The Team

Charlotte Cecil, PhD

Lab Director

Charlotte is an Associate Professor within the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry & the Department of Epidemiology at Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Charlotte trained as a developmental psychopathologist specializing in child behavioural problems, obtaining first a BSc in Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London (2004-2007) and then an MSc in Forensic Psychology at University of Surrey (2007-2008). In 2013, she completed a PhD at University College London, where she examined the impact of childhood trauma on youth cognitive, emotional and behavioural functioning. Through this work, Charlotte became increasingly interested in understanding how early life experiences ‘get under the skin’ at a biological level, influencing risk of developing psychiatric problems later in life. As a result, she moved into the field of biological psychiatry during her time as a postdoctoral researcher (2013-2015) and research fellow (2016-2018) based at King’s College London, working with high-risk samples as well as epidemiological birth-cohorts to study the role of epigenetics and other biological factors in child mental health. Since 2018, Charlotte leads the Biological Psychopathology research line of the Generation R Study, an ongoing epidemiological birth cohort of nearly 10,000 children born in Rotterdam, followed from pregnancy to adolescence, and one of the largest studies in the world with longitudinal epigenetic and neurodevelopmental data across childhood. In addition, Charlotte is the co-founder of the Methylation, Imaging and NeuroDevelopment (MIND) consortium, and works closely with multiple other consortia as Chair (e.g. ENIGMA-Antisocial Behavior; EarlyCause) and contributor (e.g. PACE, EAGLE, PGC-ADHD). Charlotte has received multiple personal grants to fund her research, including a UK Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders Fellowship, a European Marie Skłodowska-Curie Leading Fellows award, and most recently a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant. In addition, she contributes to a range of internationally funded collaborative projects, including three European Horizon grants for which she is Work Package Leader. The originality and impact of her research has been recognized by several prizes, including awards by the European Psychiatric Association, the Royal Society of Medicine, and Nature Research.


Postdoctoral research fellows & Contributors


Anil Ori, PhD

Postdoctoral research fellow

Anil is a postdoctoral researcher whose work is focused on clarifying the etiology of mental illnesses by combining biological and clinical insights with statistical programming. Anil obtained his doctoral training in human genetics and psychiatric genomics at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Center for Neurobehavioral Genetics in collaboration with the Erasmus University Rotterdam. He has since also worked at the University Medical Center Groningen where, in collaboration with the Lifelines Biobank, his work revealed an increased population prevalence of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. At the inDEPTH Lab, he investigates intergenerational transmission of risk for developing mental illnesses by leveraging trio genetic and epigenetic data in the diverse and admixed Generation R study. Anil is also interested in population genetics, for which he is currently receiving training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. Anil is committed to propel a science that is open, equitable, and that serves and benefits all of us. You can follow him on twitter: @anilpsori.

Contact: a.ori@erasmusmc.nl / anil.ori@mssm.edu

Rosa Mulder, PhD

Postdoctoral research fellow

Rosa works as a postdoctoral researcher and is interested in how early life stress can get ‘under the skin’. Having a background in Neurobiology as well as Psychology, she is specifically interested how genes and the environment act together on biological pathways to affect mental health. During her PhD, she mainly focused epigenetic pathways, studying how our epigenome changes throughout life and its associations with stress. For this, she examined both the children of Generation R at the Erasmus MC as well as the children of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood at Bristol University. Currently, she takes a multi-omic approach, studying how genes and stress may affect our epigenome, our gut (microbiome), and our brain.

Contact: r.mulder@erasmusmc.nl

Koen Bolhuis, PhD

Postdoctoral research fellow and Resident in training

Koen Bolhuis is resident in training at the department of Psychiatry, Amsterdam UMC. He is also a post-doc researcher at the department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology of the Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam, where he obtained his PhD with honours (cum laude) in 2019. His thesis was titled “On Psychotic Phenomena and Unruliness: studies on the Child Risk for Severe Mental Illness”. Is his research, he focuses on early risk and neurodevelopment of mental health problems using large population-based cohorts in collaboration with the Generation R Study, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Furthermore, Koen volunteers for Dokters van de Wereld, an NGO aiming to improve access to (mental) health care for undocumented migrants and he is a board member for De Jonge Psychiater, a platform for Dutch psychiatrists and residents. In the inDEPTH lab, Koen’s work focuses on examining gene-environment interplay on mental health as well as identifying neural correlates of externalizing problems, in collaboration with the ENIGMA consortium.

