Nelson Laboratory | Postdoctoral Research Fellows

April Boin Choi
 
April Boin Choi, Ph.D. (contact April Boin Choi) I received my Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University in 2019, under the mentorship of Dr. Charles Nelson. My dissertation work examined early behavioral and environmental factors (e.g., gestures, parent input) that predict language skills in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). After working as a doctoral student in Nelson lab for five years, I am excited to start as a postdoctoral fellow and continue my training in the lab. My primary research efforts will focus on two ongoing lines of research: 1) investigating factors associated with social communication and language in infants at risk for ASD; and 2) examining the effects of parent-mediated early intervention for children with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, a rare genetic disorder associated with ASD.

 


Caitlin Clements, Ph.D. (contact Caitlin Clements) I joined the LCN in 2020 as a fellow in the Translational Postdoctoral Training Program in Neurodevelopment. I received my PhD in Psychology (with Clinical Training, child track) from the University of Pennsylvania under the mentorship of Robert Schultz, PhD. My doctoral work focused on autistic symptoms in 22q11.2 Duplication and Deletion Syndromes, reward processing in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and the psychometrics of cognitive assessment in individuals with ASD.  During graduate school, I also completed a Fulbright grant in Sweden at the Karolinska Institutet Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics where I studied genome-wide association approaches to understanding psychiatric genetics. At the LCN, I am studying the development of reward processing and social cognition in young children with rare genetic disorders or at risk for ASD using EEG and other tools. My favorite part of my job is working with families, and clinically I have expertise in ASD, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, and managing challenging behaviors.

 

Kelli Dickerson, Ph.D. (contact Kelli Dickerson). I joined the LCN in 2021 after receiving my PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of California, Irvine.  My doctoral work sought to identify mechanisms linking early life stress (e.g., child maltreatment) and risk for socioemotional impairments in children and adolescents and test methods of altering those mechanisms to improve developmental outcomes. In the LCN, I use a range of modalities (e.g., EEG, eye-tracking, behavioral assessments) to understand the effects of early experiences on brain and behavioral development.  I am currently working on an ongoing project examining biological and bio-behavioral markers of early stress exposure in infants.  In other work, I am investigating how early life stress (e.g., unpredictable maternal care, maternal psychopathology) alters neurodevelopment and behavior in ways that confer risk for later socioemotional problems.

 

Caroline Kelsey, Ph.D. (contact Caroline Kelsey) I received my Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2020, under the supervision of Dr. Tobias Grossmann. My dissertation research explored the role of the gut microbiota in infant brain and behavioral development. As part of my research, I used functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) to characterize resting state functional brain networks in newborn babies. I was thrilled to join the LCN in 2020. Here, I work on an ongoing longitudinal project examining neural, cognitive, and behavioral predictors of emotion processing. I am interested in using fNIRS and eye-tracking to identify early-emerging markers of later social-emotional functioning.

 

 

Cora Mukerji, Ph.D. (contact Cora Mukerji) I received my Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Harvard University in 2020. My dissertation work applied functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and behavioral methods to study neurocognitive processes supporting social functioning in healthy child development and how these processes may go awry in atypical neurodevelopment, contributing to poor social and mental health outcomes. During graduate school and my clinical internship at Boston Children’s Hospital, I became increasingly interested in studying how early experiences interact with unfolding developmental processes to shape risk and resilience for adverse psychosocial outcomes. I was delighted to return to the Nelson Lab as a post-doctoral fellow in the fall of 2020. My current projects focus on mapping pathways by which early life experiences impact development, setting children on paths to maladaptive or resilient social and mental health outcomes.  I am currently leading projects examining how early environmental exposures can “get under the skin,” exerting enduring effects on children’s brain maturation and behavioral development. Through this work, I aim to identify modifiable targets for interventions to improve social functioning and reduce psychiatric risk.

 

Virginia Peisch, Ph.D. (contact Virginia Peisch) I received my Ph.D. in Developmental and Clinical Psychology from the University of Vermont (UVM) in 2020, under the mentorship of Dr. Keith Burt and Dr. Rex Forehand. I completed my predoctoral clinical internship at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University (2019-2020). In my research, I am interested in identifying risk and protective factors – as well as their dynamic interaction – in predicting psychopathology as well as competence. In my dissertation study, I examined the structure and function of coping in emerging adulthood. I am now working as a postdoctoral clinical and research fellow in the Nelson and Arnett labs. I was drawn to the work of the LCN for many reasons, one of them being the depth and breadth of research methodologies. I am excited to consider EEG/ERP data when asking questions related to risk and resilience in typically developing children as well as in clinical populations.

 

Laura PirazzoliLaura Pirazzoli, Ph.D. (contact Laura PirazzoliI received my PhD in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (CBCD), Birkbeck College London, under the supervision of Prof. Mark H. Johnson, Dr. Teea Gliga and Dr. Sarah Lloyd-Fox. My dissertation work focused on the mechanisms involved in social touch processing in infancy. Specifically, I investigated cortical activation and autonomic responses to a particular type of social touch (slow velocity stroking) shown to activate a particular type of skin afferents and elicit affective responses. In my research I applied a variety of tools to answer my research question including fNIRS, EKG, eyetracking and behavioural measures. Given my extended fNIRS training at the CBCD and my interest in the development of this technology, I have been working with Gowerlabs since 2018 where I have been involved in their fNIRS courses and research support program. I joined the LCN in January 2019 as a postdoctoral research fellow to work on the Bangladesh Early Adversity Neuroimaging (BEAN) project. This project aims to investigate the impact that early biological and psychosocial adversities have on brain development, using multiple neuroimaging tools (EEG, fNIRS and fMRI). My focus will be on the fNIRS component of the project. My current research investigates how exposure to different forms of early adverse experiences may derail the development of brain regions that support social cognition, and I am also interested in identifying potential protective factors.

 

Kelsey Quigley, Ph.D. (contact Kelsey Quigley) I received my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University in 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Ginger Moore. In my doctoral work, I examined psychophysiological mechanisms by which features of the early environment become biologically embedded to influence later functioning. In particular, I became interested in ways in which parent-infant interactions might shape children’s rapidly-developing self-regulatory systems. This work focused on the autonomic nervous system, which is a central regulator of a variety of psychological and physical processes and whose functioning provides a biomarker of mental and physical health in adulthood. I was thrilled to join the LCN as a postdoctoral research fellow in August 2020. Here, I work primarily on the Emotion Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of neural, psychophysiological, and psychosocial risk factors for development of anxiety in the first seven years of life. As part of the Emotion Project team, I contribute to preparation and analysis of both autonomic and clinical data. I am particularly interested in the autonomic nervous system’s role as a mediator of early-life environmental conditions and development of psychopathology. Outside the LCN, I also contribute to projects examining biobehavioral pathways by which childhood trauma might impact mental health in parenthood and factors that might tune the autonomic nervous system for health-promotion, even in the context of adversity.