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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Human Genetics Branch Human Genetics Branch

People

Current Lab Members

Tiffany Ajumobi

Tiffany Ajumobi, BS, graduated from Yale University in 2021 with a major in Neuroscience. While at Yale, she completed a senior’s thesis on the interaction of astrocytes and microglia during various forms of cell death in the brain. Tiffany joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a post-baccalaureate IRTA under the NIH Academy Enrichment Program in September 2021. In the future, she plans on pursuing an MD.

Jonathan Blumenthal, MA

Jonathan Blumenthal, MA, is a Research Psychologist. His degree is from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was the Project Coordinator for several alcohol, drug, and ADHD studies. He came to the NIMH in 1997 to oversee the collaboration with Montreal Neurological Institute, which focused on automated measures of brain anatomy using MRI. He then became the Project Coordinator of the Study of Sex Chromosome Variations, including Klinefelter Syndrome and Trisomy X Syndrome, that explored the effects of chromosomes on brain development. He is now the Research Coordinator for the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics.

Liv Clasen, PhD

Liv Clasen, PhD, is a graduate of the Clinical Psychology program at The George Washington University. She is the Data Manager for the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics.

Aleksandra Dakic, PhD

Aleksandra Dakic, PhD is the Wet Lab Manager in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics. She received her PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Belgrade in Serbia. Previously, Aleksandra was a Scientist at American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) collaborating with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) team to develop and implement a new method for mouse cell line authentication. Before joining the ATCC in 2016, Aleksandra spent 12 years at Georgetown University conducting research on the basic biology of papillomaviruses and their role in human cancers. During her research career, she has gained extensive experience in the cell immortalization and cell reprogramming, as well as 3D cell modelling. Aleksandra’s current research interests are focused on developing in vitro cellular models from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), to enhance our understanding of sex chromosome influences on human neurodevelopment.

Alex DeCasien, Ph.D.

Alex DeCasien, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics. She received her PhD in Biological Anthropology from New York University. Her research integrates phylogenetic comparative methods, neuroimaging, ‘omics,’ and bioinformatics to illuminate the patterns and evolutionary drivers of brain variation in humans and nonhuman primates. Currently, her work is focused on characterizing normative sex differences in brain cell-type specific gene expression patterns across the human brain.

Yangfeifei “Feifei” Gao

Yangfeifei “Feifei” Gao, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychology at Children’s National Hospital. She joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics in September 2020. Dr. Gao completed her graduate training at the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program and residency at the Edmonton Consortium Clinical Psychology Residency Program. Her research interests include examining behavioral and neural endophenotypes within heterogeneous developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder using multimodal neuroimaging and data-driven analytical approaches.

Elisa Guma, PhD

Elisa Guma, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from McGill University. During her doctoral studies she investigated how exposure to both prenatal and adolescent risk factors for neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, namely gestational exposure to maternal infection and adolescent cannabis exposure, affect brain development. She leveraged longitudinal structural magnetic resonance imaging, behavioral, and transcriptional phenotyping in mice to investigate the questions. Currently, her work aims to characterize the effect chromosome dosage on human and mouse brain development.

Claire Hanson, B.A.

Claire Hanson, BA, graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2021 with a major in Neuroscience and a minor in French. Her senior thesis investigated computational models of the firing dynamics of decision-making neurons. Claire joined the SDN as a post-baccalaureate IRTA in June of 2021. In the future, she plans to complete an MD-PhD and become a physician-scientist.

Lauren Kenworthy

Lauren Kenworthy, PhD, is Director of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children’s National Hospital and has been collaborating with the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a contractor since 2018. She received a BA from Yale University and PhD from the University of Maryland. She completed her internship and residency training in clinical psychology/pediatric neuropsychology at Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital Boston, Johns Hopkins Medical School and Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. She has been on the faculty at Children’s National and GW since 1995. Dr. Kenworthy's research interests are in describing and treating the neuropsychological phenotype of autism. She is an author of more than 60 peer-reviewed publications documenting non-social deficits in autism and is a co-author of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF). Her recent publications have focused on the role of executive dysfunction in autism and its treatment. She is author of a school-based, executive function intervention for children on the autism spectrum, Unstuck and On Target.

François M. Lalonde, Ph.D.

François M. Lalonde, PhD is a Staff Scientist working on the advancement of MRI neuroimaging methods and technologies that can be applied to study brain development and decline through the lifespan. Majoring in psychobiology, he graduated with distinction from McGill University, and then obtained an MA from The George Washington University and his PhD from Howard University, both in neuropsychology. He is a licensed psychologist with expertise in geriatric as well as pediatric neuropsychological assessment. After 30 years of service, Dr. Lalonde retired this past year from the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service at the rank of Captain.

Elizabeth Levitis, MSc

Elizabeth Levitis, MSc, studied Cognitive Science and International Development during undergrad and subsequently completed a Masters in Neuroscience at McGill University. Her MSc thesis focused on data-driven modelling of amyloid beta spread in familial and sporadic Alzheimer's disease. She joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics in July 2020 as a PhD candidate in the UCL-NIMH Joint Doctoral Training Program in Neuroscience, jointly supervised by Dr. Armin Raznahan and Dr. Daniel Alexander. Her research uses multimodal neuroimaging data to understand how spatial patterns of altered brain networks emerge across multiple phenotypic features in both neurogenetic and idiopathic neurodevelopmental disorders. This work will help clarify the degree of redundancy between different measures of brain change, and it will generate new multimodal phenotypes that can then be related to the underlying biology (e.g. regional gene expression patterns) and clinical features (e.g. variation in symptom severity).

Siyaun Liu portrait

Siyuan Liu, PhD is a Staff Scientist in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics. He received his PhD in bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago. With a focus on neuroimaging, he completed postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Francisco and a research fellowship at NIDCD. He is interested in studying the typical development of brain structures and functions, and abnormal changes in X and Y chromosome aneuploidies, and how these abnormalities are associated with clinical symptoms and genetic factors.

Maya Mastronardo, B.S.

Maya Mastronardo, BS, graduated from Towson University in 2021 majoring in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Bioinformatics and a Chemistry minor. While at Towson, she researched genetic material involved in the tuberculosis pathogen. Maya joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a post-baccalaureate in June 2021. In the future, she hopes to pursue research in a PhD program.

Linh Pham

Linh Pham, BS, completed her undergraduate studies at Humboldt State University and postbaccalaureate training at the NIH. Throughout this period, Linh worked on several research projects that trained her in molecular biology techniques and principles of data analysis. She is currently an MD-PhD student in the NIH OxCam Program and UT Health San Antonio MSTP. Linh’s graduate work will investigate how structural covariance is formed in the brain. This work will be supervised by Dr. Armin Raznahan and Professor Jason Lerch (Oxford).

Srishti Rau

Srishti Rau, PhD, is a pediatric neuropsychologist at Children's National's Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and has been collaborating with the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a contractor since 2018. Dr. Rau received a B.S. from Duke University and PhD in clinical psychology from the Catholic University of America. Her dissertation research focused on social and communication symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) without intellectual disability. She completed internship training in pediatric neuropsychology/clinical psychology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric neuropsychology at Children's Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Rau’s clinical and research work focus on presentation of ASD in children and adolescents with co-occurring medical conditions (e.g., genetic diagnoses, epilepsy).

Armin Raznahan, MD, PhD

Armin Raznahan, MD, Armin Raznahan, MD, PhD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and Chief of the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics (SDN). His research combines neuroimaging, genomic and bioinformatic techniques to better understand the architecture of human brain development in health, and in neurogenetic disorders that increase risk for psychiatric symptoms. Dr. Raznahan completed his undergraduate and graduate training in London, UK (Medicine and pediatrics at King’s College University/ Hospital; psychiatry and the Maudsley Hospital), and then trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Drs. Jay Giedd and Judith Rapoport at the NIMH Intramural Research Program. Dr. Raznahan joined the NIH-Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program in 2015, and became a tenured Senior Investigator at the NIMH IRP in 2020.

Luke Schaffer, BS

Luke Schaffer, BS, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2021 with a double major in Biological Sciences and Psychology along with a minor in Chemistry. While at Pitt, he completed an honors thesis which explored the relations between personality traits, physiological stress responses, and a circulating marker of inflammation. Luke joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a post-baccalaureate IRTA in June of 2021. In the future, he hopes to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology or Behavioral Neuroscience.

Rebecca Shafee, PhD

Rebecca Shafee, PhD, is a Research Fellow in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics. Rebecca Completed her BS at Caltech and PhD at Harvard - both in physics. For her PhD thesis she developed ways to measure how fast black holes spin. At the postdoctoral level her research focused on neuroscience and genetics. As a Swartz Fellow at the Center for Brain Science, she worked in Randy Buckner's group to better understand the myelination pattern of the human cerebral cortex. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School she used statistical genetics to better understand the genetic basis of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Linking the genome to brain anatomy and function in healthy as well as diseased individuals remains the focus of her research interest at present and at SDN she is excited to investigate the genetic basis of sex differences in the human brain using statistical genetics tools.

William Snyder, BS

William Snyder, BS, is an NIH Gates Cambridge Scholar and Psychiatry PhD candidate. He completed his undergraduate neuroscience degree at Bucknell University, where he began researching neuropsychiatric disorders using human brain imaging. As part of the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars program, he is pursuing a jointly mentored thesis with Drs. Armin Raznahan and Ed Bullmore (Cambridge). He hopes to improve models of brain organization in health and in genetic brain disorders by linking human brain function to novel assessments of brain folding.

Erin Torres, MSN, CRNP-PMH

Erin Torres, MSN, CRNP-PMH is a Family Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who received her degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore in May of 2014. She has been working as a nurse practitioner in private practice since November of last year. She has been working as a clinical research nurse for almost 7 years on the pediatric behavioral health unit at the National Institutes of Health. She has been a registered nurse since August 2002 and received her Bachelors of Science from Hampton University in May 2002. The majority of her nursing career has been in various psychiatric settings, but she also has experience working in the emergency department and in pediatrics. She will be conducting physical exams and nursing assessments for the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics.

Konrad Wagstyl, MBPhD

Konrad Wagstyl, MBPhD, is a Sir Wellcome Research Fellow at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL, using computational methods to find links between cortical microstructure and in vivo neuroimaging. He received his MBPhD at the University of Cambridge in Psychiatry with Professor Paul Fletcher. His collaboration with the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics involves mapping post-mortem atlases of gene expression and histology to in vivo neuroimaging data, to better understand the microstructural underpinnings of subtle morphological changes seen in neuropsychiatric conditions.

Alumni

Aaron Alexander-Bloch

Aaron Alexander-Bloch MD, PhD, studied philosophy of mind at Harvard College and completed a Masters in computational biology at the University of Cambridge. His MD/PhD training was a collaboration between the UCLA School of Medicine, the University of Cambridge, and the Child Psychiatry Branch at NIMH, through the NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program. His PhD research used structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging to study typical development and childhood-onset schizophrenia, with a particular focus on network models of the brain and structure-function relationships. At Cambridge, he was supervised by Prof Ed Bullmore. At NIMH, he was supervised by Jay Giedd and collaborated closely with Armin Raznahan. Currently a psychiatry resident at Yale in the Neuroscience Research Training Program, he continues to be interested in brain imaging and the application of computational methods to psychiatry.

Prableen K. Chowdhary

Prableen K. Chowdhary is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park obtaining a dual degree in neurobiology and biochemistry. She is a part of the Gemstone Honors Program on a 10-member team researching hematopoietic stem cell differentiation from induced pluripotent stem cells. She spent Summer 2016 as a student intern in The Developmental Neurogenomics Unit of the Child Psychiatry Branch. Prableen hopes to pursue a PhD in neuroscience and research neurodegenerative disorders and mental illnesses.

Alexander Denker, Ph.D.

Alexander Denker, Ph.D. returned to NIMH in 2019 to serve as a Scientific Policy Analyst in the Extramural Policy Branch. Dr. Denker completed his doctoral training in Psychology with a concentration in Neuroscience and Animal Behavior at Emory University. Prior to his Post-Baccalaureate IRTA position, Dr. Denker graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in “The Neuroscience of Art,” building his concentration by combining the coursework of a neuroscience major with courses in the cultural theory of art and music.

Ari M. Fish, BS

Ari M. Fish, BSc, is a 2014 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Psychology and a minor in Economics. He joined the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit in July, 2015. During his time at the NIH, he worked on multiple projects, including an examination of sex chromosome dosage on gyrification of the human cortex, as well as an analysis of amygdalo-hippocampal development in healthy adolescents. Ari is currently a medical student at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.

Alli Hanley

Alli Hanley, PhD learned a new skillset working on several neuroimaging projects, including a novel use for magnetization transfer imaging and writing the first quantitative study of brain matter in 48, XXYY syndrome. The latter study was presented at the Society for Neuroscience 2015 conference and was published in NeuroImage: Clinical. After leaving the Branch, she hiked the Appalachian Trail, completed an MHS at Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in Epidemiology at the University of Maryland.

Amy Lin

Amy Lin graduated from Colorado College with a BA in Neuroscience in 2012. While at the Child Psychiatry Branch, Amy published a paper with Dr. Armin Raznahan that mapped brain asymmetry in people with sex chromosome aneuploidies. She presented the work at the Organization for Human Brain Mapping conference in Hamburg, Germany. She is currently in a PhD program in Neuroscience at UCLA.

Bridget Mahony, B.S.

Bridget Mahony, BS, graduated from Emory University in 2020 with a double major in Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology and French Studies. She was a Post-baccalaureate Fellow in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics from 2020 to 2022, where her research focused on sex differences in task fMRI data and the influence of cognitive ability on co-occurrence of psychiatric symptoms. She is currently working in industry as a data scientist.

