Medical & Health Sciences
I am a laboratory-based postdoctoral fellow from Stellenbosch University with an interest and expertise in neuropsychiatric genetics and the gut microbiome. I have been involved in several neuropsychiatric genetics projects over the past eleven years, with a special focus on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For my postdoctoral research (2014-2016), I received an Innovation Postdoctoral Fellowship (NRF) and Biological Psychiatry Research Development Award to investigate the role of non-coding RNAs in D-cycloserine-facilitated fear extinction. More recently, I have led the development of a gut microbiome project for psychiatric disorders. Our study on patients with PTSD was the first gut microbiome study published on PTSD and the first study from a South African (SA) cohort. I received a Self-initiated Research Grant (MRC) and Biological Psychiatry Research Development Award to continue the PTSD gut microbiome research in a larger cohort and to perform mechanistic immunological measurements. I also received a NARSAD Young Investigator Award for the proposed saNeuroGut project. In 2017, I spent three months at KU Leuven, Belgium, to learn microbiome data analysis skills. This motivated me to initiate a large-scale microbiome study in South Africa, the saNeuroGut project: a South African Microbiome Initiative in Neuroscience (www.saneurogut.org). It is one of the first large-scale, population-based microbiome studies in SA. I have presented my research at several national and international conferences and to the public. I am involved in several collaborative projects on psychiatric genetics and the gut microbiome. I have supervised, co-supervised and served as examiners to postgraduate students. I have published 15 peer-reviewed manuscripts and have a Scopus H-factor of eight. High rates of violence contribute to the high rates of PTSD in SA; I, therefore, hope that my research will contribute towards a better understanding and improved treatment strategies for mental health disorders, especially in South Africa.