit and I was responsible for clinical assessment, neuroimaging and neuropsychological evaluation in a study on the risk factors of cognitive disorders in the elderly. More recently, I spent one semester at the University of Genève, Switzerland, where I dedicated myself to advanced computational neuroimaging, studying functional and structural connectivity measures in vascular cognitive impairment. Finally, I spent six months in Albuquerque (NM) where I had the opportunity to become more familiar with molecular mechanisms of the white matter injuries, commonly seen in elderly patients. Cerebrovascular disease, genetics and aging brain are definitely my main interests that I would like to explore from different point of view.
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.
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 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.
Khalil studied in France, where he received a Bachelor’s and Master's degree in applied mathematics and economics from ENSAE ParisTech, the Paris Institute of Technology. Before joining the Dunn Lab, Khalil interned at the World Bank Group in Washington D.C., where he worked as a data analyst. He then worked as a financial engineer at HSBC in Paris. As he gradually lost interest in finance, he started developing a passion for the application of statistics in health related issues. He decided to intern at the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) to further explore this field. Khalil is now a graduate student in biostatistics at Brown University. Joining the Dunn Lab as a data analyst, he will be focusing on the genomic predictors of susceptibility to depression. His research interests include statistical genetics, environmental statistics, cancer genomics, and the application of machine learning algorithms. Outside of the lab, he enjoys all types of sports and traveling to warm places.
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.
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.
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.
Yael attended Barnard College of Columbia University in New York where she majored in psychology and explored many of her other interests such as anthropology, art history, and economics. After working at multiple fashion companies in New York such as Bloomingdale’s, Kate Spade, and Diane von Furstenberg, Yael realized that her passions most strongly lie in psychology, neuroscience, and mental health. Yael is currently a student in the Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program at the Harvard Extension School in the hopes of pursuing her dream of becoming a medical doctor. Yael is excited to join the Dunn Lab and hopes to learn more about identifying biomarkers that can help trace the development of mental health disorders throughout the lifespan.
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.