Research

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Meet the Team

Principal Investigator

Susan Faja, PhD

Dr. Faja studied Neuroscience at the University of Michigan before receiving her doctoral degree in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Washington in 2009. She completed an internship at UCLA in the developmental disabilities track and postdoctoral fellowships focused on clinical neuroscience at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Washington. Her research within the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience investigates brain development and treatment response in clinical populations. In particular, she employs brain and behavioral measurement of social perception and executive control in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disorders. A key focus of her work is translating existing training programs in the cognitive neuroscience literature for clinical use. An additional benefit of evaluating these interventions is the opportunity to directly test the plasticity of systems that have been implicated in the neurocognitive profile of ASD. She is also currently testing whether individual differences measured during cognitive tasks are meaningfully related to the social function and symptoms of children with ASD. By answering these questions, Dr. Faja will gain information about the risk factors and developmental sequences that are critical for development of ASD, other neurodevelopmental disorders and typical development. In order to answer these questions, Dr. Faja’s lab seeks to improve the sensitivity of measurement used to capture the skills of individuals across a wide range of functioning. Dr. Faja loves to eat dark chocolate, gave her first science lecture at the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum in 4th grade, and is fascinated by cormorants, meerkats and sloth bears. 

Research Team

Devon Carroll, RN MSN

Devon recently joined the Faja Lab where she works as a research clinician on the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials project. Devon obtained her BA in psychology from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and her master’s degree in family psychiatric mental health nursing at the Yale School of Nursing.  She has worked as a nurse practitioner specializing in pediatric psychiatry for the past 5 years and currently provides consultation and treatment through the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Program (DNP) in the Outpatient Psychiatry Service at Boston Children’s Hospital. The DNP serves children and adolescents whose development is complicated by autism spectrum disorders, psychotic disorders, and other disorders such as genetic disorders and epilepsy. Devon has always had a passion for the biological sciences and is interested in translational research as it pertains to the development and initiation of successful treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Her other interests include traveling, cycling, and eating pizza.


Aksheya Sridhar, Research Coordinator

Aksheya received her B.A. in Psychology at Clark University in 2014 where she assisted in multiple research studies examining motivational development and culture and development. Upon graduating, Aksheya worked as an Associate Behavior Therapist, providing in-home behavior therapy to children with autism. Aksheya graduated with her M.A. in Psychology at Boston University in 2015. While at BU, she was a member of the Child and Family Health Lab, and assisted in research examining health disparities in access to autism- related services. Aksheya is excited to be a member of the Faja lab, and to contribute to the ABC-CT project. Ultimately, she aims to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. In her free time, Aksheya enjoys reading psychological thrillers, watching Friends, and traveling.



Rachel Gilbert, Research Assistant

Rachel graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Richmond in 2016, with a double major in Healthcare Studies. Rachel began working with children with autism in high school as a volunteer at a youth soccer outreach program. She interned at the Faison Center for Autism as a Teacher’s Assistant trained in ABA therapy. In addition to working directly with children and young adults with ASD, she created a resource database for families living in the Richmond area. During her time at the University of Richmond, Rachel also worked in a biochemistry lab studying a DNA lesion linked to aging, cancer and autoimmune diseases. She is excited to combine her love for research with a passion for working with children with developmental disabilities. Rachel is thrilled to contribute to GAMES Project in the Faja lab and plans to pursue a PhD in Child Clinical Psychology. Outside of lab, Rachel loves hiking, surfing, ice cream, and a good game of Jenga.


Morgan Overton, Research Assistant

Morgan earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, with a minor in Studio Arts in 2016. During her time at Pitt, Morgan was a Research Assistant in the Early Social Development Lab, which assessed how infants and toddlers develop pro-social behavior. She also completed her Honors Thesis in the Pitt Early Autism Study under Dr. Mark Strauss investigating visual attention patterns to complex social scenes among infants at high and low genetic risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Morgan is humbled and excited to join the Faja and Nelson teams to contribute to the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) project. Ultimately, she plans to earn a Ph.D. in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience to continue investigating the neural development and cognitive function in infants and children. Outside of her passion for neuroscience, Morgan dances ballet, plays flute and piano, and actively advocates for social causes in her community.


