Meet Lauren Bertin, M.A.

An interview with Q4 2020’s featured TADA trainee

lauren_bertinLauren Bertin is a Ph.D. candidate in the Psychology Department at Emory University. She is a fourth student doing research on the bidirectional relationship between executive functioning and substance use disorders through sophisticated twin and molecular genetic methods. Lauren is currently a trainee in the TADA program.

We would like to orient readers to who you are. Could you tell us about yourself? Where were you born? Where did you get your education?

Originally from New York, Lauren attended Bennington College, where she explored different research internships. After graduating, she landed a position at Columbia, where she studied the genetics of glioblastoma. Though this particular topic was not of interest, this opportunity helped cement her interest in research. She decided to enroll at Hunter College of the City University of New York in NYC, where she took psychology classes and worked in a lab that studied substance use. This experience allowed Lauren to realize she enjoyed the field of substance use disorder. During a conference, Lauren met Dr. Rohan Palmer, her current advisor, and he encouraged her to apply to Emory. Lauren is currently in the fourth year of her doctoral program. She tells her undergraduate students that career trajectories are not always linear; there are often a couple of bumps along the road.

Could you tell us about your current projects?

Lauren is currently leading two projects, both of which she started during the first year of her doctoral program. One project introduced her to twin modeling, which will help her conduct her dissertation. This project examines social support in African American twins, and examines the relationships among social support, depression, and perceived stress. Lauren’s dissertation analyzes data from twins, and examines the relationships among executive functioning, alcohol use trajectories, and cannabis use trajectories. She plans to use longitudinal twin modeling and polygenic risk scores to examine these relationships.

What is your favorite project that you have worked on so far?

One project that holds a special place in Lauren’s heart is the one she started her first year in her doctoral program. She was helping with a study that sought to predict nicotine dependency through a multi-trait polygenic model. The project allowed Lauren to collaborate with other people and utilize a multidisciplinary research approach. 

What would you say to someone interested in pursuing research in the field of a substance use disorder, particularly pursuing a Ph.D.?

Lauren advises students to keep an open mind and realize that earning a Ph.D. is a commitment. She says to always look for an opportunity to learn (e.g., work with faculty on their research projects) especially in areas outside one’s niche. Lauren warns that research will not always go how one planned, and this is okay. There is a level of resilience needed to pursue research. Lauren suggests that learning about the stigmas surrounding mental health is vital if you are developing a career studying substance use disorders.

Why did you pursue the TADA fellowship, and what opportunities do you think it will provide?

Lauren applied for the TADA program in large part to expand her knowledge base beyond clinical psychology. Lauren realized there was a whole body of literature and skills pertaining to Big Data that she had not yet been able to dive into. Engaging with these novel data will allow her to make connections that she hopes will have a lasting impact in the field of substance use.

What do you do when you are not involved in your dissertation, research, or clinical work?

In her free time, Lauren enjoys baking, walking around Atlanta, and trying new food. Some of her favorite restaurants include Wisteria, Miller Union, and Georgia Boy.