Dr. Jehannine Austin
Dr. Jehannine Austin
CFRI investigator; associate professor, UBC Department of Psychiatry and Department of Medical Genetics; Canada Research Chair in Translational Psychiatric Genomics
BEHIND THE MICROSCOPE...
I am leading a number of research studies, all of which aim to use what we know from genetic research to help make things better for people who live with psychiatric disorders and their families. I’m also currently president-elect of the National Society of Genetic Counselors.
I did my undergraduate degree in biochemistry and my PhD in genetics of psychiatric disorders in the UK before moving to Canada –I did my clinical training as a genetic counsellor here at UBC.
My partner and I live right in the centre of downtown. We enjoy crossfit, hanging out with our three cats, cooking and eating, and being outdoors in BC’s natural beauty.
WHAT YOU’D NEVER KNOW ABOUT ME?
People are often surprised when I tell them that I am an introvert, meaning that I replenish my energy through being alone, rather than through interactions with others. I really enjoy interacting with people—it’s just that I often find it draining.
WHY I BECAME A RESEARCH SCIENTIST?
It was an accident! I thought I wanted to be a clinical genetic counsellor, helping patients to understand what we know from research about the causes of illness. But I wanted to provide genetic counselling specifically for people with psychiatric illnesses, and when I graduated with my genetic counselling MSc, no one was doing that yet. I love that it allows me to be really creative intellectually, and that I can help my trainees grow and learn.
I really enjoy scuba diving, snowboarding, reading, and everything about food – getting it (from the farmers’ market, foraging mushrooms or catching seafood), cooking it, and eating it.
I’d be a fantastic roller derby player!
IF I DIDN’T HAVE TO WORK?
I would still want to be doing something meaningful. I would probably volunteer. But I’d take more vacations – I’d love to drive across Canada in an RV, and visit Japan and Tasmania, and I’d take up pottery again.
We all have the power to make a difference. Even if sometimes we feel that all we can do is something small, the small things add up if we are all doing them. And doing a small thing can inspire others to action, too. I feel that we have a responsibility to act on things we care about to make things better.
WHAT I’M READING NOW...
The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. I read a lot of non-fiction, but this series is really interesting – it’s kind of a fantasy/sci-fi with really well-developed, strong female lead characters. Anita Sarkeesian, who I follow, tweeted about it.
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