INSAR Institute 2019 Presenter Bios

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD
June 13, 2019: Understanding Biomedical Challenges in ASD 

Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who uses molecular and translational neuroscience tools in the pursuit of new treatments for autism spectrum disorder and pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder. His molecular laboratory focuses on genetic mouse models with abnormal social or compulsive-like behavior. His translational research program at the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain studies potential treatments for autism spectrum disorder and related genetic syndromes. Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele trained with Edwin H. Cook, M.D., at the University of Chicago and Randy Blakely, Ph.D., at Vanderbilt University. He moved from Vanderbilt to Columbia University in 2014 and became the Ruane Professor and Division Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2017. Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele serves as an Associate Editor of Autism Research, the Journal of the International Society for Autism Research. He also co-chairs the Autism and Intellectual Disability Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He sits on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and Autism Speaks. His work has garnered multiple awards, including the Blanche Ittelson Award for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from the American Psychiatric Association.

Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD

June 20, 2019: Autism Heterogeneity Across Lifespan and Development

Julie Lounds Taylor is the Associate Professor of Pediatrics; Associate Director, IDDRC Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core E; Deputy Director of Organizational Research and Interventions, Frist Center for Autism & Innovation. Dr. Taylor’s research program focuses on how individual, family, and societal characteristics interact to promote healthy development, particularly in the face of non-normative family situations. Her current research interests include how families experience the transition to adulthood for young adults with an autism spectrum disorder, as well as the impact of having a sibling with intellectual disabilities. Another line of research examines parenting among adolescent mothers and the long-term impacts of adolescent parenthood.


Somer Bishop, PhD
June 20, 2019: Autism Heterogeneity Across Lifespan and Development

Dr. Bishop is an Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at UCSF. She is a clinical psychologist with expertise in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Her research and clinical interests are focused on ASD symptom manifestations in individuals of different ages and levels of ability, as well as on differentiating between ASD and other developmental disabilities across the lifespan.



Shafali Jeste, MD
June 27, 2019: Autism Heterogeneity - Neurological Diversity

Dr. Jeste is a behavioral child neurologist specializing in autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. She is an Associate Professor in Psychiatry, Neurology and Pediatrics in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, the director of the UCLA CARING Clinic and the director of the biomarkers core of the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART). Dr. Jeste’s research is focused on developing methods to improve our precision in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders through the application of brain based biomarkers and more targeted developmental phenotyping. Her lab studies neurodevelopmental disorders from early infancy through late childhood, with a focus on syndromic forms of autism. Dr. Jeste designed innovative studies in early predictors of autism in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) that integrate biomarkers with behavior to define atypical development prior to the onset of clinical symptoms of autism. Her work in TSC has led to the first randomized controlled clinical trial of behavioral intervention in infants with TSC. Dr. Jeste is the PI of an Autism Center of Excellence study of high risk infants, the PI of an IDDRC study of biomarkers in Dup15q syndrome, and the UCLA site PI of The Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT) which is multi-site NIH research study focused on identifying brain based biomarkers in autism. Dr. Jeste’s research is directly inspired by her clinical work, and she directs multidisciplinary clinic for children/adults with suspected or identified genetic etiologies associated with their neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Jeste holds many national and international leadership positions including the Board of Directors of the American Brain Foundation and the Board of Directors of the International Society for Autism Research. She was recently elected to serve as the next chair of the International Baby Siblings Research Consortium. She also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Child Neurology Edition of AAN Continuum. Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Department of Defense, the Dup15q Alliance, and Roche pharmaceuticals.



Anna van der Miesen, MD

July 11, 2019: Understanding Sex and Gender in ASD 

Dr. Anna van der Miesen is a medical doctor working in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria, VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Next to her clinical work with autistic gender diverse youth, Anna is a PhD student and is currently doing a master’s degree in Epidemiology at the VU University in Amsterdam. Her PhD is on the intersection between gender identity/ gender dysphoria and autism. While much of her research work focused on prevalence rates of autism (characteristics) in individuals with (characteristics) of gender dysphoria and vice versa, Anna is also interested in gender affirming treatment outcomes and general psychological functioning of youth with gender dysphoria. Currently, she is involved in community-based participatory research projects exploring the needs of autistic gender diverse youth, exploring the needs of clinicians working with autistic gender diverse individuals and investigating research priorities on sexuality and romance in autism. Anna is the student co-leader of the INSAR Special Interest Group on autism, sexuality and romantic relationships. More information about her research can be found on Research Gate:




