Lab Members

Principal investigator

Vanessa H. Bal, PhD

Karmazin and Lillard Chair in Adult Autism, Associate Professor

Dr. Vanessa Bal

Dr. Vanessa Bal earned her M.Sc. in neuroscience from the University of Oxford and her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan. She also completed her clinical psychology internship at the University of Michigan and a postdoc in human genetics at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Bal is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in assessment and diagnosis of autism. She is also a trainer for the Autism Diagnostic Interview and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Dr. Bal's research interests include 

  • Advancing understanding of autistic adults’ strengths, difficulties and goals and how these develop and change across adulthood; 

  • Adapting approaches to address mental health problems and support emotional well-being for autistic adults; 

  • Characterizing the abilities and needs of autistic youth and adults who are minimally verbal or non-speaking;  

  • Exploring how the presentation and measurement of autism symptoms are affected by ongoing development and individual differences in language and cognitive abilities, co-occurrence of psychiatric conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety), personality/temperament and genetic profiles 


Research Assistant

Genta Kukaj


Genta is a full time research assistant with the LifeSPAN Lab. She has a BA in psychology and minor in biology from Rutgers. In the future she hopes to continue her education, pursue a career in psychology, and continue working with individuals with autism. In her free time she enjoys going on walks and listening to music. 


Lab members

Gabrielle Gunin 


Gabrielle is in the clinical psychology PsyD program. She is interested in supporting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder as they transition to adulthood. Her research interests include socio-emotional functioning, comorbidities, and overall quality of life. Gabrielle is also a certified yoga teacher, and enjoys practicing yoga in her spare time.


Emily Istvan

Emily Istvan
Emily is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology PsyD program. Prior to beginning the program, Emily earned her Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy (OT) and worked clinically for several years in a number of settings, including pre-schools, K-12 schools, medical daycares, and outpatient clinics. Emily’s research interests include differential diagnosis, gender differences, and improvement of vocational support as well as identification of leisure activities for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Emily is a Certified Therapeutic Horseback riding Instructor and in her spare time, enjoys sharing the power of horses with others. She also loves hiking, running, and sitting in beautiful libraries.

Norna jules


Norna  is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology PsyD program She started her journey in the field of Autism by providing behavioral therapy as a Registered Behavior Technician and plans to continue providing ABA services. Norna's interests include the assessment and treatment of various neurodevelopmental disorders. She is also interested in learning how to develop treatment programs for low-socioeconomic and minority communities.


Courtney McDermott


Courtney is a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She is ecstatic to work in the LifeSPAN ASD Lab, in addition to her thesis work in Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom’s lab. Her primary goals throughout her graduate training are to develop the knowledge and skills to think across multiple disciplines of autism research and to better understand how basic science and clinical evaluations can help individuals diagnosed with autism. Her dream is to become an autism scientist and to help affected individuals, including her brother. In her free time, she likes to attend hot yoga classes, journal, and hike.


Ellen Wilkinson


Ellen is in of the Clinical Psychology PhD program and has degrees in Cognitive Science and Developmental Psychology. She is particularly interested in the use of assessments to inform better clinical support and research practice. She has extensive experience with children and young adults with developmental disabilities. Outside of the lab, Ellen gives a lot of love to her dog Lucy and drinks a lot of tea.


Giulietta Flaherty


Giulietta is a 3rd year student in the School Psychology PsyD program. She is interested in post-secondary education and mental health services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is currently completing her externship at RCAAS, working with the LifeSPAN Lab, the SCALE program, and the College Support Program. In her free time, Giulietta loves going to concerts! 




Jeannine is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology PsyD program. Jeannine is interested in pursuing a career in working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other neurodevelopment disorders. Specifically, she is interested in linking autism specific assessments to tailored treatment. She is also interested in providing assessment and treatment to traditionally underserved communities. In her free time, Jeannine enjoys traveling, cycling, and reading.


EMILY brennan


Emily is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology Psy.D. program. She is particularly interested in comorbid mental health concerns for autistic adults, socio-emotional interventions, and mindfulness. In her free time, Emily enjoys painting, hiking, and exploring new places with friends.


