Seth Disner, 2006

Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Professional Background

Following my time at Duke, I spent three years working as a lab manager/study coordinator at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia Medical Center where I studied clinical applications of neuromodulation (e.g. transcranial magnetic stimulation, electroconvulsive therapy, transcranial direct current stimulation, etc.). After that experience, I did my graduate training at the University of Texas at Austin, where I received my PhD in Clinical Psychology, followed by an internship and my current postdoc at the Minneapolis VA. My research in Austin and Minneapolis has primarily focused on understanding the biological mechanisms that confer risk for internalizing disorders, with a particular focus on Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This research broadly revolves around translational neuroscience, which involves using more basic psychological science (e.g. genetics, neuroimaging) to guide the application of clinical interventions (e.g. therapy, medication, neuromodulation). I am currently involved in research on veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a specific focus on identifying genome-wide predictors of PTSD and depression following exposure to combat trauma.

How has being a P&N graduate helped shape your professional success?

There is no chance I’d be where I am now without my experiences at Duke. My concentration was in Cognitive Psychology, but that focus fed off my other courses in biological and abnormal psychology, which combined to spark the interest in translational research that I’m pursuing today. The most important thing I did was my senior honors thesis, under the supervision of Dr. Beth Marsh. This year long experience, where I designed my own study, collected my own data, ran my own analyses, and presented my own findings, was truly a formative endeavor for me. A career in research isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but after working so closely with Dr. Marsh and her dedicated graduate students and staff, I knew that it was something that was meant for me. The benefits of my Duke Psychology degree didn’t end when I received my diploma. I learned about my job at Columbia thanks to the social sciences career list serve, and probably had a leg up in my application since my eventual boss, Dr. Sarah Lisanby, is herself a Duke alum (and very proud of it). When it came time to apply for graduate school, I received guidance and glowing recommendations from various faculty members. And to this day, I’m working as part of a large scale consortium with multiple professors at Duke (and, unfortunately, a few more from 8 miles down the road). My Duke psychology experience has given me the background and support I needed to really grow in this field.  
Seth Disner, 2006