I am a physician-scientist, child and adolescent psychiatrist, with background in translational neuroscience ranging from basic molecular neuroscience to clinical studies. My professional life’s mission is to enhance the understanding of mechanisms underpinning risk and resilience to psychiatric disorders in developing youths. As a child psychiatrist I aspire to ultimately leverage this understanding for advancing prevention and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders in children and adolescents. My research career began with studying basic science models of neuronal development working with stem cells, consequently moving to translational studies with animal models capturing endophenotypes of neuropsychiatric disorders. Since starting my clinical training as a child and adolescent psychiatrist in 2012, I added a clinical perspective to my research, working on stress related disorders and suicide, and studying inflammation in psychiatric disorders. I joined the Lifespan Brain Institute (LiBI) at CHOP & UPenn in August 2017, where I pursue my mission of studying mechanisms that affect developmental trajectories in the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort (PNC). Overall my work focuses on the effects of developmental stress on psychopathology, attempting to dissect the interplay of genetic (G) and environmental (E) factors underlying susceptibility versus resilience.
My research interests stem from clinical challenges that I have encountered in my work with children and adolescents seeking psychiatric help. I am especially fascinated by how some patients, with specific risk factors and subthreshold symptomatology, proceed to develop serious psychiatric conditions, while others do not. Whereas substantial research is dedicated to study risk factors for developmental psychopathology, still there is limited understanding of mechanisms that underpin resilience in developing humans. Resilience, similar to susceptibility, is influenced by G, E and their interaction, and is underpinned by measurable genetic, epigenetic, immune-related and neurocognitive factors.