Our team

Our team

Our international partners include Dr. Nick Martin at the QIMR Berghofer Queensland Institute for Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, Drs. Martin Kennedy and Jennifer Jordan at the University of Otago in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Dr. Liselotte Petersen at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark. Dr. Gerome Breen is leading the UK effort at King’s College London and Dr. Bulik is also leading the effort in Sweden at Karolinska Institutet.

Cynthia Bulik, PhD, FAED

Principal Investigator

Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik is Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders and the Founding Director of the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, and Professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

A clinical psychologist, Prof Bulik has been conducting research and treating individuals with eating disorders since 1982.

Prof Bulik’s research includes treatment, laboratory, epidemiological, twin and molecular genetic studies of eating disorders and body weight regulation. She has active research collaborations in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Prof Bulik is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Eating Disorders Coalition Research Award, the Academy for Eating Disorders Leadership Award for Research, the Price Family National Eating Disorders Association Research Award, the Academy for Eating Disorders Meehan/Hartley Award for Advocacy and the National Eating Disorders Association Lifetime Achievement Award.

She has published more than 500 papers and chapters on eating disorders, and is author of seven books.

“I have dedicated my career to discovering how both genes and environment cause eating disorders. EDGI is a unique opportunity to accelerate that work to inform personalized prevention and treatment efforts. Ultimately, we want to improve lives and eliminate death in individuals with eating disorders,” said Prof Bulik.

Prof Bulik’s work life is enriched by being happily married, the mother of three adult children, a gold medalist in ice dancing, and an avid ballroom dancer. Read more at www.cynthiabulik.com.

Laura Thornton

Professor Laura Thornton, PhD

Deputy Director

Professor Laura Thornton is the Deputy Director of the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) – the world’s largest genetic research study of eating disorders ever performed, that aims to identify the hundreds of genes that influence a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, to improve treatment, and ultimately, save lives.

She is also an experienced research program coordinator and biostatistician, with more than 20 years’ experience coordinating multi-site, world-wide research efforts.

In 1986, Prof Thornton graduated with a BS in Biology from the William Paterson University of New Jersey. She then continued her studies at Penn State University, Pennsylvania, completing her MS in Genetics in 1989, and a PhD in Genetics in 1992.

Throughout her career, Prof Thornton has worked on many large-scale studies, including the Virginia Twin Registry, The Price Foundation Genetics of Eating Disorders studies, the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI), the China National Health Survey, Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium for Anorexia Nervosa, and the Swedish Twin Registry.

Prof Thornton’s primary research concerns the phenotypic aspects and genetic association of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, purging disorder, and tobacco use. Her ongoing research on eating disorders demonstrates her commitment to advancing the understanding of all aspects of disordered eating, from both an etiological and developmental perspective.

Following her role as Deputy Director of ANGI, Prof Thornton is excited to assume the role of Deputy Director of EDGI.

“It is my honor to coordinate this landmark study across three continents. This research has the potential to transform our understanding of and approach to the treatment of eating disorders,” stated Prof Thornton.

Professor Jessica Baker, PhD


Dr. Baker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Research Director for the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. Dr. Baker’s research focuses on the biological and genetic vulnerability for eating disorders with a particular focus on: 1) the role of gonadal steroids (e.g., estradiol) in the risk for and maintenance of eating disorders; 2) changes in genetic and biological risk across the lifespan; 3) how these factors predict treatment outcome; and 4) the comorbidity between eating disorders and substance use disorders. As part of her work, Dr. Baker is also interested in college student mental health and examining how the transition to college may increase risk for disordered eating, substance use, or both.

As a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Baker also provides treatment for eating disorders. Her expertise is in cognitive behavior therapy for eating disorders and anxiety disorders. Dr. Baker conducts outpatient individual and group therapy in the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, primarily working with adults and college students seeking care. She additionally has clinical expertise and interest in conducting psychological and diagnostic evaluations and assessments.

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Jerry Guintivano, PhD


Jerry Guintivano, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He got his BS in Bioinformatics from Baylor University and did his PhD research at Johns Hopkins University. Currently he is funded on a K01 Career Development Award from the NIMH to perform the first genome-wide association study for postpartum depression.

As a member of the EDGI team, Jerry is building, shipping, and managing spit kits for genetic analyses.

In his free time, Jerry enjoys playing roller derby as a member of Team Philippines.

Lindsey Szakasits, MD

EDGI Fellow

Lindsey Szakasits, MD is the newest member of the EDGI team. She assists the team with participant recruitment and social media outreach.

In 2014, Lindsey graduated with a BS in Human Biology from North Carolina State University. She then continued her studies at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, completing her Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 2020. Currently, she is obtaining her Master of Public Health at the UNC Gilling’s School of Global Public Health, and is focusing her studies on mental disorders among marginalized communities. She plans to start her medical residency in psychiatry in 2021.

As a native North Carolinian, Lindsey hopes that she can continue to serve her community through her work as a psychiatrist. Her life is enriched by being an artist and an avid rock climber.


Casey MacDermod

Research Assistant

If you call or email the EDGI team, chances are you will be speaking with Casey MacDermod, the main research assistant on the EDGI study. She leads social media efforts for the study and, as the team's bilingual Spanish speaker, makes sure EDGI en Español is running smoothly.

Casey holds a B.A. from Duke University in cultural anthropology, and although EDGI is her first project in the field of eating disorders, she has four years previous experience in public health research. With the help of local communities and Mayan co-investigators, Casey has previously researched healthcare resources, medical decision-making, Mayan medicine, and scientific knowledge production in the highlands of Guatemala. Casey's previous work sought to frame her findings in the context of global and local systems of power, colonial legacies, and paternalistic global aid practices.

Casey is passionate about LGBTQ+ and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) representation and is excited for the opportunity to gain new perspectives and experiences by contributing to EDGI. When she’s not working, she spends her time (and paycheck) on her puppy Mia and her growing collection of houseplants.

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