Frist Center members include the affiliates and fellows who applied and were accepted into membership.
An affiliate is a VU/VUMC faculty or staff member who has a relevant interest in the activities of the Center, including—but not limited to—developing a strengths-based understanding of neurodiverse abilities; studying novel employment arrangements and workplace practices that leverage these capabilities; inventing new technologies that enable individuals with autism to achieve their potential; and exploring innovative approaches inspired by neurodiversity. Affiliates are eligible for benefits such as access to resource staff, postdoctoral fellows, and the ability to apply for mini-grants.
Outside affiliates are individuals who are not affiliated with VU or VUMC but who have expertise or activity in areas relevant to the Frist Center’s mission and who wish to be included in Frist Center events and collaborative opportunities.
Fellows are affiliates who are willing to contribute time and effort toward the Center’s initiatives, ranging from participating on committees, mentoring students, mentoring postdocs, hosting speakers, planning symposia, leading white papers, conducting studies, etc. Fellows are eligible for additional benefits, such as administrative support for working groups, prioritized access to resource staff and Center workspace, and the ability to propose projects with significant Center support.
Visiting fellows are neurodiversity self-advocates from around the country – or even world – who have been invited to advise the Frist Center and have access to advocacy platforms and resources as a result of their fellowship.
- Organizational Behavioral Researcher
- Research interests include neurodiversity and emotions in the workplace.
- Director of the Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation, University of Connecticut
- Judy joined University of Connecticut in 2021 to design, build, and direct a national academic center that has as its mission addressing the specific challenges and opportunities related to neurodiversity and employment. UConn’s Center for Neurodiversity and Employment Innovation (CNDEI) pursues innovative and scalable strategies that embrace a strengths-based perspective on ND individuals’ talents, and which address the barriers blocking their successful employment. CNDEI focuses its work on two primary pillars of the employment ecosystem where change and innovation are critical: Accessible and comprehensive employer education and training, and Innovative employment pathways within (and outside of) higher ed model. Judy is trained and educated in special education advocacy and law, analysis and application of educational and neuropsychological assessments, and the spectrum of services, supports, interventions, and strengths-based approaches needed to enable ND children and adults to pursue their goals. Judy is the parent of four adult children, two of whom live with neurodivergent conditions that have significantly impacted their educational and employment journeys.
James W. Bodfish
- Professor & Vice Chair of Research, Department of Hearing & Speech Sciences
- In the Autism Brain, Behavior & Intervention Lab (ABBIL), Dr. Bodfish and his team conduct and disseminate research studies designed to examine how behavioral and neural function may be linked in the context of autism and, in turn, how this information can be applied to help guide the development and evaluation of novel types of services. One focus of their work is trying to understand and develop ways to measure how a person’s unique pattern of interests impacts how they process information and how this can shape they ways they prefer to interact with the world around them. A second focus is on subgroups that tend to be under-represented in research (e.g. those who are minimally verbal, those with challenging behavior, and / or comorbid psychiatric or medical conditions). A third focus is their collaboration with tech companies that develop technologies to facilitate auditory processing.
- Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
- The Cascio lab is the Laboratory for Affective Sensory Research (LASR) and focuses on sensation, perception, and emotion in individuals on the autism spectrum and the neural basis of differences in these phenomena. Our lab focuses heavily on the somatic senses–touch, proprioception, and interoception.
- Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
- The SENSE lab is interested in social and emotional functioning, pubertal development and stress, which is being being studied in a comprehensive longitudinal study of youth with and without ASD using neuropsychological, physiological, hormonal and behavioral measures. Additionally, the team conducts randomized clinical trials of novel interventions to enhance social competence to include a multisite trial utilizing SENSE Theatre, a peer-mediated, theatre-based program developed by Dr. Corbett.
- Assistant Professor in Computer Science
- Dr. Tyler Derr directs the Network and Data Science (NDS) Lab, which focuses on diverse research topics in data mining and machine learning, such as fairness in machine learning and data science for social good applications.
- Director, HR Strategic Initiatives
- As someone who works in the HR field, I am very aware of the employment challenges Vanderbilt University and all employers face today. I believe there are opportunities to partner with organizations such as the Frist Center to provide better support and more opportunities for a population that has been historically overlooked. In addition to my professional interest, I have family members in the neurodiverse community and have seen firsthand the challenges faced by the neurodiverse population as well as the success that can be realized by providing appropriate support.
- Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences
- Suzana Herculano-Houzel is interested in brain diversity from the individual to the species level.
- Assistant Professor, Computer Science
- Dr. Huang’s work focuses on software engineering and human factors, including user cognition, sustainability for open source software, AI for software engineering, and computer science education. Her work solves problems to understand and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of software engineering activities, including investigating the cognitive processes in programming (e.g, with eye tracking, fMRI, fNIRS, etc.), supporting minority groups and improving participation in computer science, and developing automated tools for software-related tasks.
- Community Engagement Specialist, Frist Center for Autism and Innovation; Director, Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD); and Senior Associate in Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences & Special Education
- In addition to his role at Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, Pablo is Director of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders. His work focuses on addressing systematic needs for comprehensive information, high-quality support, and innovative interventions and research for individuals with disabilities, their caregivers and families, educators, medical and community providers, and all other aspects of systematic support. Of interest is developing mechanisms for better providing workplace readiness and retention of people with disabilities.
Anna P. Kaiser, PhD
- Susan W. Gray Professor of Education and Human Development, Department of Special Education and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
- Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Computer Engineering
- The AIVAS Lab, under the direction of Dr. Maithilee Kunda, does research at the intersection of artificial intelligence and cognitive science, in the area of computational cognitive systems. Most of their research involves studying how visual mental imagery contributes to learning and intelligent behavior, both in humans and in AI systems, with a focus on applications for individuals on the autism spectrum. Many of the lab’s research directions are heavily inspired by Dr. Temple Grandin and other individuals on the spectrum who show strengths in visuospatial cognitive abilities.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
- My research focuses on investigating psychological assessment measures and diagnostic processes in neurodivergent people. I have a particular interest in assessment practices related to differential or co-occurring neurodevelopmental and/or psychiatric conditions for individuals who seek a psychological evaluation for a neurodevelopmental condition during late-childhood through adulthood.
- Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development and Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics
- Dr. Malow is interested in the interface of health and employment and other aspects of quality of life in individuals on the autism spectrum. Her research focuses on developing tools to help teens and adults on the autism spectrum set self-determined goals, and exploring novel ways to coach these individuals so that they can meet their full potential.
- Associate Dean, MBA Operations, Owen School of Management
- Sue is most passionate about educating and connecting employers with the working, autistic population. She believes that having a meaningful job that utilizes current job skills while also providing the opportunity for enhanced job skills is extremely self-empowering to any person of ability or disability. Sue would like to leverage her professional network to open the doors to a new workforce that is ready, willing, and certainly able to be a part of the community.
- Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Co-Director, Scientific Computing
- visual cognition, modeling individual differences, model-based cognitive neuroscience, cognitive and deep learning models of visual cognition.
- Deputy Director of Technology, Frist Center for Autism and Innovation and Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering
- Dr. Sarkar works on the design of intelligent systems for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
- Associate Chair, Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
- Senior Lecturer, Gender and Sexuality Studies and the English Department, College of Arts and Sciences
- Stacy’s current research brings together the fields of feminist theory, disability studies, and political science to promote the full inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One aim of her research is to advance a new multidisciplinary field of Challenging Behavior Studies to tackle issues of exclusion, stigma, and abuse facing people who exhibit behaviors labeled as challenging. Stacey is also working on developing a new theory of freedom within the emerging field of encounter, which examines how people with intellectual disabilities experience inclusion and exclusion in contemporary public life. In the discipline of political science. Stacey’s research advocates for more attention to the role of disability in shaping the history and contemporary landscape of structural racism. She also works on the feminist ethic of care, examining how the devaluation of care work affects direct support professionals and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Chief Data Scientist, Data Science Institute/Prof of the Practice, Computer Science
- Jesse is interested in the application of AI models (think ChatGPT and other transformer-based models) in building useful tools for the neurodiverse community. Addition, as Chief Data Scientist at the Data Science Institute, he has collaborated on research in autism with partners across the University and Medical Center.
