Applications to become an MQ fellow are open for researchers in the United States. The opportunity will mean researchers will receive not only financial support but also practical support from the MQ team. Which of our MQ researchers have previously been based in the USA and what areas of research have they been supported in developing?



In MQ’s first year as a charity organisation, 2013, two of our first ever fellows were based in the United States.

Dr Susanne Ahmari identified brain activity related to Obsessive behaviours, the first step towards developing new treatments for OCD.Dr Ahmari investigated what happens in the brain to cause OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) specifically, whether complications in the brain’s circuits may cause symptoms.

Susanne’s project involved a new technique named optogenetics which means researchers can isolate and study specific brain cells. This can happen by these cells being made sensitive to light, then targeted lights being used to switch those cells on and off. With this fascinating technique, Susanne progressed the understanding of OCD forwards and contribute to treatments.


“The MQ fellowship was transformational. This study would have been too high-risk for conventional funding. MQ has enabled research that may result in measurable impact in prevention of mental illness in young people.” Dr Joshua Roffman


That same initial year of 2013, another USA-based researcher Dr Joshua Roffman found that by increasing the consumption of folic acid during pregnancy, changes occur in children’s brain development, therefore reducing the occurrence of psychotic symptoms later in life.

Thanks to the MQ Fellowship, Joshua found that taking folic acid during pregnancy decreased risks of psychotic symptoms in children. MQ supported his research and as a result public health policies changed worldwide to increase levels of foods fortified with folic acid.



In MQ’s second year, 2014, another two researchers were supported in the USA.

Dr Jeremiah Cohen used innovative techniques to explore the role that brain chemical serotonin plays in affecting mood, leading to better drugs to treat mood disorders in the future.

Serotonin is largely associated with changes in mood. Many antidepressants work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain due to this. However, understanding of how serotonin is involved in mental health conditions at a cellular level is still limited. So Dr Cohen used cutting-edge techniques to investigate the precise role of serotonin within the brain.

That same year, Professor Sergiu Pasca was supported to develop a method to create 3D brain circuits ‘in a dish’, providing a pioneering new way to understand how different parts of the brain develop.



The following year, 2015, another USA-based researcher Dr Ian Maze took a novel, multidisciplinary approach to understanding how serotonin impacts major depressive disorder which could lead to improved pharmacological treatments for depression.

“Prior to MQ’s support, work [in this area] was sparse and primitive. MQ was instrumental and essential to launch what is now a major thread of research in mental health. We would not have believed how far the field, and our own work, would have come in such a short time.” Dr Zach Cohen



Yet another pair of USA researchers joined MQ’s team in 2016. Professor Jean-Baptiste Pingault found strong evidence around the direct impact of bullying on the development of mental health problems in young people. Working since 2017, his study, Bullying and Mental Health: a Genetically Informative Approach, aimed to improve understanding of mental health and bullying would could lead to more successful support for young people.

In 2020 Jean-Baptiste concluded his study, giving clear evidence on the sources and effects of bullying. The project used a large sample of 11,108 twins from the Twins Early Development Study, siblings who shared genes and environments but have different experiences regarding victimisation.

Professor Baptiste’s study found those with pre-existing risk factors such as ADHD and depression are more likely to be bullied and to experience mental health conditions than others.

Dr Patrick Rothwell from the USA also was supported the same year as Professor Baptiste. Dr Rothwell identified the brain cells related to impulse control which could lead to the development of treatments to curb negative behaviours. Dr Patrick Rothwell and his team at the University of Minnesota used innovations in neuroscience to investigate whether conditions such as addiction and depression can be successfully treated by strengthening connections between areas of the brain.



From the USA, Dr Zach Cohen ran the Stratified Medicine Approaches for Treatment Selection Tournament (SMART), to improve treatment selection for anxiety disorders in 2017, supported by MQ.


“This fellowship has been incredibly helpful for my career. It has provided funding towards improving my intervention and is also furthering my own learning as a scientist. The call itself inspired an entirely new approach to my research that has already resulted in other funded awards in pursuit of improving youth mental health.” Dr Marisa Marracini



Skipping ahead to 2023, and three USA-based fellows were welcomed to MQ’s roster of researchers.

Thanks to MQ’s support, Dr Marisa Marracini is now co-designing a virtual reality tool to help adolescents who have been hospitalised for suicide-related crisis.

Marisa is working to promote child and adolescent mental health in school. Currently Dr Marracini is developing and testing a virtual reality intervention to accompany inpatient treatment for adolescents hospitalized for suicide-related incidents. She is also partnering with young people to develop and spread therapeutic skills through social media.


“Through one-on-one interviews with these clinical actors and group discussions with people living with type 1 diabetes we will have a full picture of where there are gaps in service delivery and how we can create acceptable and sustainable solutions that meet both patient and provider needs.” Dr Leslie Johnson


Dr Leslie Johnson, also from the USa, is adapting and testing an existing treatment for people with type 2 diabetes in order to treat patients with type 1 diabetes. This project has the potential to help the millions of people living with type 1 diabetes and symptoms of depression and anxiety by improving the choices of care available.


“I am deeply honoured to receive an MQ Fellows award and very excited to conduct this research. This award provides a unique opportunity to complete some important work in the field of suicide research, which I might not have had the chance to complete otherwise. I am very grateful for the support of MQ and their belief in the potential impact of this work.” Dr Alexandre Lussier


Finally, Dr Alexandre Lussier based in the USA and Canada, is running a longitudinal study of gene to environment interactions and epigenetic mechanisms to understand how depressive disorders influence suicide risk.

If you’re interested in applying for the next round of MQ Fellowships, find out more about the 2024 Fellows opportunity and how to apply here.



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