Amy Gravino


Amy is an autism sexuality advocate and Relationship Coach in the Center for Adult Autism Services at Rutgers University. She is also the President of A.S.C.O.T. Consulting, which offers autism consulting, college coaching, and mentoring services for organizations, schools, individuals on the autism spectrum, and their families. She is an international speaker who has given TED talks, spoken twice at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day, and presenting worldwide to audiences on a variety of topics related to autism, with a dedicated special focus and research on the subject of autism and sexuality. Ms. Gravino obtained her Master's degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Caldwell University in 2010 and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Specialisterne North America, Yes She Can Inc., and the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City, as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research (SPARK). She is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in Spectrum, the leading online news source for autism research, Reader's Digest, special education textbooks, and other outlets.


Prince wynn

Prince Wynn

Prince is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, holding a B.S in Computer Science and an M.S. in technology management. He aims to pursue a doctorate in the future with the intent to work in higher education.


Alexandra Chiu


Alexandra Chiu is a researcher and proud alumna of Marshall University, focusing on systems design and innovation. Outside the lab, you can usually find her renovating a house, playing bass guitar, or petting her (very cute) dogs. Alexandra is thrilled to work with Lifespan Lab to further their mission and impact within the community. 


Elizabeth Dicker


Elizabeth is an autistic consultant and self advocate. She has spoken on panels for the Byrne Seminars here at Rutgers and is a part of the advisory board at the Lifespan Lab. Elizabeth is a certified special education teacher who holds a Master's in Applied Behavior Analysis. She has a strong interest in curriculum development, assessment tools, and research. Elizabeth is grateful to be a part of the Lifespan Lab to further research to expand knowledge and opportunities for autistic adults. She enjoys drawing portraits and spending time at Felicity House. 


Ti Malice

Ti Malice is a graduate from University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a associate’s degree in fine and applied arts with a passion for mythology and folklore. She worked for Social Security for 19 years. She has served on advisory boards as an autistic consultant with Boston University, University of Minnesota, and University of Texas. She has a passion for serving on advisory boards and wants to help people to understand what autistic people have to go through in the world in order to make the world more autistic and disability friendly


Annabelle Mournet


Annabelle is in the Clinical Psychology PhD program and has a bachelor's degree in Public Health. She is particularly interested in suicide risk among autistic individuals as well as the role of social connectedness as a protective factor against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In her free time, she loves cooking, traveling, and swimming.


Sidraah Syed 


Sidraah is an undergraduate in the LifeSPAN ASD Lab and is currently majoring in Genetics with a minor in Psychology. Her research interests include Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as the impact of genetics on Human disorders and diseases. In the future, she hopes to pursue a master's and a career in genetic counseling and support families and individuals affected or at risk of an inherited disorder. In her free time, Sidraah enjoys baking, yoga, and reading.


Bridget Torcivia 


Bridget Torcivia is a senior at Rutgers University- New Brunswick who is double majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Science with a concentration in neuroscience and minoring in education. She is also currently pursuing a Master's degree in elementary and special education at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include evaluating treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders and assessing Social and Emotional Learning practices in public schools. She would ultimately like to become a special education teacher for high school students. In her free time, she enjoys working with horses, writing, and drawing.


Keya Pai


Keya Pai is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Cognitive Science at the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University—New Brunswick. Upon the completion of her undergraduate studies, she plans to attend graduate school to pursue her Master's and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology. Keya aspires to become a licensed Clinical Psychologist in hopes of working with populations with neurodevelopmental disorders. Outside of academics, Keya loves to spend time with her family and friends, and invests in hobbies such as writing, photography, and riding her motorcycle.


Kelly Scharff


Kelly Scharff is a Clinical Psychology doctoral student in Rutger's Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP). She is interested in studying therapeutic techniques for autistic individuals, the treatment of childhood trauma, and the intersection of religion and psychology. Kelly has a particular draw towards international psychology and hopes to use her training at GSAPP to develop mental health programming in rural India. Kelly loves being active in nature, listening to music, and cooking new foods! 


Jaylene Sosa 


Jaylene is a Doctoral Student in the Clinical Psychology program at Rutgers GSAPP. Prior to beginning the program, she served as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the University of Miami and graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor's in Psychology and a minor in Biology. Her current interests fall within neurodegenerative brain disorders and minimizing the research gap among individuals with culturally diverse backgrounds. Her long-term goal is to serve as a clinical neuropsychologist and she is excited to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to practice in the field.


Kristen Foley


Kristen is a third year school psychology doctoral student. She has a strong interest in providing autism assessments to populations who do not always have access due to system level barriers. She is also interested in school policy equity, and how factors can be changed at the level of policy makers to provide extended resources for students of vulnerable populations. In the future she would love to be apart of an autism diagnostic clinic, as well as continue working on school policy research. A fun fact about her is that was bald until she was three years old!