Contact: koen.bolhuis@amsterdamumc.nl


PhD candidates


Tim Finke, MSc

Doctoral candidate

Tim is a PhD student at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology. He received a Master’s degree in Genes in Behaviour and Health at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam, where he gained experience working with twin data, performing multi-omics analyses, and programming in R, Python and Unix/Linux. His desire to analyse genetic and environmental influences on behaviour in a context of mental health, led him to our department. During his PhD, Tim will study the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the intergenerational transmission of psychiatric risk from parents to offspring, including the characterization of circulating miRNA profiles in the general paediatric population, the genetic and environmental influences on miRNA profiles, and the role of miRNA as a potential marker versus as a mechanism of intergenerational transmission.

Contact: t.finke@erasmusmc.nl

Anna Suleri, MSc

Doctoral candidate

Anna is a PhD student at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Generation R Study Group, both at the Erasmus MC (the Netherlands). She received a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine, and a Research Master’s degree in Clinical Epidemiology. Currently, she paused her medicine trajectory for her PhD, because she is very passionate about research. Anna is enthusiastic to study the involvement of the immune system in brain and mental health development. Specifically, she is interested to understand how activation of the mother’s immune system during the prenatal period influences long-term brain and behavior development in the child. She is also very excited to learn more about programming and different statistical methods along the way.

Contact: a.suleri@erasmusmc.nl

Kristina Salontaji, MSc

Doctoral candidate

Kristina is a PhD candidate at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Erasmus MC. She obtained a Master’s degree in clinical and fundamental neuroscience from the Vrije University Amsterdam, where she worked with human post-mortem brain tissue and integrated RNA sequencing data with GWAS summary statistics to learn more about cell type-specific expression of risk genes for neurological diseases. She is fascinated by the process of aging wants to make use of bioinformatics to contribute to our understanding of how we can live longer and healthier lives. Her research focuses on modeling biological clocks that can be used to study the underlying mechanisms of aging, especially neurodevelopment, epigenetics, and sex hormones. These biological clocks will be used to uncover the long-term consequences of adverse life experiences in childhood and to predict psychopathology later in life.

Contact: k.salontaji@erasmusmc.nl

Serena Defina, MSc

Doctoral candidate

Serena is a PhD student at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of Erasmus MC. Along her BSc in Psychology and MScR in Cognitive Neuroscience, she gained some experience in neuroimaging (EEG, fMRI) data collection and analysis and advanced behavioral modeling. Her current research focuses on the role of early-life stress in the development of multimorbid cardiometabolic problems and depressive symptoms. She is also completing her training with a second MSc in (Genetic and Molecular) Epidemiology. Serena is especially passionate about understanding the mechanisms through which mind and body interact in shaping a person’s health, including neurodevelopmental, behavioral and biological influences. She is also excited about new developments in AI-based tools for data mining as well as open science initiatives.

Contact: s.defina@erasmusmc.nl

Mannan Luo, MSc

Doctoral candidate

Mannan received her Bachelor’s degree from School of Psychology at Southwest University, China and her Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology, at Beijing Normal University, China. She am currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Psychology, Education and Child Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, and Generation R Study Group, Erasmus MC. Her research interests are focused on the epigenetic profile of childhood psychopathology, including social problems, as well as children’s brain development such as ventricular volume. She hopes to learn more about the polygenic structure of neuropsychiatric disorders, and how these polygenic risks and the accumulation of environmental risk factors jointly affect mental health.

Contact: l.mannan@erasmusmc.nl mannan@essb.eur.nl

Isabel Schuurmans, MSc

Doctoral candidate

Isabel is a PhD Candidate at the department of Epidemiology at Erasmus Medical Center. She received a Master’s degree in Epidemiology and a Master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology both from the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Besides, she has a great interest in neurological and cognitive development. Her research focusses on the development of ‘reserve’ in children and adults. The concept of ‘reserve’ suggests that early in life a cognitive and brain reserve, measured with cognitive tests and MRIs of the brain, is built up and that this reserve can buffer the effects of neuropathology later in life. During her PhD, she will investigate the role of genetic and environmental factors on the development of cognitive and brain reserve in childhood and adulthood, with a specific focus on early life stressors (pre- and postnatal) and mental health.