Jeroen Dewinter, PhD

July 11, 2019:  Understanding Sex and Gender in ASD 

Dora Raymaker

Dr. Jeroen Dewinter is a scientist-practitioner combining work as a clinical psychologist at an outpatient mental health service for emerging adults (GGzE, the Netherlands) and as a senior researcher at Tranzo, centre for care and well being at the Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences of Tilburg University. He studied Educational Sciences at the KULeuven (2000), Belgium, postdoctoral specialist training in clinical psychology (2013) in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and completed his PhD in 2016 on the sexual development of adolescent boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Tilburg University. He initiated the INSAR Special Interest Group on Autism, sexuality and romantic relationships, in close collaboration with several international colleagues. His current work relates to research priorities on sexuality, relationships and autism, sexual wellbeing in adolescents and adults with autism and/or other developmental characteristics or mental health problems.


Emily Kuschner, PhD

July 18, 2019:  One Size Does Not Fit All: Modifying Methods and Treatment to Address Heterogeneity in Autism 

Emily Kuschner

Emily S. Kuschner, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and scientist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the Lurie Family Foundations Magnetoencephalography (MEG) Center and the Center for Autism Research. Dr. Kuschner earned her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Rochester. Dr. Kuschner conducts diagnostic and neurocognitive evaluations for research studies in the MEG Center at CHOP, and works closely with an interdisciplinary team to develop clinical support protocols to help children participate in neuroimaging research studies, regardless of age or ability. These clinical protocols allow a wide range of children to participate in neuroimaging studies, including children with who are severely affected and have intellectual ability or limited speech. Dr. Kuschner also has a program of research aimed at understanding food selectivity in children, adolescents, and adults on the autism spectrum. She developed the BUFFET Program (Building Up Food Flexibility and Exposure Treatment), a multi-family group intervention that uses cognitive behavioral strategies to improve food selectivity. Dr. Kuschner's studies aim to establish BUFFET as an evidence-based treatment program and to explore food selectivity assessment tools that will characterize food selectivity and sensitively measure treatment change.


Connor Kerns, PhD

July 25, 2019: Understanding Psychiatric Comorbidities in ASD

Dr. Kerns is an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, and Director of the Anxiety, Stress and Autism Program (ASAP) laboratory at the University of British Columbia. Prior to this appointment, she as an Assistant Research Professor at the AJ Drexel Autism Institute from 2013 – 2018. She completed her doctoral training in clinical psychology at Temple University and predoctoral internship at the AI DuPont Hospital for Children.

Dr. Kerns has expertise in the assessment and treatment of anxiety and stress-related disorders in children with autism spectrum disorder. Her research considers essential questions regarding how anxiety and stress-related conditions in autism spectrum disorder are defined and differentiated, and the implications of these definitions to clinical and epidemiological research. Dr. Kerns’ research also aims to improve clinical practice, by providing guidelines and measures for determining when someone with ASD is experiencing anxiety or trauma and by effectively treating these conditions in community settings. Dr. Kerns has received grant funding from the Autism Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health as well as private foundations to conduct her research. She has also published extensively on the overlap, assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders in ASD, including numerous articles, chapters and the book: Anxiety in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence Based Assessment and Treatment, co-edited with Patricia Renno, Philip C. Kendall, Jeffrey W. Wood, and Eric A. Storch


Roma Vasa, MD

July 25, 2019: Understanding Psychiatric Comorbidities in ASD

Dr. Vasa is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the director of education and training at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Vasa is the director of education and training at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. In her clinic, she sees children and adolescents with a variety of psychiatric disorders with specific focus on anxiety. Dr. Vasa is board-certified, and an active member of the Maryland Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Vasa has conducted extensive research on psychiatric outcomes after pediatric traumatic brain injury. More recently, her research focuses on brain-behavior relationships in pediatric anxiety disorders. She is the primary investigator of an fMRI study investigating the neural correlates of three common childhood anxiety disorders: separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and social phobia.


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