Early Career Committee

Early Career is defined as: Faculty or non‐academic INSAR Full members who have completed their formal training (i.e. terminal degree, post‐PhD fellowship or post‐doctoral fellowship, medical residency, or other specialized training) within the past 10 years.  (Advanced postdocs, those beyond their first postdoc, are encouraged).

The Early Career Committee (ECC) will report to the Educational Board Liaison regarding INSAR early career issues and activities.

The ECC will work closely with the Student and Trainee Committee to meet the goals of the INSAR mission specifically, to foster opportunities for leadership and career development for the next generation of ASD researchers and growing membership/organizational identity.

Specific Responsibilities:

  1. Assess and determine needs of Early Career INSAR members as needed.
  2. Plan and implement INSAR Early Career events.
  3. Report to INSAR Board on needs and INSAR related interests of early career members.
  4. Identify and potentially create resources for early career INSAR members.
  5. Work closely with the Student and Trainee Committee to ensure professional development gaps are addressed in addition to prevention of redundant efforts in providing resources for members.

About Early Career Committee

INSAR initiated an Early Career Committee (ECC) in 2017. The purpose of the ECC is to support early career INSAR members looking for resources, mentorship, and training to build their careers and facilitate networking among early career members.

Our Initiatives

Global Representative Initiative Pilot (GRIP) to expand and support involvement of early career researchers from diverse backgrounds and geographical locations. Read more...

Early Career Mentorship Program Pilot to build a tiered mentorship structure so that early career researchers can get mentorship from senior established researchers. Read more...

INSAR Annual Meeting Event - Research Rapid Rounds session with funding agency program officers, journal editors, and senior investigators who often sit on study sections (pre-registration required for this session). Read more... 

ECC Rapid Rounds Event 2018

For more information, please email: earlycareercommittee@autism-insar.org

Meet Your Early Career Committee Officers

Kimberly Carpenter, PhD (Co-Chair), is an Assistant Professor in the Center for Autism and Brain Development at Duke University. She a clinical neuroscientist specializing in the identification of neural and behavioral biomarkers as targets for early identification and treatment of autism and associated disorders in young children. Through her research, she aims to both understand the complex brain-behavior relationships in young children with autism and associated disorders and to foster the development of the next generation of researchers through mentorship and teaching. Four interrelated research themes encapsulate her approach: (1) Understanding the impact of comorbid disorders on clinical and behavioral outcomes of young children with autism; (2) Identification of early risk factors for the development of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders; (3) Identification of brain-based biomarkers for group stratification and treatment response tracking in young children; and (4) Improving methods for screening, early identification, and treatment monitoring in autism. Through this work, Dr. Carpenter aims to increase access to, and provide a solid neurobiological foundation for, evidence-based screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism and associated psychiatric comorbidities in young children.

Subhashini Jayanath, MD, MPaeds, BSc(Med. Sc.) (Co-Chair & Global Outreach Officer), is a senior lecturer and consultant developmental paediatrician at University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dr. Jayanath runs several developmental paediatric clinics at UMMC & University of Malaya Specialist Centre (UMSC). The majority of the patients she sees have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) of varying levels of severity. As part of her academic duties, Dr. Jayanath conducts lectures and clinical tutorials and provides mentorship of medical undergraduate and paediatric postgraduate students. Her areas of interest are autism spectrum disorder, developmental delay, learning disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. She is interested in research into possible regional phenotypic differences in ASD, clinical presentation of ASD, early diagnosis as well as the prevalence of autism in Malaysia. Dr. Jayanath has also written a book for parents of young children with ASD (Autism in Short: A Handbook for Parents).

Mark Shen, PhD (Training Officer), is a clinical neuroscientist studying the early brain and behavioral development of young children with autism. He obtained his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the UC Davis MIND Institute, completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina, and is now starting as an assistant professor at UNC. Prior to graduate school, he worked for six years doing clinical work with individuals with autism (from early intervention with young children, to independent living and employment with adults). Dr. Shen has conducted longitudinal MRI studies in high-risk infants and toddlers with autism. His current research aims to identify early risk markers for autism by integrating multiple approaches (behavior, infant brain imaging, molecular genetics, and animal models). His ultimate goal is to translate his research into findings that are both useful to clinicians and beneficial for individuals and families living with autism. Prior to joining the Early Career Committee, Dr. Shen co-founded and chaired the INSAR Student & Trainee Committee.

