Meridith Eastman, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow at Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics working with Dr. Roberson-Nay, Ph.D. Her overall interest is the intersection of biological, psychological, and social influences on adolescent health and wellbeing. Dr. Eastman’s Ph.D. training in public health captured the social component of her interests while her post-doctoral training is fulfilling her biological and psychological interests. VIPBG is the perfect place for her to continue her training, as “knowing how someone’s underlying genetic predisposition sets them up on a certain health trajectory is what interests me.”
For the past year and a half, Dr. Eastman has been focusing on two key lines of research. The first examines peer victimization among adolescents and how that might disrupt the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The second seeks to understand initial genetic susceptibility to being victimized by your peers, which is under-studied. Due to her varied and noteworthy training, Dr. Eastman approaches her research from multiple perspectives that complement each other. She is always thinking about the possibilities of prevention when studying the genetic components of peer victimization. For example, there is a link between peer victimization and depression that is linked to cortisol. Intervening with how an adolescent handles stress could be a way to prevent later depression. This is important, as she notes a shift in how researchers and the public talk about peer victimization. “It used to be a rite of passage or something that kids just put up with and now people recognize that it’s a salient and potentially harmful social stressor during adolescence.”
Outside of work, Dr. Eastman enjoys playing the cello in the Richmond Philharmonic Orchestra – she has been playing the instrument since third grade. She also likes to take her mind off of work by watching trashy reality TV and documentaries. Along with her fiancé, Dr. Eastman frequently explores the Richmond restaurant scene and gets to know her Church Hill neighborhood better by walking their dog.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
“I have to remind myself of that when faced with a daunting personal or professional challenge,” she notes.
Article by Jessica Bourdon.