Danielle Dick, Ph.D.

Dr. Danielle Dick

Commonwealth Professor
Developmental Psychology
800 W Franklin, rm 202
(804) 828-8756

Commonwealth Professor of Psychology and Human and Molecular Genetics (tenured)
Ph.D. (2001), Indiana University

Doctoral Program Affiliations

Primary: Developmental Psychology
Secondary: Health Psychology and Clinical Psychology


Research Interests

My research focuses on how genetic and environmental influences contribute to the development of patterns of substance use and related behaviors, such as childhood conduct problems and depression, and how we can use that information to inform prevention and intervention.  It integrates developmental and clinical psychology, behavior genetics/twin studies, and statistical genetics/gene identification. There are many active grants and projects in the group that span (1) twin studies (2) gene-identification projects and (3) community-based, longitudinal studies. We have studied samples of >10,000 twins from early in adolescence until young adulthood (the FinnTwin projects), collecting longitudinal data on health behaviors and personality traits at multiple assessments from age 12 to 25. We are currently studying how environmental risk factors, such as parental monitoring and home atmosphere, peers, and neighborhood influences, interact with genetic predispositions, and how this changes across development.  In addition, I am involved in the Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism, a project with the goal of identifying the specific genes involved in alcohol dependence and related disorders and characterizing their risk across development, and in conjunction with the environment.  In addition, my lab coordinates the genotyping component of several longitudinal, developmental studies, with extensive phenotypic assessments spanning from early childhood to mid-adulthood. These include the Child Development Project, a sample of ~500 children followed with intensive annual assessments from kindergarten through age 25; the Mobile Youth Study, an on-going community-based sample of children ages 10-18 from high-risk, impoverished neighborhoods in Mobile, Alabama; the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an epidemiological cohort of ~10,000 children enrolled when their mothers were pregnant and assessed yearly -- prenatally through young adulthood; and the Project Alliance Sample, which has followed a cohort of ~1000 adolescents with phenotypic and genotypic information and has a prevention component. In these projects we are studying how identified genes contribute to trajectories of risk across development, and how different environmental factors exacerbate or mitigate risk. 

I am particularly interested in substance use and mental health outcomes in youth and young adults.  I run a large longitudinal project at VCU called Spit for Science (spit4science.vcu.edu), in which we have enrolled nearly 10,000 VCU students, and are following them longitudinally to study risk and protective factors for substance use and emotional health outcomes across the college years and beyond.  I also direct an interdisciplinary institute focused on promoting behavioral and emotional health in college communities through the integration of research with coursework, programming, and policy (cobe.vcu.edu). 

Select Publications

Dick, D. M. (in press). Using genetics in prevention: Science fiction or science fact? Prevention Science.
Dick, D. M., Adkins, A. E., & Kuo, I. C. (2016). Genetic influences on adolescent behavior. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 70, 198-205.
Dick, D. M., & Hancock, L. C. (2015). Integrating basic research with prevention/intervention to reduce risky substance use among college students. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 544.
Dick, D. M., Agrawal, A., Keller, M., Adkins, A., Aliev, F., Monroe, S., Hewitt, J., Kendler, K. S., & Sher, K. (2015). Candidate gene-environment interaction research: Reflections and recommendations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10, 37-59.
Dick, D. M., Nasim, A., Edwards, A. C., Salvatore, J., Cho, S. B., Adkins, A., Meyers, J., Yan, J., Cooke, M., Clifford, J., Goyal, N., Halberstadt, L., Ailstock, K., Neale, Z., Oplaesky, J., Hancock, L., Donovan, K. K., Sun, C., Riley, B., & Kendler, K. S. (2014). Spit for Science: Launching a longitudinal study of genetic and environmental influences on substance use and emotional health at a large US university. Frontiers in Genetics (Behavioral and Psychiatric), 5, 47.

Recent Courses

  • Spit for Science: Conducting and Understanding Research, undergraduate level
  • Science of Happiness, undergraduate level
  • Genes, Environment, and Human Behavior, undergraduate level

Recent Grants

Creating Engaging Digital Resources for College Students on Prescription Drug Use. Principal Investigator. July 2016-July 2017. Cardinal Health Foundation.

Understanding Connections Between Behavioral and Emotional Health, Co-Curricular Engagement, and Student Success. Co-Investigator. June 2016-May 2018. Quest Innovation Award (VCU).

Integrating Research, Coursework, and Technology to Create a Culture of Wellbeing at Virginia Commonwealth University. Principal Investigator. October 2015-September 2017. Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP). $10,000.

Genes, Environments & Interventions: Understanding and Addressing Alcohol Misuse. Principal Investigator. September 2015-August 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). K02AA018755-06. $130,345.

Preventing Underage and Risky Drinking Among College Students. Principal Investigator. June 2015-June 2016. Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. $7,500.

Gene-Environment Interplay in the Development of Alcohol Use and Related Problems. Principal Investigator. September 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 2R01 AA015416-A1, $2,687,133.

Cross Species of Gene Networks for Ethanol-Related Behaviors. Co-Investigator (PI, Project 5). August 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). P50AA0022537. $6,942,968.

Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism. Principal Investigator, VCU site. September 2014-August 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 5 U10 AA008401, $1,372,500.

Characterizing Pathways of Risk Associated with Identified Genes and Gene Networks (Project 5 of the VCU Alcohol Research Center Grant). Principal Investigator, Project 5. August 2014-May 2019. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). 1P50 AA022537, $6,942,968 (Center).

A Longitudinal Study of Genes, Environment and Alcohol Misuse in College Students. Acting Multiple PI (with Kendler). September 2012-August 2017. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). R37 AA011408, $2,372,763.

Recent Awards

  • 2015, Elected Fellow, Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research
  • 2015, Nominee for VCU Student Affairs Collaboration Award (Spit for Science)
  • 2013, Young Alumni Award (inaugural), Indiana University Department of Psychology
  • 2012, Ted Reich Young Investigator Award, International Society of Psychiatric Genetics

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