Frederick Shic, PhD (Technology Officer), is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at University of Washington and an Investigator at Seattle Children's Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development. A computer scientist by training, he leads Seattle Children's Innovative Technologies Laboratory (SCITL) which focuses on the exploration of new technologies and methodologies for enriching both our understanding of ASD and the lives of children with ASD. His current research interests include using eye-tracking to study visual social attention in ASD, functional near infrared spectroscopy to investigate brain mechanism, computational modeling to operationalize and synthesize working knowledge regarding typical and atypical development, and the development of specialized software (apps, video games, virtual reality, and informatics resources) and hardware applications (robots, wearables, and specialized monitoring tools) for educational and interventional purposes.

Giacomo Vivanti, PhD (Global Outreach Officer), is an Assistant Professor at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. His research and clinical work focus on early learning and intervention for children with Autism. Dr. Vivanti is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Early Intervention. He is the author of over 50 peer-reviewed scientific articles on Autism.

Early Career Committee Members

Nicolaas Puts, PhD, is starting as a Senior Lecturer at the Department for Forensic & Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, at King's College London, in 2020. Prior to this new job he was Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on studying the relationship between sensory processing, cortical inhibitory function, and clinical manifestations in children with autism spectrum disorder, as well as those with other and comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr Puts uses a variety of techniques, including psychophysics, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and has a particular interest in investigating how low-level sensory processing contributes to the autism phenotype. He is an enthusiastic collaborator on both the sensory (tactile) and MRS front, supporting data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation world-wide. In addition to his research, Dr Puts has a strong passion and background on training and supporting both professional and pastoral support to junior researchers. He was co-president and long-term active member of the Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association, provides and developed a wide range of professional development workshops, and was appointed the first Departmental Postdoctoral Program Director in his Department at JHU.

Josephine Barbaro, MEd & DevPsych, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow and Registered Psychologist at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Dr Barbaro’s research interests are in the early identification and diagnosis of autism in infants and toddlers, and family health and well-being following a diagnosis. Her developmental surveillance tool for autism in infants and toddlers (Social Attention and Communication Surveillance; SACS), has been developed since 2005, and is used amongst healthcare professionals in Australia, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific. Dr Barbaro’s early detection program has led to the development of ASDetect; the world’s first, empirically-based, autism surveillance mobile app for infants and toddlers. Her passion is translating research into practice, particularly for under-resourced and under-represented communities.

Vanessa Bal, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, USA. Vanessa has experience helping with overseeing the context and logistics of committees as a previous member of the STC. She would like to support the committee in developing programs to connect people throughout the year rather than just at the INSAR Annual Meeting.

Virginia Carter Leno, PhD, is a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biostatistics and Health Informatics, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. Her PhD research focused on testing the neural (using electroencephalography; EEG) and cognitive correlates of mental health problems in autistic adolescents, with the aim to delineate potential risk and resilience factors for psychopathology in autistic populations. Her postdoctoral work will continue this line of research, but focus on earlier neurocognitive antecedents, primarily in infancy, of both mental health and core autistic symptoms, and utilise longitudinal cohorts to answer questions of directionality. This work will involve using longitudinal statistical techniques to model trajectories of brain development, cognitive functioning and symptoms over time. She hopes this work will provide more accurate aetiological models (of both core symptoms and mental health problems), and therefore inform the development of better-targeted interventions.

Gaetane Deliens, PhD, is a post-doctoral researcher in the ACTE (Autism in Context: Theory and Experiment) team at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. She is a neuropsychologist studying language acquisition in autism. She created the first inter-university and cross-disciplinary Certification on ASD in Belgium. She conducted studies assessing pragmatic abilities in children and adults with autism. Her current research interests include using eye-tracking to study multimodal sensory integration deficits in verbal and nonverbal children with ASD and their relationship with language abilities. She also investigates the interplay between sleep architecture and word learning in children with autism.

