The Research Society on Alcoholism recognized Danielle Dick’s work with its 23rd annual Young Investigator award at its annual meeting this June in San
Dick, an associate professor of psychiatry, psychology, and human and molecular genetics with the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, joined the medical school’s faculty in 2007.
Dick said she initially grew interested in psychiatric disorders as a pre-med student at the University of Virginia. She went on to study the genetics of schizophrenia before being drawn to the complexities of alcohol dependence, in which genetic and environmental factors play out along with developmental issues.
In her work focused on risk pathways for alcohol dependence, she has found that children who carry genes associated with adult alcohol dependence display many other behavior problems long before they ever use alcohol, such as aggression and more serious rule-breaking.
“What ultimately hooked me is that studying the development of alcohol dependence represents so many of the challenges that make psychiatric conditions fascinating,” she said. “Different people can end up with the same disorder through different pathways, and it’s our job to figure out what those risk pathways are, so that we can better prevent these debilitating disorders.”