Travis Mallard, M.A

Travis Mallard, M.A., is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the genetic architecture of serious mental illnesses and related complex traits. In May 2019, he joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a Special Volunteer in order to pursue genetic research on neurodevelopment and brain morphology. After completing his clinical internship in 2021, Travis plans to continue his research, integrating statistical, psychiatric, and imaging genetics to yield novel insights into the pathogenesis of psychopathology.

Catherine M. Mankiw, AB

Catherine M. Mankiw, AB, is a 2014 graduate of Princeton University with a major in Economics and a cross-disciplinary minor in Ethics. She was a Post-Baccalaureate Research Fellow in the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit of the Child Psychiatry Branch. Catherine is currently at Harvard Medical School.

Cassidy McDermott, BS

Cassidy McDermott, BA, graduated from Dartmouth College in 2017 with a major in Neuroscience and minors in Education and Spanish. She was a Post-Baccalaureate IRTA in the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit from 2017 to 2019. While at the DNU, Cassidy worked with children with Klinefelter Syndrome and conducted research on environmental effects on brain development, as well as white matter structure variation in typical development. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Ajay Nadig, B.A.

Ajay Nadig, B.A. is a 2017 graduate of Northwestern University with majors in Neuroscience and Philosophy. He worked as a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit from 2017 to 2019, where he worked with children with Klinefelter’s Syndrome and conducted research on brain morphology in health and genetic disease. He is presently enrolled in the joint M.D./Ph.D. program at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jakob Seidlitz, BS

Jakob Seidlitz is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, working with Aaron Alexander-Bloch. He spent his time at the DNU during his PhD in the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program, jointly supervised by Armin Raznahan and Ed Bullmore (Cambridge). His work, focused on integrating non-invasive neuroimaging (MRI) with transcriptomics/genomics, spanned normative childhood and adolescent development and rare neurogenetic syndromes (e.g., sex-chromosome aneuploidies).

Kathryn Tsai, B.S.

Kathryn Tsai, BS, graduated from Villanova University in 2020, majoring in Computer Engineering and Comprehensive Science with a focus in Biomedical Informatics. While at Villanova, she completed her senior thesis on the hemodynamic effects of short-term augmented cognition. She also worked on a meta-analysis of expressive quantitative trait loci (eQTLs), studying mechanistic hypotheses, gene locus architecture, and single-cell methods. Kathryn joined the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics as a post-baccalaureate IRTA in the summer of 2020. In the future, she hopes to become a physician-scientist.

Allysa Warling, BA

Allysa Warling, BA, graduated from Colorado College in 2019 with a degree in Neuroscience. She was a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in the Section on Developmental Neurogenomics from 2019 to 2021, where she worked with children with Klinefelter’s Syndrome and studied neuroanatomical structures in both psychiatric disease and typically-developing cohorts. She is currently pursuing an MD at Harvard Medical School.

Ethan Whitman, B.S.

Ethan Whitman graduated from Tufts in 2019 and joined the SDN as a post-baccalaureate IRTA from 2019 until 2021. At the SDN, Ethan researched alterations in brain function in youth with Klinefelter syndrome and worked with children with various sex chromosome aneuploidies. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology at Duke University.

Kathleen Wilson, BA

Kathleen Wilson, BA, graduated from Middlebury College in 2019 with majors in Neuroscience and Spanish. She was a post-baccalaureate fellow in the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit from 2019 to 2020. During her time at the DNU, she enjoyed working with children and adolescents with Klinefelter Syndrome and their families. She also conducted research on the use of familial cognitive and behavioral traits to predict trait outcomes in individuals with neurogenetic disorders. Kathleen is currently pursuing an MD at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Anastasia G. Xenophontos

Anastasia G. Xenophontos, BS, is 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan with a major in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. She spent the past two years as a Post-Baccalaureate Research Fellow in the Developmental Neurogenomics Unit conducting research on sex chromosome dosage effects on cortical morphology. Anastasia is currently at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Mani Yavi member of DNU

Mani Yavi, MD, is currently a psychiatry resident at Saint Elizabeths Hospital, with a strong background in scientific research. His interests in neuroscience have led him to seek mentorship at NIH in Dr. Raznahan’s lab, where he is applying bioinformatics models to large longitudinal neuroimaging datasets to determine white matter variations and neural tract impacts of sex-differences, allometry, and structure-function relationships within the central nervous system. Mani completed his bachelors at UC Berkeley with a dual degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Studio Art. Prior to medical school, he was doing research at UCSF on the genetics of eye development and the optico-neural circuits. Mani graduated from SUNY Upstate Medical University and completed a year of internal medicine there before moving to Washington DC, where he plans on pursuing a career in academic psychiatry.