The GAYA Study - Exploring the Genetic Architecture of Youth Anxiety


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  Dr Sandra Meier, Dr Manuel Mattheisen  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

 PROSIT Lab seeks 1 highly motivated and curious Ph.D. student from different disciplines to join our lab in September 2023. You will be co-supervised by Drs. Sandra Meier and Manuel Mattheisen. We are part of the Psychiatry, Computer Science, and Community Health and Epidemiology Departments at Dalhousie University. 

Our laboratory’s overall research goals are to improve youth’s mental health by identifying youth at risk and developing novel smartphone apps to make early intervention and preventative strategies more accessible. We are particularly interested in how genetics impact mental illness and how smartphone applications and internet cognitive behavioral treatments can assist in more accessible treatment for youths with various mental health disorders. In general, the lab’s research is based on a mix of methodology: co-design workshops, randomized control studies, collecting samples for genetic testing, smartphone application testing, individual interviews, and focus groups. 

The PhD research project will focus on CIHR funded project, The GAYA Study - Exploring the Genetic Architecture of Youth Anxiety. The goal of this Pan-Canadian (taking place amongst others in Calgary, Toronto, Hamilton, and Halifax) research project is to better understand the (genetic) underpinnings of anxiety disorders by conducting a large-scale genetic study of 13,000 youth with detailed assessments for symptoms of anxiety disorders and their major comorbidities and antecedents. As such the GAYA Study represents one of the largest efforts for youth anxiety worldwide. The PhD student will be fully funded through the project. However, they are also strongly encouraged to apply for eligible internal and external graduate student scholarships and will receive active support from the PROSIT lab in these funding applications. 

The project will provide opportunities to work with techniques such as multivariate analysis, meta-analysis, structural equation modeling, multi-trait conditional, deep learning and joint analysis. The PhD student will be assigned to aims 1 and 2 of the project: identify genetic risk factors associated with clinical symptoms and vulnerability markers of youth anxiety, and genetic factors unique to anxiety in different (age) groups.

Our trainees benefit from participating in Journal Clubs and seminar series, a wide range of career development opportunities, and local, national, and international research conferences. Our groups are at the forefront of anxiety genetics worldwide, co-leading analyses in international efforts to disentangle the genetic architecture of anxiety disorders (via the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium). We are looking for enthusiastic trainees with a keen interest in Genetics, Bioinformatics, Mobile Sensing, Psychology, or Psychiatry, with prior experience in data analysis and statistics and who are passionate about working with youth. 

Please see for more details about the lab itself, our research, and the team. If you are interested in our work, you can contact us at [Email Address Removed] with a brief introduction that details your previous research experience and your research interests. Please also include your CV, a transcript, and a list of referees. Interested applicants should be familiar with the entrance requirements for one of Dalhousie University’s Departments of Psychiatry, Computer Science, or Community Health and Epidemiology graduate programs. We are committed to enhancing equity and diversity in our field and providing a supportive and inclusive research environment for all lab members. We encourage prospective candidates from underrepresented or equity-seeking groups in the sciences to apply to the PROSIT lab. 

Biological Sciences (4) Mathematics (25) Psychology (31)

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 About the Project