Why are individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) at a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety? Vivian's research looks for changes in neurobiology that might underlie the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on mental well-being in adulthood.

 
Dr. Joanne Weinberg
Vancouver
Canada
 

Research Description

Prenatal alcohol exposure can produce a wide range of adverse effects in the offspring that are described under the umbrella term 'Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders' (FASD). Mental illness, especially depression and anxiety, affects many individuals with FASD. However, the mechanisms underlying the etiology of depression and anxiety, and increased vulnerability to develop depression in FASD are not well understood. For my doctoral research, I use a rat model of FASD to investigate how prenatal alcohol exposure affects the ability to cope with stress as well as changes the brain areas involved with regulating stress. Given that females are underrepresented in depression research despite the increased prevalence of depression in females, my project will examine how males and females may differ. Findings from this research will contribute to the development of novel, sex-specific therapeutic interventions that may mitigate the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on mental health.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

Being a public scholar means caring and understanding about the impact of one's academic work on the public, and establishing meaning beyond pure intellectual pursuit to create applied work or conversations that can more directly contribute to the public good.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

One of the valuable opportunities offered by this Initiative is that it will support networking between like-minded individuals in academic settings and non-academic partners who value PhD-level thinking. This type of networking will undoubtedly encourage dialogue, broaden research questions, and ensure each research question is relevant to the current and anticipated need of the community and world.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

I envision that recognizing and using all the transferable skills acquired through my PhD work (e.g. ability to communicate, orally and in writing, complex and ambiguous ideas, to research and synthesize novel information, to troubleshoot, etc) will open up a range of career possibilities and connect the PhD degree with a broad range of career paths.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

I hope that my work will eventually help better support the needs of individuals with FASD.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

A graduate degree offers the space to ask deep questions and to come up with innovative ways to answer these questions. Also, it allows me to engage with people who are experts in their disciplines from whom I can learn and get inspired.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

Three reasons: the program, the people, the campus. The UBC Graduate Program in Neuroscience is one of the top Neuroscience programs in Canada, home to many amazing world-class Neuroscience researchers. Also, my supervisor, Dr. Joanne Weinberg – a Distinguished University Scholar of UBC and a world-renowned researcher in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – attracted me with her outstanding multidisciplinary work and drive for knowledge translation. It’s also hard to refuse a beautiful campus like UBC.

 

Being a public scholar means caring and understanding about the impact of one's academic work on the public, and establishing meaning beyond pure intellectual pursuit to create applied work or conversations that can more directly contribute to the public good.