Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Early-career researcher successes in Division of Psychiatry

July 2020: There have been many successes for early-career researchers in Psychiatry recently in obtaining fellowships or lectureships. Many congratulations to Miruna Barbu, Lucy Stirland, Alex Kwong, Liana Romaniuk and Donncha Mullin!

Dr Miruna Barbu

Dr Miruna Barbu

Miruna Barbu is a postdoctoral researcher in the Division of Psychiatry. She has recently finished her PhD, which focussed on identifying the causes and consequences of major depression by integrating genetic and neuroimaging data in large, population-based studies.

Miruna is now investigating DNA methylation in relation to depression and depression-related traits. She has recently obtained a Guarantors of Brain Fellowship to investigate pathway-specific polygenic and gene expression-based scores for schizophrenia in relation to brain imaging and disease-related phenotypes.

Miruna Barbu - profile

Dr Lucy Stirland

Dr Lucy Stirland

Lucy Stirland is an old age psychiatrist in training. She was recently awarded her PhD on the epidemiology of multimorbidity, polypharmacy and mental health in ageing.

In August 2020 she will take up a Postdoctoral Clinical Lectureship funded by the Chief Scientist Office and NHS Education for Scotland, allowing her to complete her clinical training alongside research over two years. She will study combinations of medicines and their relationship to dementia and depression, using data from NHS Scotland and the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936.

Lucy Stirland - profile

Dr Alex Kwong

Dr Alex Kwong

Alex Kwong completed his PhD at the University of Bristol in 2019, examining the nature and development of adolescent depression trajectories. He swiftly joined CCBS in October 2019 for a postdoc with Professor Andrew McIntosh looking at the genetics of depression.

Alex is currently working on several projects that are broadly associated with the genetics of depression, this includes large scale GWAS projects looking at depressive symptoms scores, and genetic pathways to depression that could be mediated or moderated by environmental factors.

In November 2020, Alex will begin a one year Postdoctoral Fellowship funded by the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) to model genetic and environmental risk factors for adolescent depression.

Alex Kwong - profile

Dr Liana Romaniuk

Dr Liana Romaniuk

Liana Romaniuk is training to specialise in child and adolescent psychiatry. She has a particular interest in computational approaches, and her PhD applied these methods together with neuroimaging techniques to investigate perceptual decision making in people with schizophrenia. She has since worked on large scale longitudinal studies looking at the interplay between reward brain networks, personality characteristics and depression.

In February 2020 she began an ECAT SCREDS Clinical Lectureship, and will work on combining computational psychiatry and neuroimaging to examine risk and resilience of mental illness in young people, through novel neuroimaging pilot studies, and the analysis of large scale datasets. The focus will be on understanding what factors impact on a young person’s emerging sense of self, what this looks like neurodevelopmentally, and how this in turn can lead away from or towards illness.

Liana Romaniuk - profile

Dr Donncha Mullin

Dr Donncha Mullin

Donncha Mullin is a psychiatry trainee and exercise enthusiast, having qualified first as a physiotherapist before studying Medicine.

Donncha was recently awarded a 3-year clinical fellowship PhD from the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Masonic Charitable Foundation, the first of its kind, for his proposal titled: Development of a polygenic risk score of motoric cognitive risk syndrome for early identification of individuals at high risk of dementia. He will be supervised by Dr Graciela Muniz and Dr Tom Russ.

Donncha will use the UK Biobank dataset to look at the natural variations in the code that makes up the genes of 500,000 different people to see which variants are associated with Motoric Cognitive Risk (MCR) syndrome. Dr Mullin will combine these variants to get a personalised risk score for the development of MCR syndrome which he will then test out in over 1,000 people in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936. This could identify targets for treatment to ultimately contribute to a decreased number of people living with dementia worldwide.

Donncha Mullin - profile

Related links

Psychiatric disorders research at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences