People

Frederick Shic, Ph.D., Director

Frederick Shic, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Shic's current research interests include applications of eye-tracking to the study of the social and cognitive development in infants, toddlers, and children with ASD, the use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in the investigation of the neurochemical bases of ASD, and the exploration of new technologies and methodologies for enriching both our understanding of ASD and the lives of children with ASD and their families. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Shic was an associate research scientist under Dr. Katarzyna Chawarska, director of the Infant and Toddlers Developmental Disabilities Clinic and the Yale Early Social Cognition Laboratory. Prior to this, Dr. Shic completed an NIMH T32 training program in childhood neuropsychiatric disorders led Drs. James Leckman and Elena Grigorenko. Dr. Shic received his doctorate in Computer Science from Yale University and an undergraduate degree in Engineering and Applied Sciences from the California Institute of Technology. During his graduate work, Dr. Shic developed computational and mathematical approaches for analyzing eye-tracking data, with a focus on what these techniques can tell us about the social and cognitive development of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Prior to this, Dr. Shic was software engineer at the Sony Interactive Studios of America, and, later, a researcher at the Huntington Medical Research Institutes, where he conducted research in 1H and 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), developing techniques for quantifying and visualizing brain metabolism and neurochemistry.

Katarzyna Chawarska, Ph.D., Associate Director

Katarzyna (Kasia) Chawarska, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center. She received her graduate degree from the Department of Psychology at Yale University and completed her postgraduate training at the Yale Child Study Center. Her research work and publications focus on (1) understanding mechanisms that underlie social attention abnormalities observed in infants and toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders; and (2) better defining the early phenotypic expression of ASD. Work in her lab is focused on studying face and gaze processing in children under the age of 2 years using eye-tracking technology. Determining which components of gaze and face processing are impaired and which are preserved in infants with ASD will help advance our appreciation of mechanisms underlying abnormalities in the early stages of the disorder. This evolving understanding of the condition will be consequential for designing early screening and intervention methods and improving understanding of factors responsible for high heterogeneity of early syndrome expression. Dr. Chawarska's research has been funded by both private (Autism Speaks, NAAR, Korczak Foundation) and federal (NICHD, NIMH) agencies. She is a co-editor of the book titled, "Autism in Infants and Toddlers: Diagnosis, Assessment and Treatment" published in 2008. She lectures nationally and internationally on issues related to early diagnosis of ASD. She is the Director of the Toddler Developmental Disabilities Clinic at the Yale Autism Program.

Suzanne Macari, Ph.D., Associate Director

Suzanne Macari, Ph.D., is an Associate Research Scientist at the Yale Child Study Center. She earned her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Virginia and completed post-doctoral fellowships in autism research at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute with Dr. Sally Rogers and Dr. Sally Ozonoff, and at the Yale Child Study Center Toddler Developmental Disabilities Clinic under the supervision of Dr. Chawarska. Currently, she is part of the assessment team for studies involving infants and toddlers. Her research focuses on visual attention and perception in infants and toddlers with autism, early behavioral markers of autism, and developmental changes in the phenotypic expression of autism over the first three years of life.

Laura Boccanfuso, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Laura Boccanfuso, Ph.D., is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Yale Child Study Center. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of South Carolina. Her research includes designing and developing new socially assistive robots, technologies and interaction methodologies to improve therapeutic outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her research and work also includes exploring novel, sensor-based techniques that advance the utility, safety and acceptance of robots working in close proximity to humans. Laura’s current research focus is a novel, robot-assisted approach for measuring differences in emotion response and emotion recognition in toddlers with ASD.

Quan Wang, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

Quan Wang, Ph.D.is a Postdoctoral associate at the Yale Child Study Center. She received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Computational Neuroscience from Goethe University Frankfurt, and has a M.S in Computational Science and B.S in Bioinformatics. She studies machine learning and computational methods, and has research experience in developmental psychology and visual attention. Her current research focus on eye tracking innovation and application, particularly interested in gaze-contingent eye tracking paradigms and its application in infants and toddlers affected by Autism.