Adriana Mendez Leal, Research Assistant

Adriana Mendez Leal

Adriana graduated from Harvard College in 2016 with a degree in Neurobiology, a secondary in Computer Science, and a certificate in Mind, Brain, and Behavior. As an undergraduate, she worked in the Nelson Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital on projects focused on neurodevelopmental disorders and on the impact of early life adversity on development. Her research there was supported by an Undergraduate Summer Research Grant from the Autism Science Foundation. Before joining the Nelson Lab, Adriana was a research assistant at the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research at Stanford Medical School, where she worked on research investigating social interaction in children with Fragile X and NIRS hyperscanning during team cooperation and competition. Beyond research, her other loves include skiing, political activism, and The Great British Bakeoff. 



Rebecca Golden, Research Assistant

Rebecca Golden

Rebecca started working in the field of Developmental Disabilities as a Clinical Psychology student-intern at the Boston Higashi School for Autism. After graduating from Saint Anselm College with a major in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience, she joined BHS full-time as the Assistant Clinician and was an active member of the Research and Clinical Teams. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College and acted as a Clinical Psychology Fellow in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Currently, she works as a Clinical Research Assistant in the Faja Lab. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys volunteering for Partners for Youth with Disabilities at Pappas Rehabilitation Hospital for Children. 




Alison Sagon, Graduate Research Assistant

Ali received her Bachelors in Arts (B.A.) in psychology from the University of Michigan in 2015. As an undergraduate, she completed an honors thesis exploring the value of setting communication goals for increasing well-being. She is currently enrolled in the clinical psychology doctoral program at Suffolk University where her research is focused on developing acceptance-based mindfulness interventions targeting anxiety, depression, and loneliness. In the past she has assisted on community and drug intervention projects focused on symptom alleviation for individuals with ASD. She is interested in exploring the utility of acceptance-based mindfulness strategies for facilitating stress reduction in individuals with ASD. She is excited to be working with Dr. Faja to utilize an expanding understanding of the links between brain activity and behavior to inform personalized interventions. When she is not busy with schoolwork, Ali enjoys eating large amounts of pizza, advocating for the protection of Orca whales, and spending time in Cape Cod.

 


Devon Oosting, Graduate Research Assistant

Devon Oosting

Devon is currently a second year clinical psychology doctoral student working with Dr. Alice Carter at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She conducts developmental evaluations with very young children at risk for autism spectrum disorders and provides motivational interviewing sessions for parents of young children diagnosed with ASD. Devon completed her Bachelor's of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan in 2012. At Michigan, she worked in the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center under Dr. Catherine Lord. After graduating, Devon completed a two-year clinical research fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center, with a focus on providing behavioral treatment for preschool children with ASD and examining the neural correlates of treatment response via fMRI and EEG. In her albeit limited free time, Devon enjoys painting, being by the ocean, and playing Guitar Hero.



Danielle Hyatt, Graduate Research Assistant

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Danielle earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology with a concentration in research at Gonzaga University in 2013. During that time, she contributed to various research projects regarding endothelial dysfunction and gene regulation with laminar and oscillatory shear stress. Upon graduating Danielle worked as a cardiology research assistant where she contributed to atherosclerotic research. She is currently in her first year of medical school at the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, where she helps run the Pediatric Interest Group. Danielle became passionate about Developmental Neuroscience through her medical school courses. She is excited to be a part of the Faja Lab, and hopes to pursue a career in Child Neurology after medical school. In her free time, Danielle enjoys spending time with her family, finding new coffee shops and playing with her puppy.

