Dr. Danielle Dick



Research Interests

My research focuses on how genetic and environmental influences contribute to the development of patterns of substance use and related behaviors, such as childhood conduct problems and depression, and how we can use that information to inform prevention and intervention.  It integrates developmental and clinical psychology, behavior genetics/twin studies, and statistical genetics/gene identification. There are many active grants and projects in the group that span (1) twin studies (2) gene-identification projects and (3) community-based, longitudinal studies. We have studied samples of >10,000 twins from early in adolescence until young adulthood (the FinnTwin projects), collecting longitudinal data on health behaviors and personality traits at multiple assessments from age 12 to 25. We are currently studying how environmental risk factors, such as parental monitoring and home atmosphere, peers, and neighborhood influences, interact with genetic predispositions, and how this changes across development.  In addition, I am involved in the Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism, a project with the goal of identifying the specific genes involved in alcohol dependence and related disorders and characterizing their risk across development, and in conjunction with the environment.  In addition, my lab coordinates the genotyping component of several longitudinal, developmental studies, with extensive phenotypic assessments spanning from early childhood to mid-adulthood. These include the Child Development Project, a sample of ~500 children followed with intensive annual assessments from kindergarten through age 25; the Mobile Youth Study, an on-going community-based sample of children ages 10-18 from high-risk, impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama; the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an epidemiological cohort of ~10,000 children enrolled when their mothers were pregnant and assessed yearly -- prenatally through young adulthood; and the Project Alliance Sample, which has followed a cohort of ~1000 adolescents with phenotypic and genotypic information and has a prevention component. In these projects we are studying how identified genes contribute to trajectories of risk across development, and how different environmental factors exacerbate or mitigate risk. 

I am particularly interested in substance use and mental health outcomes in youth and young adults.  I run a large longitudinal project at VCU called Spit for Science (spit4science.vcu.edu), in which we have enrolled nearly 10,000 VCU students, and are following them longitudinally to study risk and protective factors for substance use and emotional health outcomes across the college years and beyond.  I also direct an interdisciplinary initiative focused on promoting behavioral and emotional health in college communities through the integration of research with coursework, programming, and policy (cobe.vcu.edu). 

Selected Publications:

Dick, D.M., Hancock, L.C. (2015). Integrating basic research with prevention/intervention to reduce risky substance use among college students. Frontiers in Psychology6,544. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00544
Dick, D.M., Agrawal, A., Keller, M., Adkins, A., Aliev, F., Monroe, S., Hewitt, J., Kendler, K.S., & Sher, K. (2015). Candidate gene-environment interaction research: Reflections and Recommendations.Perspectives on Psychological Science,10(1), 37-59. doi:10.1177/1745691614556682 
Dick, D.M., Nasim, A., Edwards, A.C., Salvatore, J., Cho, S.B., Adkins, A., Meyers, J., Yan, J., Cooke, M., Clifford, J., Goyal, N., Halberstadt, L., Ailstock, K., Neale, Z., Oplaesky, J., Hancock, L., Donovan, K.K., Sun, C., Riley, B., & Kendler, K.S. (2014). Spit for Science: Launching a longitudinal study of genetic and environmental influences on substance use and emotional health at a large US university. Frontiers in Genetics (Behavioral and Psychiatric), 5,47. doi:10.3389/fgene.2014.00047 
Dick, D.M.,Cho, S.B, Latendresse, S.J., Aliev, F., Nurnberger Jr, J.I., Edenberg, H.J., Schuckit, M., Hessebrock, V.M., Porjesz, B., Bucholz, K., Wang, J.C., Goate, A., Kramer, J.R., & Kuperman, S. (2014). Genetic influences on alcohol use across stages of development: GABRA2 and longitudinal trajectories of drunkenness from adolescence to young adulthood. Addiction Biology,19(6), 1055-64. doi:10.1111/adb.12066
Dick, D.M., Aliev, F., Latendresse, S.J., Hickman, M., Heron, J., Macleod, J., Joinson, C., Maughan, B., Lewis, G., & Kendler, K.S. (2013). Adolescent alcohol use is predicted by childhood temperament factors before age 5, with mediation through personality and peers. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research37(12), 2108-17. doi:10.1111/acer.12206

Active Grants:

Preventing underage and risky drinking among college students. Principal Investigator. June 2015-June 2016. Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. $7,500
Gene-environment Interplay in the Development of Alcohol Use and Related Problems. Principal Investigator. September 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 2R01 AA015416-A1, $2,687,133
Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2014-August 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 5 U10 AA008401, $1,372,500 
Characterizing Pathways of Risk Associated with Identified Genes and Gene Networks (Project 5 of the VCU Alcohol Research Center Grant). Principal Investigator, Project 5. August 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 1P50 AA022537, $6,942,968 (Center)
A Longitudinal Study of Genes, Environment and Alcohol Misuse in College Students. Acting Multiple PI (with Kendler). September 2012-August 2017. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R37 AA011408, $2,372,763
Family Etiology and Prevention of Young Adult Addictive Behavior. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2011-May 2016. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). R01 DA007031-A1, $1,274,408
Pathways to Alcohol Use Disorders in ALSPAC: A Genetic-Developmental Study. MPI (with Kendler). September 2010-August 2016 NCE. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R01 AA018333, $668,791


Awards and Honors:

Nominee for VCU Student Affairs Collaboration Award (Spit for Science), 2015
Indiana University Department of Psychology Young Alumni Award (inaugural), 2013 
International Society of Psychiatric Genetics Ted Reich Young Investigator Award, 2012
International Society of Psychiatric Genetics Richard Todd Award in Child Psychiatry, 2011 
Research Society on Alcoholism Young Investigator Award, 2010
Selection for Who’s Who in American Women, 2010