Research

LIke ThisLIke ThisLIke This

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.


Laura Nelson, Research Coordinator

I graduated Boston University in 2013 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in English Literature. As an undergraduate, I worked as a research assistant in several child development labs, including the Child Cognition Lab at BU where I received Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project funding awards to assist in a science education project. After graduating, I worked as a lab manager in the Child Development Labs at BU doing social development and learning research with children and families. I am thrilled to be the research study coordinator for the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials at Boston Children's Hospital and to work with the phenomenal research teams in the Nelson and Faja Labs on this multi-site project.


Julia Buirkle, Research Assistant

Julia received her B.S. in Neuroscience at Bucknell University in 2015. While at Bucknell, she worked at Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute as a research extern in their neuropsychology lab. Julia assisted in multiple studies involving EEG, MRI, eye tracking, and cognitive testing in typical children and those with neurodevelopmental conditions. Additionally, Julia conducted research in a neuroscience lab that examined the role of ghrelin receptors in the alcohol reward pathway of prairie voles, ultimately resulting in a publication as coauthor.  Julia has developed a strong interest in translational research aimed at both early diagnosis and intervention for children on the autism spectrum, and therefore is very excited to be working on the new autism biomarkers project in Dr. Faja’s lab! She hopes to earn her PhD in Clinical Psychology in the future, with a focus on autism spectrum disorders. Outside of the lab Julia loves to ski, has a major sweet tooth, listens to country music incessantly, and hopes to one day compete in the Boston marathon!


Akshi Vaidyanathan, Research Assistant

Akshi graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology from Tufts University in 2016. As an undergraduate, Akshi was involved in research in social psychology and child development. She worked as a research assistant in the Social Identity and Stigma lab, in the Diversity and Intergroup Relations Lab, on the Adoption Development Project in the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. Akshi also interned in the Faja lab at Boston Children’s Hospital where she assisted on the GAMES project performing behavioral testing, EEG/ERP processing, and training visits. Akshi loves working with children and values the importance of investigating the efficacy of novel interventions for children with developmental disorders. As an ENFJ, Akshi loves to be around other like-minded individuals and she admits she can sometimes be a little too idealistic. She loves to dance, and obsessively follows the work of Haruki Murakami in her free time. Akshi grew up in the tropics and thus has a very bittersweet relationship with New England weather.

Aksheya Sridhar, Research Assistant

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.


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.

 



Anthony DeBenedetto, Graduate Research Assistant

Anthony DeBenedetto Anthony graduated from Tufts University in 2016 with a double major in Clinical Psychology and Child Study and Human Development. As a “double Jumbo,” he returns to Tufts to join the Eliot-Pearson school of Child Study and Human Development for his master’s degree. Anthony has a passion for youth mental health, and hopes to eventually pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology so that he may study and employ cognitive and behavioral interventions to children in need. At Tufts, he worked in the Adoption and Development lab, exploring the experiences and challenges of transracially adopted children as they navigate childhood and early adolescence. He also worked as a clinical research intern at the Child CBT program at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he helped a team of researchers study risk factors and interventions for children of various clinical populations. Outside of school and work, he is a recovering college swimmer (go Bo’s!) who is trying to navigate the world of land sports. He loves to cook even though he only has about 3 recipes, and can’t wait until he moves into an apartment that lets him have a dog.

 


Jessica Pappagianopoulos, Graduate Research Assistant

Jessica Pappagianopoulos Jessica earned her B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Healthcare Administration at Stonehill College in 2015. During that time, she contributed to various research projects regarding facial recognition, smoking cessation, and HIV/AIDS. She is currently in her second year of a Master’s Program in the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University, where she is a Teaching Assistant and works in the Child Health Equity lab exploring preventive health interventions and adolescent health literacy. Jessica became passionate about autism when working with adolescents with ASD in the Aspire Program through Massachusetts General Hospital. She is excited to be a part of the Faja Lab, and plans to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology in order to become a pediatric psychologist. During her time outside of lab and the library, Jessica enjoys running, surfing, traveling, and eating buffalo chicken! 



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. 
  


Shashwat Kala, Undergraduate Research Assistant

ShashShash is a junior at Dartmouth College majoring in Environmental Studies is minoring in Chemistry and Spanish and is on the pre-medical track. At Dartmouth, Shash volunteers extensively with children on the spectrum through an organization named ASPIRE. In ASPIRE, Shash helps direct the Swim Group division, where he helps connect children on the spectrum and their families to Dartmouth volunteers who take the children to the local aquatic center to help improve their social and executive function skills. Shash is thrilled to work in the Faja Lab and is looking forward to expanding his understanding of autism and other neurodevelopment disorders beyond what he has learned in the traditional classroom setting. At Dartmouth, he is also a research assistant at the Hill Lab at the Thayer School of Engineering, a tour guide, and the co-director of a hip-hop dance group called Ujima. Post graduation, Shash plans on attending medical school and hopes to become a practicing pediatrician one day. Shash also enjoys playing tennis and binge watching anything produced by Shonda Rhimes. 



Sophia Rodriguez, Undergraduate Research Assistant

Sophia Rodriguez Sophia is a rising senior at Boston University, where she studies Special Education and Psychology. She is passionate about working with children on the autism spectrum. In the past, Sophia worked at an ABA clinic, where she guided children with autism through individualized programs and group activities. At Boston University, she assisted her professor in doing research on the effectiveness of inclusion classrooms in the Boston area. Sophia is thrilled to join the GAMES project in the Faja Lab as it will allow her to combine her passion for children with disabilities with clinical practice. After graduating from Boston University, she hopes to pursue a degree in Neuropsychology and contribute to further research in the field. In her free time, Sophia enjoys dancing, watching movies, and spending time with friends.
 










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

LIke ThisLIke ThisLIke This
Close