 





Melody Altschuler, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Melody Altschuler is a senior at Bates College, where she majors in psychology and minors in anthropology. At Bates, Melody currently assists with a variety of research projects in the areas of clinical neuropsychology, social cognition and decision making, and cognition and perception. She serves as a Board Member at the Autism Society of Maine and enjoys working with individuals with autism in a range of clinical and educational settings. Melody is fascinated by the intersection of neuroscience and social cognition and is very excited to join the Faja Lab where she can combine her passion for autism with her love for research! After graduating from Bates, Melody plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology, with the ultimate goal of contributing to the field of translational autism research. In her free time, Melody enjoys running, traveling, listening to music in Spanish, and drinking coffee. 





Alexis (Lexi) Levine, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alexis (Lexi) Levine is a junior at Assumption College, where she majors in biology with a concentration in neuroscience and a minor in psychology. Lexi has a long-standing passion for working with children on the autism spectrum (ASD). In high school, she taught horseback riding lessons at Equine Partners to children with a wide range of disabilities, providing her the opportunity to work with children with ASD. At Assumption, Lexi is president of the ADAPT club, which serves to bring awareness to disabilities on campus, as well as a member of psych club, Psy Chi, the honor’s program, and student government association. Lexi is thrilled to be able to continue to work with children with ASD as an undergraduate research intern on the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) in the Faja lab. After Assumption she hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatric neurologist. In her free time she likes to run and play soccer, sing, play with her dog, and go to every froyo shop she passes. 





Maude Plucker, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Maude Plucker is a junior at Tufts University double majoring in cognitive and brain sciences and philosophy. She is drawn by the intersection between the two fields, where many questions about consciousness, cognition, and perception lie unanswered. Maude has enjoyed her time so far working with children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. She is a trained guide for Achilles, an organization that has allowed her to build friendships with people who face all kinds of physical and developmental challenges, including autism, in a social and athletic context. She hopes to run a marathon with Achilles in Boston before she graduates. After Tufts, Maude plans on returning home to Europe to continue her studies and autism research. She finds that being a team member in the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) is a fantastic opportunity to transform her classroom knowledge of autism and research into a collaborative, hands-on research experience that may lay the foundation for her future career. Maude also enjoys rowing, drinking tea, and preparing copious amounts of food to share with friends. 

Megan Warshawsky, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Megan is a junior at Tufts University majoring in Psychology and minoring in English. She is passionate about the unending variations within social cognition. Basically, she loves to find out why and how people do what they do. In addition to working at the Faja Lab, Megan also works as a research assistant at the Tufts University Social Cognition (TUSC) Lab, and worked this past summer in the DePaul University Social Cognition (DUSC) Lab in Chicago. She has also worked at a day camp as an integrative facilitator for children with special needs. She is excited to be working in the Faja Lab and is looking forward to becoming more proficient in the socio-cognitive nuances of Autism Spectrum Disorder. After graduating from Tufts University, Megan plans to attend graduate school for psychology, and although she’s not sure yet what area in specific, she knows it will likely involve kids and a colorful office. In her free time, Megan loves drinking tea, singing with her a cappella group, and discovering new music. 
  

Francesca Trombino, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Francesca Trombino Faja Lab

Francesca Trombino is a Sophomore at Emmanuel College where she majors in Biology with a concentration in Health Sciences. At Emmanuel, she is heavily involved with service organizations, serving on executive boards for Habitat for Humanity and Dance Marathon, and has contributed to the Boston Community as a Jumpstart Corps Member. Francesca has always been drawn to the medical field and aspires to become a Nurse Practitioner, as aiding others in need and making an impactful difference has always guided her daily decisions. Francesca is thrilled to be a part of the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) team to continue to learn about the research applications within the medical field, and make a difference in a new and intriguing way. Francesca also enjoys music, exploring Boston, and reading in her free time.








