Karestan Chase Koenen, M.A., Ph.D. New York City

Karestan Koenen

Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology

Department of Epidemiology

677 Huntington Avenue
Kresge Building 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02115



Karestan Chase Koenen, PhD does research and teaches about trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The broad goal of her work is three-fold. First, she studies why, when exposed so a similar traumatic event, some persons develop PTSD while others are resilient. She is particularly interested in how genes shape risk for PTSD. Much of this work is done through the PTSD working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium that she co-leads with Kerry Ressler and Israel Liberzon. Second, she investigates how trauma and PTSD influence weight gain and alter long-term physical health including chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type-2-diabetes. Third, she documents global burden of trauma and PTSD through her work with the World Mental Health Surveys.

Dr. Koenen also advocates for victims of sexual violence. In May 2011, Dr. Koenen testified before the House Foreign Affairs Full Committee about the epidemic of sexual violence and victim blaming culture of the Peace Corps. She has written for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege Project, a journalism project founded by Gloria Steinem that investigates how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in conflict. Dr. Koenen also consulted with award-winning documentary filmmaker Lisa Jackson on the film It Happened Here, which investigates the epidemic of sexual assault on university campuses.  Dr. Koenen currently lives in Boston. When not working, she is likely taking a yoga class  or spending time with her son, Lorcan.


Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2002, Psychiatric Epidemiology, Columbia University
Ph.D., 1999, Clinical Psychology, Boston University
M.A., 1996, Developmental Psychology, Columbia University
B.A., 1990, Economics, Wellesley College


Past-President, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
Fellow, American Psychopathological Association
Scientific Council Member, Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Honors & Awards

Chaim Danieli Young Professional Award for Excellence in  Service/Research in Traumatic Stress, ISTSS, 2005

Robins-Guze Young Investigator Award, APPA, 2005

Outstanding Post-doctoral Research Mentor Award, HSPH, 2010

Woman of the Week, Women in the World Foundation, November 23, 2011

Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Science of Trauma Psychology,                                           American Psychological Association, Division 56, 2015

Select Global Activities

Cross-National Epidemiology of Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: This project aims to document the cross-national epidemiology of trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder among countries that are part of the World Mental Health Survey Initiative.


Global Neuropsychiatric Genomics Initiative of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at Broad Institute: The broad goal of this initiative is to advance the genetic analysis of serious mental illness while contributing to global mental health equity by expanding the infrastructure and research findings from large-scale psychiatric genetic epidemiology to Africa and Mexico.