Megan Lyons, M.S.W., CCC-SLP, Clinical Social Work Instructor & Speech-Language Pathologist

Megan Lyons, MSW, M.S. CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist in the Laboratory for Developmental Communication Disorders conducting speech, language and communication evaluations for several studies. In addition, Megan conducts speech and language evaluations for the Academic Skills Clinic. Megan is also a part time Clinical Instructor in the Harris-Provence Child Development Unit providing developmental assessments and psychotherapy to young children and their families as well as supervises fellows in training.

Michael Perlmutter - Design, Media, and Technical Specialist

Michael Perlmutter is the TIL specialist in digital media and hardware acquisition and setup.

Patricia Pérez-Fuster, M.Sc.

Patricia Pérez-Fuster, M.Sc. in applied statistics and research methods, is a PhD candidate in Psychology and a Predoctoral Associate at the Autism and Learning Difficulties Research Group at the Robotics Institute, University of Valencia (Spain). She recently joined the Yale Child Study Center for a 4-month research internship awarded by her international doctoral training program. The aim of her work focuses on the implementation of intervention programs in schools and day centers with applications for smartphones and tablets and augmented reality-based video games to improve social communication and living skills in children and adults with ASD and intellectual disability.

Amy Ahn, B.S., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Amy Ahn graduated with honors from Cornell University in 2015 with a B.S. in Human Development and a concentration in Social and Personality Development. While at Cornell University, she was a research assistant at the Cornell Infant Studies Lab (CISL), where she contributed to multiple research projects on infant cognitive and language development. She was also accepted into the Human Development Honors Program where she spent a year designing and conducting an honors thesis project under the mentorship of Dr. Marianella Casasola. Her honors thesis involved exploring infants’ ability to form spatial categories and how language influences the formation of these spatial categories. She is currently a fellow in developmental and computational social neuroscience at the Technology and Innovation Lab.

Erin Barney, B.S., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Erin Barney graduated as valedictorian from Trinity College with a B.S. in Psychology and Engineering Science. For two years, she worked in Trinity’s Complex Fluids Lab under Dr. Emilie Dressaire, studying filtration and clogging of microfluidic channels. In 2014, she worked as a research assistant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she designed and implemented a study of hemispheric lateralization of cognitive tasks using functional transcranial Doppler ultrasonography. More recently, Erin completed an honors thesis in psychology that explored novel speech perception training methods using normal-hearing listeners and cochlear implant simulations. Erin is excited to join the Technology and Innovation Laboratory and to learn more about how new technologies can be used to tap into the cognitive abilities of infants, toddlers, and young children with ASD.

Claire Foster, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Claire Foster graduated with honors with a B.A. in Psychology from Cornell University in 2015.  While at Cornell, she worked as a research assistant in the Eleanor J. Gibson Laboratory of Developmental Psychology (Cornell B.A.B.Y. Lab) under Dr. Michael Goldstein and Dr. Jennifer Schwade. Under the guidance of Dr. Goldstein, she conducted a senior honors thesis investigating influences of social affiliation on social word learning in toddlers.  As a senior she was chosen by clinical psychologist Dr. Harry Segal to participate in a field practicum course, in which she conducted one-on-one play therapy with at-risk children from a local elementary school.  She gained an interest in research investigating autism spectrum disorders as a summer intern at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she worked closely with the staff clinical neuropsychologist during diagnostic and neuropsychological testing of young children with ASD.

Perrine Heymann, B.Phil, Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Perrine Heymann graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.Phil in Psychology and a minor in Spanish and American Sign Language in 2015. While at the University of Pittsburgh, she was a research assistant in the Infant Communication Lab (ICL) under Dr. Jana Iverson. She designed and carried out an honors thesis examining the development of vocalizations and joint attention in infants at heightened risk for autism during her time in the ICL. She spend many summers working at Camp Jabberwocky, a camp for kids and adults with disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.  She is currently a fellow in developmental and computational social neuroscience at the Yale Early Cognition Lab. 

Emily Hilton, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Emily Hilton graduated with honors with a B.A. in Psychology and a concentration in Neuroscience from Grinnell College in 2015. While at Grinnell, Emily worked both as a research assistant in the Cognitive Development Laboratory, under Dr. Ann Ellis, and as an assistant teacher at the college preschool. During the summer of 2013, she completed an intensive research project conducting eye-tracking research with preschool-aged children. Emily also conducted a qualitative research project on mental illness stigmatization and access to care while studying abroad in Jordan for a semester and she worked with young children who experienced early life trauma as an intern at Las Cumbres Community Services in New Mexico for a summer.