Carolyn McCormick, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Purdue University. She conducted her PhD training at the University of California, Davis in Developmental Psychology and went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. Her program of research involves using multiple strategies to measure, predict, and understand the variability observed in development and family experiences with the goal of improving outcomes for people on the spectrum.

Jill Locke, PhD (Past Chair), is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on the: 1) presentation of social impairment in children with autism in schools; 2) identification and implementation of evidence-based practices for children and adults with autism; and 3) the individual and organizational factors that predict successful implementation of evidence- based practices for children and adults with autism in community settings. Her research has highlighted the importance of collaborating with community settings such as public schools and the reality of working within the constraints of publicly funded systems, their timeline, priorities, and personnel.

Michele Villalobos, PhD (Past Chair), is an Assistant Professor in the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine TEACCH Autism Program. Dr. Villalobos is the Director of the regional TEACCH Clinic for Western North Carolina based in Asheville, NC. Her clinical specialty lies in the identification and diagnosis of ASD in children under 3 years old. Dr, Villalobos' primary research focuses include: identifying barriers and facilitators to accessing services in ASD, working with rural communities to enhance service provisions and train providers and developing sustainable models of care at the community level. Prior to co-founding the ECC, Dr. Villalobos has been a member of INSAR since 2004 and chaired the Student and Trainee Committee. Her ultimate goal while serving on the ECC is to develop a sustainable network of resources for those transitioning out of training programs into the first years of their career.

ECC Vision and Mission Statement

“I wanted to create the ECC because I noticed there was a large gap between “trainee” and “established researcher” in our field in terms of networking, mentorship, funding opportunities, and professional development skills needed to launch and build an independent research career. My hope is that the ECC is able to bridge this gap and provide early career researchers with necessary resources and opportunities to help them progress and succeed in their research journey.” - Dr. Jill Locke, co-founder of the Early Career Committee

Feedback from Mentorship Program

ECC Mentorship Initiative 2018

In 2018 the ECC launched their pilot year of the mentoring initiative program, with the goal to build a tiered mentorship infrastructure within INSAR. The mentorship program seeks to use the network of expertise within INSAR to build the next generation of autism researchers through mentorship. Some quotes from participants in the mentorship program are given below.

“With the support of my mentor I was able to secure a one-year postdoctoral fellowship grant from the NIH's Fogarty International Centre. I am currently doing a postdoc at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. My postdoctoral research aims to develop a culturally appropriate autism screening tool for low-income and poor communities in middle-income African countries.”

“My mentor was fantastic…In my first year as an assistant professor, I applied for a K23, R21, and an internal university grant. I was successful in being awarded all three. Thank you to INSAR for supporting this very important initiative - having my mentor's support has been instrumental to my successful first year as an Asst Professor.”

Follow this link to the INSAR Facebook page to watch a video about a previous mentor and mentees' experiences!

Global Representative Initiative Pilot (GRIP)

Gail Alvares (AUSTRALIA)
Gail Alvares, PhD, is an early career autism researcher at the Telethon Kids Institute, University of Western Australia. She completed her PhD at the University of Sydney before moving to the Telethon Kids Institute to lead coordination of the Australian Autism Biobank, the largest repository of autism biological samples in Australia. Her research interests are in early brain development, visual attention, and evaluation of new therapies. In 2016, Gail was named a “Top 5 Under 40” scientist in Australia by Australia’s national broadcaster. She is passionate about science communication and community engagement.

John-Joe Dawson-Squibb (AFRICA)  
John-Joe Dawson-Squibb, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist working at the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa. His primary clinical role is at the Therapeutic Learning Centre (TLC), a tertiary level psychiatric in-patient unit for children under 13 years. He is currently in a joint appointment as a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town and the Department of Health. The title of his PhD thesis completed in June 2018 was ‘Parent education and training for autism spectrum disorder: evaluating evidence for implementation in low-resource environments’. His research interests focus on the implementation and dissemination of evidence-based parent education and training programmes in low resource environments. More recently he has become a certified Parent Child Interaction Therapist and is researching the feasibility of this approach in South Africa with the broader goal of disseminating the intervention more widely.

