To what extent, and how, do our early environments mold our personalities and abilities? I pursue this question by studying the biological links between early environmental exposures and child outcomes. To understand these underlying biological pathways, I integrate –omics data sets, which capture variation in genetic sequence, epigenetic marks, and gene expression, with deep phenotyping, or in depth measurements of individuals behavioral and emotional patterns. In a current project, I am interested in the extent that a mother’s experience of stress during pregnancy may shape stress-responsive temperament in infants. I am looking at epigenetic marks, which capture the influence of both genetic predisposition and environmental exposures, as a possible bridge between prenatal stress exposure and infant temperament. Although we tend to think of temperament as biologically engrained, we still know very little about how these biological tendencies develop in the earliest months of life, which I hope this work will begin to address.
Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?
I wanted to get training in genome wide analysis, and specifically epigenetics, and came across my current supervisor at a conference. Of course, I looked into other possibilities but UBC was my top choice.
What specifically attracted you to your research group?
I was trained in psychology for my PhD, and wanted to get experience for my post doc in a true biology laboratory. The social atmosphere among lab members was also a plus!
What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?
Keep applying to fellowship awards and don't let rejection get you down. With every new application, you get stronger and learn from the last ones. It helps you to develop your conceptual thinking and grant writing skills as well.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to stay pretty active. I climb, ski, play soccer, and hike. Typical Vancouverite!
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?
Talking bigger picture kinds of things in our field, and bouncing off new ideas with lab members and colleagues.
What does receiving this award mean for your career?
Obviously the Banting gives you a lot of great exposure, and the support makes it possible to really focus on research for an extended period without concern for funding. It is an honor to have received it, and I am immensely grateful to my supervisor and letter writers who helped to make it happen.