We are a multidisciplinary team of researchers from a range of fields, including epidemiology, public health, genetics, education, neurology, psychiatry, and psychology.
Erin C. Dunn is a social and psychiatric epidemiologist with expertise in genetics. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She also holds an appointment in the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Dr. Dunn’s research is centered on using cross-disciplinary approaches to better understand the social and genetic factors that influence the etiology of mental health problems. She focuses mainly on depression and anxiety among women, children, adolescents and other vulnerable populations (i.e., racial/ethnic minorities; individuals of low socioeconomic status). The long-term goal of her work is to identify the causal mechanisms underlying risk for depression, develop population-based strategies for prevention, and target these strategies to periods in development when they could have greatest impact. Dr. Dunn received a Doctor of Science in 2011 from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She trained under Drs. Karestan Koenen, Subu Subramanian, Felton Earls, and Katherine Masyn. Dr. Dunn also completed post-doctoral research training at MGH under Drs. Jordan Smoller and Jonathan Rosand. Dr. Dunn’s work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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.
Sam is currently in her fourth year of an undergraduate program in Behavioral Neuroscience at Northeastern University. She is completing a six-month co-op experience here at the Dunn lab. Previously, she worked as a co-op/research assistant with the Harvey Lab at Harvard Medical School and with the Suicide and Mental Health Research Group at the University of Otago, Wellington. Sam is interested in exploring the role of neuroplasticity and genetics as factors underlying mental illnesses such as depression. In the lab, she is hoping to gain a better understanding of the extent to which early life stress and biological factors predict mental health outcomes.
Katherine is a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Center for Genomic Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Katherine graduated with a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Genetics, Genomics, and Development from Cornell University in 2015. While at school Katherine developed a keen interest in working with large scale genomic data as well as a budding curiosity for neurological diseases. Her previous research experience includes work with Equine Genetics as well as RNA editing in Arabidopsis. Katherine is assisting in analysis of data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).
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.
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.
Khalil received a Master's degree in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from ENSAE ParisTech (the Paris Institute of Technology). He is currently a graduate student in Biostatistics at Brown University. Before joining the Dunn lab, he interned at the World Bank Group in Washington D.C. working as a data analyst, and also worked at HSBC in Paris. Additionally, he also interned at the French Research institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) where he ran data analyses to help protect New Caledonia’s fragile ecosystems. Joining the Dunn Lab as a data analyst, he will be focusing on the genomic predictors of susceptibility to depression, and how exposure to stress during periods in development becomes biologically embedded. Khalil’s research interests include environmental statistics, genetics, cancer genomics, and the application of machine learning algorithms. Outside of the lab, he enjoys all types of sports and traveling to warm places.
Juan C. Ramirez-Tapia
Juan is from Peru and he recently joined the Dunn Lab as a bioinformatics intern. He will be supporting in data analysis while exploring gene-based associated methods for evaluating genetic effects related to sensitive periods. In the past, he worked at MGH and Boston University School of Medicine where he helped to implement a local database and evaluated RNA extraction methods for NGS analysis, respectively. He also worked at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health–BSAS where he participated in the efforts of mapping treatment providers. Other activities that he likes to do consist of raising awareness of adaptive sports for people with physical disabilities. Juan received his B.S. in Biology at Stonehill College and his M.S. in Bioinformatics at Boston University.