Jinni Su, a postdoctoral researcher with the EDGE Lab and COBE, was recently awarded a $5,000 grant by the VCU Postdoctoral Scholar Association for a spinoff research project based on Spit for Science.
Her project, entitled “A Culturally Relevant Approach to Understanding Gene-Environment Interaction in Alcohol and Substance Use Problems Among African-American Young Adults,” seeks to examine how genetic predispositions interact with culturally relevant risk and protective factors in predicting alcohol and substance use problems in African-American young adults.
Alcohol and substance use disorders are common but serious psychiatric conditions, with risk peaking during young adulthood. Genetic predispositions and environments interact in predicting alcohol and substance use outcomes, but pathways of risk for alcohol and substance use disorders may vary in individuals of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.
Due to ancestral history, it is possible that different genetic variants may be influential for alcohol, substance use and related outcomes across racial groups.
Little is known about gene-environment interactions in relation to alcohol and substance use outcomes in racial/ethnic minorities due to a lack of specific research focusing on them.
Su plans to explore this intersection by creating a follow-up survey that specifically focuses on culturally-relevant environmental factors such as racial discrimination and socialization attached to the 2017 Spit for Science data collection as well as referencing information from prior S4S cohorts.
The VCU Postdoctoral Scholar Association grant program aims to assist postdocs in establishing themselves as independent researchers.