Sophie Greenbaum, Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Sophie is a rising senior at Tufts University majoring in Clinical Psychology and minoring in Religion. She has worked as a research assistant in the Tufts Cognitive Development Lab and the Tufts Diversity & Intergroup Relations Lab. During her time at the Cognitive Development Lab, Sophie worked on a project that explored how young children understand the concept of cause and effect.  She has also worked at Fellside House, a branch of Gould Farm, where she worked with a variety of members with different disorders including those on the autism spectrum. Her research experience along with her experience working with individuals with ASD inspired Sophie to seek out more opportunities that combine the two, and thus she is very excited to be working at the Faja lab. After graduation, Sophie hopes to spend some time exploring her research interests before applying to a graduate program in Clinical Psychology.  In her free time, Sophie enjoys reading, knitting, listening to music, and spending time with her black Labrador.



Sophia Gomez, Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Sophia is a rising senior at Tufts University double majoring in Psychology and Child Study & Human Development. Recently, Sophia spent a semester abroad in Chile studying the effectiveness of the public and private school systems in advocating for the employability of adolescents with special needs. At Tufts, she is a member of the Big Sister Association and Best Buddies. She has also worked at the Tufts Social Cognition Lab (TUSC) and at UCLA’s Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program (ECPHP). Sophia is fascinated by the effect of language development on social skills, and she is very passionate about promoting the awareness of people with special needs. After she graduates from Tufts, Sophia plans to attend a graduate program for speech-language pathology and work in Early Intervention. She is excited to be a member of the Faja Lab where she can learn more about the importance of research in the development of interventions for children with developmental disorders. Sophia also dedicates time to hiking, cooking Cuban food, watching TED Talks, and going to Harvard Square just for Insomnia Cookies!

Nicole Nadwodny, Undergraduate Research Assistant

nicolen

Nicole is a rising junior at Tufts University majoring in Cognitive and Brain Sciences and Spanish. She has worked as a research assistant in the Kuperberg Laboratory at Tufts, in which she examined the role of prediction in language processing in both behavioral and ERP studies. She is incredibly excited to work in the Faja lab, as she is fascinated by the development of the mind from childhood into adulthood, particularly for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. She has worked with young children of various backgrounds for several years in bilingual education classrooms, tutoring sessions, and in summer camps and is looking forward to applying this experience in the Faja lab. After graduating Tufts, Nicole aims to ultimately conduct research on language processing in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. In her free time, she enjoys singing with her a cappella group at Tufts, taking walks, and trying out new brunch spots with her friends.



Victoria Sanchez, Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Vickee is a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts Boston, double majoring in Biology and Psychology (B.S.) and minoring in Cognitive Science. She has always been fascinated by the brain and how it works and is specifically interested in exploring biomarkers of ASD and developing measures for early screening and diagnosis. At UMass Boston, she is an IMSD fellow, a research assistant on the Autism Behavior Child Development (ABCD) Study, and a project coordinator of the Supporting Early Educators in Suddenly Inclusive Classrooms (SEEinSIC) Study. She is also very excited to be working on an honors thesis that examines the cries of children with autism. After completing her undergraduate degrees, Vickee hopes to go on to a PhD program which would allow her to continue translational neuroscience research of Autism Spectrum Disorders. About 73% of what comes out her mouth is groan-worthy puns, the other 27% consists of unsolicited scientific facts, existential crisis rants, and, “Look at that dog!”





Daniel Thomson, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Daniel Thomson Labs of Cognitive Neuroscience

Dan is rising senior at Tufts University majoring in Clinical Psychology.  For the past ten years, he has served as a mentor and tutor for children and adolescents with learning disabilities and developmental disorders, which has been a truly rewarding experience and led him to the wonderful and necessary work being done at the Faja Lab.  He is thrilled to be working on the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) project and not only understanding more of the research in this field, but also helping children with ASD and their families.  Dan is a member of the Tufts’ Traveling Treasure Trunk, a children’s theater group that performs at local elementary schools, and is a Tufts’ Wilderness Orientation Leader, a pre-orientation backpacking trip for incoming new students.  He also took a Gap Year in China and loves practicing speaking in Chinese whenever he gets the chance.  In his free time, Dan enjoys reading a book in his hammock, watching some good theater, and laughing at photos of Corgis.









If you are interested in joining the team, please fill out our job interest form here.

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