Finola Kane-Grade, B.A.

Finola Kane-Grade, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Finola Kane-Grade graduated with comprehensive honors from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2016 with a B.A. in Psychology and Music Performance – Flute. While at the University of Wisconsin, she was a research assistant for four years at the Child Emotion Research Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Seth Pollak, where she conducted research focused on children’s emotional development using eye-tracking and psychophysiological methods. In this lab, Finola completed a Hilldale senior honors thesis about the effects of positive and negative affect on short-term perceptual learning, and a Welton sophomore honors thesis on emotion regulation and empathic response in middle childhood. In addition, Finola worked as a Conte Center fellow studying the early neurodevelopmental origins of anxiety, and she did so by conducting clinical diagnostic interviews and temperament assessments. She also worked for over three years as a research assistant at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds under the direction of Dr. Richard Davidson, studying healthy qualities of mind such as kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and mindfulness. In addition, she worked for over two years as a research assistant at the Wisconsin Twin Project under the direction of Dr. Hill Goldsmith, studying genetic and environmental features of emotional development from infancy through adolescence.

Minah Kim B.A.

Minah Kim, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Minah Kim graduated from Macalester College with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Environmental Studies in 2016. She worked for two years as a research assistant and spent her last semester as the co-lab supervisor for the Macalester College Cognitive Psychology Lab and Eye-Tracking Lab where she trained new lab members and oversaw an eye-tracking project that uses the effects of gender stereotype residue to learn how context and world knowledge affect the way we read. She also spent a summer working at Fraser, where she was paired up with preschool-aged children diagnosed with ASD to help meet their individualized goals in the areas of safety, coping, social, communication, imitation and play. She is currently a developmental and computational social neuroscience fellow at the Yale Technology and Innovation Lab.

Beibin Li, B.S., Translational Technologies in Development Fellow

Beibin Li graduated from University of Michigan at 2015 with B.S. in mathematics and computer science. As a teaching assistant in Theory of Computation at UMich, he focused on discrete math, randomized algorithm, database, and graph theory. He also participated in a "Course Scheduler" web project by designing back-end program, managing SQL database, and coordinating with front-end developers. His research in University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute included driving distractions, augmented reality, speech rate, and human-vehicle interaction. As a Research Fellow in Yale Child Study Center, he uses PyschoPy and Matlab to setup eye tracking experiment, analyze recording data, and design machine learning algorithms for Autism studies.

Anna Milgramm, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Anna Milgramm graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Economics in December 2014. While at Emory, Anna worked as a Research Assistant at the Children’s and Mothers’ Emotions Laboratory, where she conducted a project focused on the parenting behaviors of mothers at risk for perinatal depression. She also worked as an Assistant Teacher at the Walden Early Childhood Center, an integrated preschool that promotes social interactions between children with autism and typically developing children. Additionally, she contributed to a research project at the Pinto Lab at Mount Sinai Hospital on the genetic link between several neurodevelopmental disorders.

Stephanie Valencia, B.S., Translational Technologies in Development Fellow

Stephanie Valencia graduated with a B.S in Biomedical Engineering from La Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia (EIA) and CES University in Colombia. For her senior thesis, she developed an Arduino based educational tool to  promote social interaction between children with and without visual impairments  and support their sensory development through play. This project led her to collaborate with the Open Style Lab at MIT, exploring work in  assistive technology and accessible art through user centered design. While at MIT she also participated in  DIY health care Hackathons  and contributed to the development of a mobile app to screen and collect data on developmental delays in children in Bangladesh. She is interested in how technology  can empower people of different abilities to learn and have positive experiences that also assist their development.  

Alumni

2016

Carla Wall, M.S., Statistician and Research Coordinator

Lauren DiNicola, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

2015

Elizabeth S. Kim, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher

So Hyun "Sophy" Kim, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

Lilli Flink, B.A., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow

Gabriella Greco, B.S., Developmental and Computational Social Neuroscience Fellow