Keivan G. Stassun
- Director, Frist Center for Autism & Innovation and Stevenson Professor of Physics & Astronomy
- Professor Stassun is an astrophysicist and father of a son on the autism spectrum. His research includes data science approaches such as data visualization methods, as well as involvement of neurodiverse students and postdocs in small satellites research and in the Neurodiversity Inspired Science & Engineering (NISE) graduate certificate program.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Dr. Schwartzman has expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of depression and anxiety disorders in neurodiverse youth and adults. Dr. Schwartzman employs cognitive-behavioral approaches and adapts standard techniques to the unique needs of neurodiverse youth and adults. Her research aims to characterize and treat depression and suicidality in neurodiverse individuals and investigate ways to foster individual and caregiver resilience. Her emerging program of research includes investigations into risk and resilience factors in the pathway to depression for neurodiverse individuals, including salient treatment targets.
- Executive Director, Vanderbilt Child and Family Center
- Vanderbilt Child & Family Center (VCFC) provides support and resources to the community of Vanderbilt families across the spectrum of life. As reflected in our provision of new parent support, early childhood education, family life resources, and elder care support, VCFC values the university’s commitment to the education of the whole person and cultivation of lifelong learning.
- Associate Professor of Pediatrics
- The goal of Dr. Taylor’s research program is to understand how to promote positive outcomes in adulthood for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families. Much of her current work focuses on the transition to adulthood for youth on the autism spectrum. Current projects include: (a) developing and testing a parent advocacy training to improve service access and post-school outcomes as youth on the autism spectrum transition from school-based to adult services: (b) understanding the implications of employment and other day-to-day experiences for mental health and quality of life; (c) examining unique vulnerabilities of women on the autism spectrum, as well as vulnerabilities common across sex/gender; and (d) investigating the role of language development during the transition to adulthood for youth with fragile X syndrome.
- Centennial Professor, Department of Psychology
- Professor Tong is interested in understanding the visual, spatial and cognitive abilities of people, and the ways in which they can vary from person to person. He also works on computational models and deep learning models of human visual processing. He is very interested in supporting researchers who wish to understand the bases of exceptional visual-spatial abilities and why certain individuals along the spectrum excel at visual-spatial tasks.
- Cal Turner Professor of Moral Leadership, Organization Studies area, Owen Graduate School of Management
- Professor Triana’s research interests include diversity and inclusion in organizations, discrimination in the workplace, and human resource management. She looks forward to learning more about autism at work and how to fully integrate neurodiversity in the workplace. This is a form of diversity that is not well understood by many people or well integrated into many organizations. Professor Triana feels the field of human resource management could benefit from a clearer understanding of neurodiversity in the workplace and how to learn from it to make organizations more productive and inclusive.
- Krista Vaught, Ed.D., J.D., Assistant Director, Employee Learning & Engagement, Human Resources
- Dr. Krista Vaught serves as assistant director of employee learning and engagement within human resources, where she brings her passion for learning, connecting, and building community, to designing learning and coaching experiences for employees. Her research focuses on (1) employee learning and development and (2) the intersection of doctoral student connectedness and use of technology. Dr. Vaught is particularly interested in exploring how organizations and leaders can create a more inclusive work environment.
- Deputy Director for Organizational Research and Interventions, Frist Center for Autism and Innovation and Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. Professor of Management
- The goal of Dr. Vogus’ research program is to understand how to create and sustain inclusive organizational cultures that allow neurodiverse talent to thrive. His current projects include: (a) developing and testing a virtual reality interview system that creates better interview performance by autistic individuals and reshaped employment interviews to be more inclusive of candidates on the autism spectrum; (b) understanding the lived experience of autistic employees in the workplace; (c) examining how organizational and relational factors in the workplace enhance or undermine performance by individuals on the autism spectrum at work.