Joon-Yong An, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Korean University in the Department of Biosystem and Biomedical Science, the School of Health Science. Dr. An received his PhD in neuroscience from University of Queensland in 2016, and completed his postdoctoral training in human genetics in University of California, San Francisco. His research focus has been to understand the genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using high-throughput genomic technologies. In particular, Dr. An has been extensively studying how de novo variants affect individuals with ASD and their functional consequences in early neurodevelopment (An et al. 2014, An & Claudianos 2016, Werling et al. 2018, Williams et al. 2018). His recent work, An et al. (2018), finding de novo noncoding mutation associated with ASD, won the Young Investigator Award at the INSAR 2019. As a principal investigator, Dr. An leads the team working on genomic analyses of Korean ASD families and continues to understand the genetic basis underlying ASD.

Luodi Yu (CHINA)
Luodi Yu, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Psychology and an affiliated researcher of the Autism Research Center at South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China. She obtained her PhD in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2018. She holds BS and MA degrees in Psychology from Jilin University and South China Normal University. She has studied auditory processing and speech perception in autism with children from linguistically diverse backgrounds. Her research focus on illustrating pathological and non-pathological factors that contribute to altered speech and language development in ASD using behavioral and neurobehavioral methods. The goal of her research is to offer empirical guidance for developing cognitively and linguistically appropriate interventions for young children with ASD. Her work also involves characterizing and improving public awareness about ASD in China. Currently Dr. Yu serves as council member and secretary of Guangdong Rehabilitation and Education Association of Autism (China).

Mette Elmose Andersen (DENMARK)
Mette Elmose, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark. Mette has a background as a clinical psychologist working primarily with school aged children and young adults with autism or severe ADHD. Her research focuses on understanding the developmental mechanisms of mental health problems, such as loneliness, depression and anxiety persons with autism and their families. This research includes a particular interest in the interplay between individual and contextual factors. Some of her current research studies further aim to develop and test methods such as mindfulness, that may help prevent and reduce mental health problems in persons with autism, and their families.

S.S. Meera (INDIA)
S. S. Meera, Ph.D., is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, India. She is part of a multidisciplinary team that works with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders (DD). Her areas of interest include screening methods for early detection of ASD and related DD, parent-mediated early intervention for children with DD, language and communication deficits in the broader autism phenotype, co-morbidity in ASD, and bilingual language development in children with DD.

Meera recently returned to India after completing her post-doctoral training in neurosciences as a Fulbright scholar in the lab of Dr. Joe Piven, at the Carolina Institute of Developmental Disabilities, NC, USA, where she researched on identifying early language markers of ASD in infants at high familial risk. She was recently awarded the Wellcome Trust DBT-IA early career fellowship in clinical and public health to kick-start her lab – The Infant-Toddler Language Development and Intervention Lab (LiL’). Research in her lab will focus on potential benefits of a parent-mediated early intervention for toddlers at risk for ASD. The lab will also look at various methods for remote delivery of intervention and language development across different socio-economic strata.

Szu-Ching Lu (TAIWAN)
Szu-Ching Lu, PhD, received her doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan and currently holds the position of Hawthorne Fellow in Autism Innovation at the University of Strathclyde, UK. Her research focuses on human movement biomechanics, with an expertise in hand function analysis. Before joining the Laboratory for Innovation in Autism at the university, Dr. Lu received training at the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic in the USA, and worked as a Research Associate at the University of Kent in UK where she led biomechanical experiments to help understand the evolution of the human hand. Dr. Lu is also a certified occupational therapist in Taiwan. Combining her experience in both paediatric occupational therapy and biomechanical research, she aims to help with early diagnosis and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from the perspective of human movement biomechanics.

For more information about getting involved with the INSAR Early Career Committee GRIP Regional Network, visit HERE. 

Early Career Committee Volunteer Interest Form

This form is currently closed. Please check back at later at date. For questions please contact earlycareercommittee@autism-insar.org .

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