Dan Muhlbach 


Dan is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology PsyD program. Prior to beginning the program, Dan completed his MA in Special Education with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis with Arizona State University and worked as a Registered Behavior Technician for two years with neurodiverse adolescents and adults. In 2021 he retired from the U.S. Navy after 24 years of service. His research interests include assessment and testing of various neurodevelopmental disorders and adapting therapeutic approaches using client centered ACT strategies. A Scarlet Knight through and through, he is an avid RU Football fan.


Eden keinan


Eden is a master’s student of Applied Psychology. She has been working in the lab as a student volunteer and research fellow. Eden’s interests include the biological bases of psychological and developmental disorders, as well as diagnostic assessment and treatment of disorders. Eden hopes to complete training as a student in a Clinical PsyD program with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist in the future.


Hailey Romano


Hailey is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in both Education and Health and Society at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Upon completion of her undergraduate studies, Hailey plans to attend graduate school to pursue her Psy.D in School Psychology. Hailey aspires to become a School Psychologist who works with students with neurodevelopmental disabilities and in the mental health field with children. Outside of her studies, Hailey is the President of her sorority on campus, Phi Mu, and enjoys spending time in her hometown, Sea Bright, New Jersey at the beach with friends and family.


Haden Paek


Haden Paek is an undergraduate student at Rutgers University- New Brunswick, majoring in psychology with plans of pursuing a doctoral degree in the future. He is interested in research for clinical and cognitive psychology with a particular interest in neurodevelopmental conditions. In his free time, he loves to write, read, and play piano.


Emily Milo


Emily Milo is an undergraduate and is currently majoring in Psychology and minoring in Criminology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Her research interests include understanding how different treatments affect autistic adults and how society can be improved to support their well-being. In the future, she hopes to work somewhere in the clinical psychology field, preferably as a forensic psychologist. In her free time, she enjoys playing music on her ukulele, listening to and singing music, and going on hikes.   


Vrindda Atrii


Vrindda is an undergraduate student pursuing a Biological Sciences major at the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University- New Brunswick. Her primary research interests lie in the broadening of treatment methods through discovery of the yet unknown complexities of neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as genetic approaches to the evolution of therapies for mental health conditions. Vrindda hopes to devote herself to the field of psychiatry as a physician. In her free time, she loves to play golf, spend time with her dog, and discover new music. 



Nikita Jadav


Nikita is in medical school and continuing on her path to become a researcher and physician.




Madeline is completing her internship at a Children's hospital in Los Angeles. 


May Yuan


May Yuan is a  Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University.


Jacqueline Shinall 


Jackie is a Psy.D. student at Rutgers GSAPP. She left our lab to complete an internship at the University of Pennsylvania. 


Shin Er Teh


Shin graduated from the clinical psychology PsyD program and left our lab to complete an internship at the Kenney Krieger Institute. 


Hyein Lee


Hyein graduated with her PsyD in clinical psychology and left our lab to complete an internship at AHRC New York City. 


Sherri Wilson


Sherri graduated as Doctor of Social Work student at Rutgers University. 




Henry is a Psy.D. student at GSAPP. He left the lab to complete an internship at Community Assistance Resources and Extended Services Inc. 


Macy Turley


Macy is involved in research with eating disorders under Kamryn Eddy PhD at Harvard Medical School.


Jacqueline Smith


Jacqueline graduated from the Clinical PsyD program in 2020.


Rachel Amasah-Dsani


Rachel is currently an undergraduate student in the School of Public Health at Rutgers. 


Megan Fok


Megan is currently a graduate student in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Virginia Tech. 


Samreen Rizvi


Samreen graduated from the Masters of Applied Psychology at Rutgers in 2020. 


Han Yan


Han is currently a graduate student in the ABA program at Columbia University. 




Shalini was a lab volunteer in the LifeSPAN ASD Lab and is an undergraduate at Rutgers University.




Jessica worked as an undergraduate research assistant at the LifeSPAN ASD Lab and graduated from Rutgers University. 




Aparajita was an undergraduate Research Assistant at LifeSPAN Lab, and graduated from Rutgers University. 


Vy Vo

Vy graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Psychology in 2020.


Carina JohnKlein



Jonathon Liu



Rabia khan

Rabia Khan