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Lab Members

Principal investigator

Vanessa H. Bal, PhD

Karmazin and Lillard Chair in Adult Autism, Associate Professor

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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's research program emphasizes a lifespan perspective to furthering understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adulthood. She employs a variety of approaches to measure and track outcomes and predictors of outcome at different stages of development. In addition to expanding knowledge in these areas, Dr. Bal is leading several projects to develop and refine methods to assess and quantify clinical phenotypes. This includes studies evaluating both biological and behavioral approaches that may be useful in screening and diagnosis, tracking of symptoms across development, and evaluating response to treatment. By emphasizing a multidimensional, lifespan perspective, her research aims to delineate relationships between dimensions of social-communication, language, cognition and emotion in the context of neurodevelopmental disorders in order to inform the development of targeted interventions that capitalize on individual strengths in order to promote well-being for individuals with ASD across the lifespan.

 

STUDENTS

Gabrielle Gunin

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Jacqueline Shinall

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Jackie is a Psy.D. student at Rutgers GSAPP. She left our lab to complete an internship at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously obtained a Masters in Neuroscience before beginning her doctorate in clinical psychology. Jackie has almost 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder in a variety of research and clinical settings. She is currently working at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, where she hopes to earn her BCBA. Jackie’s interests in the field revolve around development and assessment of vocational skills in transition-aged young adults on the autism spectrum. She ultimately hopes to become a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist after she graduates from GSAPP. In her free time, she enjoys playing basketball, watching sports and Netflix, and spending time with her family and friends.

 

Ellen Wilkinson

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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.

 

May Yuan

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May Yuan is a third-year Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University. Prior to starting her doctoral studies, she completed her Masters at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2018. In the LifeSPAN ASD Lab, May is a part of the clinical team and will help with the Transitioning Together groups for teens with autism and their families. Her research interests include learning ways to provide effective psycho-education to various communities, and providing socio-emotional support and reduce negative outcomes such as bullying for those with disabilities. She is also interested in program evaluation, and investigating best practices for implementation and dissemination.

Giulietta Flaherty

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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! 

Henry Daheng Zhang

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Henry is a Psy.D. student at GSAPP. He left the lab to complete an internship at Community Assistance Resources and Extended Services Inc. He previously worked in Early Intervention as an evaluation coordinator and later obtained a M.S.Ed. in School Psychology, completed his internship as a Bilingual Psychologist-in-Training and worked as a school psychologist as a district office for two years.  He is bilingually certified in both Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese.  During his time as a school psychologist, he developed methods using technology to help clinicians spend more time doing the things they want to do is something he's passionate about, and it's somewhat related to his dissertation topic.  That became the basis of his tech startup Timehacks which he used to fund his enormous appetite upon returning to school to complete his doctoral degree.   Henry's got extensive experience with assessments from his school psychologist days and his previous externships.  Oddly enough, despite being autistic himself, he hasn't really interacted with any autistic clients.  That's one of the reasons he's at LifeSpan for his last internship.  After graduation, he hopes his mom will (finally) stop asking him when he'll become a doctor, and to become a neuropsychologist. During his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his fiancé as well as training martial arts.

JEANNINE EDERER

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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

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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.

MADELINE BONO

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Madeline is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology PsyD program. Madeline plans for a career in a pediatric medical setting, and she is she keen to help address the treatment gap in autism assessment/services in children who have been hospitalized long-term during early childhood. As a future psychologist, Madeline hopes to continue work towards improving healthcare accessibility. When she has free time, she plays a lot of Magic: The Gathering, which she learnt how to play during quarantine.

Amy Gravino

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.

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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.

SHALINI GOSSAIN

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Shalini is a lab volunteer in the LifeSPAN ASD Lab and is an undergraduate at Rutgers University. She is currently majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience. Her research interests are in Autism Spectrum Disorder and psychopathology. Outside of the lab, Shalini likes to do yoga and bike-riding. 

JESSICA PHILIP

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Jessica is an undergraduate research assistant at the LifeSPAN ASD Lab at Rutgers University. Her research interests include parenting/parental racial socialization and mental health, adverse childhood experiences, racial/ethnic minority mental health, and reducing racial disparities in mental healthcare. After she graduates, she hopes to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. In her free time, she loves to play tennis, learn languages, and travel to new places.

APARAJITA GANGULI

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Aparajita is an undergraduate Research Assistant at LifeSPAN Lab. She is currently a senior majoring in Psychology and Computer Science at Rutgers University SAS. She is looking forward to learning and exploring her long term research interests at her Rutgers classes and LifeSPAN Lab before graduating and one day pursuing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology. In her free time she is an abstract painter and likes to watch Disney movies.

Sidraah Syed

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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.

Alumni

Nikita Jadav

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Nikita was an undergraduate volunteer for us before becoming a full-time Research Assistant. She has degrees in Cell Biology and Neuroscience as well as Psychology. Her research interests include Autism Spectrum Disorder in adulthood. She left our lab to start medical school and continue on her path to become a researcher and physician.

Shin Er Teh

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Shin graduated from the clinical psychology PsyD program and left our lab to complete an internship at the Kenney Krieger Institute. Shin has extensive ABA experiences in working with children, adolescents and adults with ASD. She also provides behavioral and social-emotional intervention for children with other disorders including ADHD, selective mutism, anxiety and depression. Shin's research focus is on how parental involvement affects the adaptive functioning of adults with ASD. Shin enjoys snacking, all day, anytime!

Hyein Lee

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Hyein graduated with her PsyD in clinical psychology and left our lab to complete an internship at AHRC New York City. She began her journey as an ABA therapist for children with autism in Seoul, Korea, and continued her work with children, adolescents, and adults in Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center. She currently works at Tourette’s Syndrome Clinic providing cognitive behavioral therapy for individuals with tic related disorders and various comorbidities including OCD, ADHD, ASD, mood disorder, and more. She is a big fan of the show Friends and likes to paint and play the piano.

Sherri Wilson

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Sherri graduated as Doctor of Social Work student at Rutgers University. While currently involved in psychiatric genetics research, Sherri is interested in researching strengths in adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a licensed social worker, Sherri also works as an outpatient therapist in a private group practice. In her free time, she likes to visit the shore and travel.

Macy Turley

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Macy was a Research Coordinator for the LifeSPAN ASD Lab. At the conclusion of her role in our lab, she became involved in research with eating disorders under Kamryn Eddy PhD at Harvard Medical School.

Jacqueline Smith

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Jacqueline graduated from the Clinical PsyD program in 2020.

Vy Vo

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

Rachel Amasah-Dsani

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

Megan Fok

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

Samreen Rizvi

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

Han Yan

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

Carina JohnKlein

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Jonathon Liu

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Rabia khan

Rabia Khan