Autism Phenome Project (APP) Research Team
David G. Amaral, Ph.D. received his undergraduate education at Northwestern University and graduated with a degree in Psychology. He then moved to the University of Rochester where he received a joint Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Psychology. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Washington University. He then moved to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he remained for 13 years. During this period he was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego.
Dr. Amaral joined the University of California, Davis in 1995 as a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Center for Neuroscience. He is also a staff scientist at the California National Primate Research Center. Dr. Amaral was named the Beneto Foundation Chair and Research Director of the MIND (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute in 1998. He also serves as Director of Autism BrainNet. Dr. Amaral started the Autism Phenome Project in 2006 with the collaboration of numerous MIND Institute faculty and staff, and the project has become the largest, single site, longitudinal analysis of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Dr. Nordahl received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and graduate degree in neuroscience from UC Davis. She began her career at the MIND Institute as a postdoctoral fellow and has been working on the APP since the beginning of the project, spearheading efforts to develop pediatric neuroimaging protocols to acquire MRI scans in infants and toddlers during natural sleep, without the use of sedation or anesthesia. Dr. Nordahl joined the MIND Institute faculty in 2011 and is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She is also the Principal Investigator of the Girls with Autism- Imaging of Neurodevelopment (GAIN) Study, which builds upon the APP, but is specifically focused females with ASD.
Dr. Marjorie Solomon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, the MIND Institute, and the Imaging Research Center at the UC Davis School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Psychology from UC Berkeley. She also is a licensed clinician for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). In 2007, Solomon received a K08 Career Development Award from NIMH to use cognitive neuroscience methods including fMRI to study higher cognition in ASD. Solomon’s current research examines cognitive development in individuals with ASD through the lifespan. In addition to the HELP Study, Solomon is funded to investigate the development of cognitive control and life outcomes in adolescents and young adults with the disorders. Solomon’s ultimate goal is to apply what she learns through neuroscience investigations to the development of interventions – the area where she began her career at the MIND Institute, and one she continues to develop as the Oates Endowed Chair and Director of the MIND social skills training group program.
Brianna Heath, Ph.D.
Brianna Heath is the project manager for the Autism Phenome Project. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Southern Oregon University and her Ph.D. in Human Genetics from University of Pittsburgh. Her role serves as a bridge between project leaders, collaborators, the research team, and participating families. Her primary duties include: 1) coordinating and managing project activities under the direction of Dr. David G. Amaral, Dr. Christine Wu Nordahl, and Dr. Marjorie Solomon, 2) supervising of project staff, 3) overseeing data collection, and 4) managing the study’s complex databases.
Caroline Gohring, B.S.
Caroline Gohring is a study coordinator for the Autism Phenome Project. She graduated from UC Davis in 2015 with a B.S. in Psychology with a Biology Emphasis and a minor in Human Development. She has experience working with children both with and without developmental disorders. She previously held an internship at the MIND Institute with the Infant Sibling Study. She currently coordinates the MRI visits for APP Middle Childhood and both the behavioral and MRI visits for New APP. In the future, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Developmental Psychobiology and conduct research on neurodevelopmental disorders.
Elyse Adler, B.S.
Elyse Adler is a Junior Specialist coordinating the behavioral visits for the Autism Phenome Project. She graduated from Haverford College in 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology and two minors in Fine Arts and History of Art. As an undergrad, she worked with Dr. Jennifer Pals Lilgendahl and Dr. Benjamin Le on the Identity Pathways Project, a longitudinal study at Haverford College and Western Washington University examining personality and identity development over the course of college and beyond. She expanded on this research through her senior thesis titled, "Introversion, Implicit Self-Theories, and the College Experience." She has had experience working with children with behavioral, emotional, and social difficulties at Quest Therapeutic Camps, as well as at Haverford's Spectrum After-School Program. She also served as a captain of the Haverford Women's Lacrosse Team. Currently she schedules and facilitates all the Time 4 behavioral visits for the Autism Phenome Project and coordinates the Higher Cognition, Emotional Development, and Language Processing (HELP) Study. She is also a co-leader in the MIND Institute’s Social Skills Program.
Katelyn Huynh, B.S.
Katelyn Huynh is a study coordinator for the Autism Phenome Project. She graduated from UC Davis in 2017 with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant for the Autism Phenome Project. She currently coordinates the behavioral and MRI visits for New APP. In the future, she hopes to attend medical school and continue working with children.
Lauren Libero, Ph.D.
Lauren Libero is a postdoctoral fellow whose research focuses on brain development and using brain imaging tools to identify clinical predictors of behavior and treatment. She received her doctorate in Lifespan Developmental Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she used multimodal MRI to study brain measures that predict ASD diagnosis and symptom severity. Her goals are to uncover clinically significant phenotypes of ASD and identify the best personalized intervention strategies. In the lab, she is currently investigating these issues as part of the APP. In addition, she is part of the APP team that conducts the MRI and startle response testing sessions.
Dr. Winder-Patel is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the MIND Institute and Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics. She has a strong interest in the assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, pediatric anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive and related disorders.
Dr. Winder-Patel began an anxiety treatment clinic upon joining the MIND Institute to continue her passion of providing Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP), and Habit Reversal Training (HRT) to children and adolescents. She is also involved in clinical research with a focus on further understanding autism spectrum disorder in girls and the clinical and behavioral manifestation of anxiety in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Winder-Patel currently works on the Autism Phenome Project as an examiner administering the behavioral assessments.
Dr. Steinfeld has worked at the MIND Institute since 2000. She is a board certified developmental-behavioral pediatrician, and she works in the MIND Institute Child Development Clinic providing evaluation and follow-up of children with developmental and behavioral difficulties. In addition to her interest in autism spectrum disorders, Dr. Steinfeld is interested in behavioral feeding problems in young children, infant regulatory disorders and in the field of infant-parent mental health. Dr. Steinfeld earned her B.S. from Stanford University and her M.D from Medical College of Virginia. She completed her pediatric residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and her Child Development fellowship at UCLA. Dr. Steinfeld currently works on the Autism Phenome Project as an examiner conducting the medical history interview and exam.
Melissa Mello, M.A., BCBA
Melissa Mello has been working with children with autism for the past 10 years in a variety of settings, including as a special education teacher and early interventionist delivering one on one intervention in community based programs. For the past 7 years, Melissa has been supervising early intervention programs as a Clinical Manager; using behaviorally based, empirically validated methods to ensure children with autism are improving their behavior, language and social skills at home and in the classroom. Melissa is certified in the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), and has trained both locally and internationally as a certified ESDM trainer. She is currently a Team Lead for the TADPOLE Study at the MIND Institute. Melissa has a Master’s Degree in Special Education from San Francisco State University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. On the Autism Phenome Project, Melissa works as a Behavioral Analyst using evidence-based strategies to develop individualized plans to help prepare participants for the longitudinal video MRI procedure.