Contact: i.schuurmans@erasmusmc.nl


Students


Isabel de Graaf, BSc

Visiting student

Isabel is a sixth-year graduate student at Erasmus University Rotterdam. After finishing her bachelor’s degrees in both Criminology and Psychology, she decided to do a master programme that would fit these two disciplines perfectly: Forensic and Legal Psychology. Currently, she is doing her research internship at the Generation R Study where she is conducting semi-structured clinical interviews (K-SADS and SCIL) with 17/18 years old participants. For her dissertation research she will analyse data of the Generation R study, to see whether cognitive executive function in childhood will predict aggression in early adolescence. Her research interests lie in identifying individuals that are prone to engage in delinquent behaviour. In the future she would like to become an investigative psychologist or conduct research commissioned by the Dutch National Police. 


Alumni


Jolien Rijlaarsdam, PhD

Former postdoctoral research fellow in the lab (2018-2021) and NWO Veni grantee

Jolien was part of the team as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus MC Rotterdam. During her PhD she examined integrative developmental models of child mental health problems, incorporating socio-economic status, the observed home environment, parental mental health, and parenting. During her time in the lab she worked on her NWO/ZonMW (Veni) funded project to investigate the associations between cumulative risk exposure, genome-wide DNA methylation and the general psychopathology factor.

Contact: j.rijlaarsdam@erasmusmc.nl

Sara Sammallahti, PhD

Former Postdoctoral research fellow and Marie Sklodowska-Curie awardee (2019-2021)

Sara is a psychologist and medical doctor who received her PhD from the University of Helsinki, Finland in 2018. After a one-year post-doctoral fellowship split between Erasmus MC, Netherlands and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, US, she received a LeadingFellows grant through the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Programme, and now works as a postdoctoral researcher at Erasmus MC. Her work focuses on early environmental exposures and maternal health in relation to offspring neurodevelopment. Within the Pregnancy and Childhood Epigenetics (PACE) consortium, she is coordinating multiple epigenome-wide association studies relating to maternal stress and child health.

Contact: sara.sammallahti@helsinki.fi

Alexander Neumann, PhD

Former postdoctoral research fellow in the lab (2018-2020)

Alex was part of the inDEPTH team as a postdoctoral researcher from 2018 to 2020. During this time he studied the (epi-)genetics of child psychiatric problems, with a focus on genetic effects underlying general psychopathology and the co-occurrence of internalizing, externalizing and other problems. His work was embedded in multiple international consortia, in which we performed a genome-wide association study of total child psychiatric problems (EAGLE consortium), an epigenome-wide association study of ADHD (PACE consortium), studied the effects of maternal prenatal mood on offspring psychopathology, as well as the performance of combining multiple polygenic risk scores in prediction of general psychopathology (DREAM BIG consortium). Currently, Alex studies the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease and related biomarkers at the Kristel Sleegers Lab at the VIB-UAntwerp Center for Molecular Neurology, with a focus on rare variants, the transcriptome, X-chromosome and sex differences in Alzheimer’s disease.

Elize Verhoeff-Koopman, PhD

Former PhD student in the lab (2018-2020)

Elize is a clinical child psychologist in training at Leiden University, the Netherlands. She received her PhD in child and adolescent psychiatry from the Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands using the Generation R data. There, she examined the bidirectional association of sleep and mental health in children and the role of bedtime and family routines. As part of her PhD, she spent 10 months as a Fulbright scholar at the Bradley Sleep Lab of Brown University, Providence, RI, where she worked on sleep and developmental disorders, such as Autism and ADHD in children. In the inDEPTH lab Elize’s work focuses on assessing the relationships between childhood sleep, mental health and DNA methylation. 

Contact: m.verhoeff@erasmusmc.nl

Chiara Caserini, MSc

Former visiting student in the lab (2020)

Chiara obtained an MSc course in Clinical Psychology of Developmental Age at Sigmund Freud University, Faculty of Psychology, in Milan (Italy). During this time, she worked for seven months as research intern at the Department of Child and Adolescence Psychiatry/Psychology, Erasmus MC, within the inDEPTH lab. Here, she examined the link between DNA methylation and the general psychopathology factor in childhood, using data from Generation R Study, in a project co-supervised by Jolien Rijaarsdam and Charlotte Cecil. She is currently working at King’s College University as a research intern at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, in the Developmental Psychopathology Lab. Her research now focuses on the relationship between polygenic risk for inflammation and depression in adolescence, considering the moderating influence of life style. Research Interests: psychiatric genetic, psychiatric epigenetic, psychopathology of developmental age, nutritional psychiatry.

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