- Research Assistant II, Mechanical Engineering
- Joshua Wade is both a research associate at the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University and the co-founder and CEO of a Nashville-based technology startup called Adaptive Technology Consulting. In both of these roles, his work is focused on the development of technologies that aim to provide supports for neurodiverse people and their families and to facilitate the meaningful inclusion of neurodiverse people in the broader society. As such, Wade’s work spans a wide range of technological development, including tools for both young children (e.g., early screening for ASD in toddlers) and adults (e.g., driving a vehicle and transition to employment).
- Dean of the Graduate School
- Dr. Wallace’s lab is interested in better understanding differences in sensory processing and perception in individuals with autism, and how these sensory differences relate to domains such as social communication. Their work is structured to examine brain and behavior relationships. To address these broad questions, they employ a host of contemporary neuroscience approaches including behavioral and cognitive testing, computational modeling, neuroimaging and neurophysiology.
- Deputy Director, Frist Center for Autism and Innovation and Executive Director, TRIAD
- Dr. Warren is the executive director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s (VKC) Treatment and Research Institute on Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). His current research focuses on early detection and intervention for ASD as well as in the development of technological applications for potential intervention.
- Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center TRIAD
- Amy Weitlauf’s research focuses on the etiology and early identification of autism spectrum disorder and the application of technology to support individuals with ASD, their families, and their care providers.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Vanderbilt Brain Institute
- Dr. Woynaroski directs the Biobehavioral Approaches in Neurodevelopmental Disorders (BAND) Laboratory in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences in VUMC. Her research program focuses on the identification of brain and behavioral factors that (a) explain heterogeneity in symptomatology, (b) predict growth and response to treatment, and (c) evaluate how/why treatment works in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) across the lifespan. One line of this research has focused on the development and validation of novel biobehavioral approaches (e.g., eye tracking, automated vocal analysis, and a broad range of other neurophysiological approaches) with an eye towards leveraging such technologies to optimize the long-term social, academic, and vocational outcomes of autistic individuals.
Robert J. Barnett
- Associate professor of the Practice, ME, Mechanical Engineering Dept.
- Manager of Digital Media Strategies, Peabody College
- Co-Director, Data Science Institute
- The Data Science Institute at Vanderbilt aims to accelerate data-driven research, promote collaboration, and train future leaders. The DSI and Frist center can collaborate on several areas, such as internships or collaboration on data-related projects.
- Clinical Psychologist, Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Dr. Broderick is a clinical psychologist who has devoted her career to the early identification or neurodevelopment differences in young children. She participates in early diagnostic screening and testing via multiple platforms, such as rapid assessment team models as well as telehealth venues, to provide efficient, accurate differential diagnoses. Dr. Broderick is particularly interested in developmental monitoring in young children at high-risk for neurodevelopmental differences, including children served in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for varying medical needs.
Lana j Boursoulian
- Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Clinical Neurology
- My research interest is to study autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and its associated medical/psychiatric conditions. My goal is to improve the medical and psychiatric care of individuals with ASD. I published a paper about the prevalence of recurrent seizures in patients with ASD showing that it is much higher then general population. I am working on analyzing Autism Treatment Network ATN data to study the effectiveness of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in treatment of anxiety in pediatric patients with ASD. My other research interests are pertaining to improving healthcare transition in youth with ASD.
- Senior Research Analyst, Department of Human and Organizational Development
- My research interests relate to disability identity and other psychosocial aspects of disability. I seek to learn more about the experiences of the neurodiverse and disability communities using quantitative and qualitative methods. I am currently working on a grant with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and evaluate their services to the paralysis community and assist with research related to disability. I am also pursuing my MSSW at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and hope to use my research and social work stills to improve public understanding and the quality of life of disabled and neurodivergent people.
- Research Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Dr. Camp’s research and consulting work involves utilizing tools such as GIS to address today’s challenging issues related to infrastructure and transform the results into information and tools to help inform the public and decision makers. GIS involves spatial thinking and is a growing field that cross-cuts across disciplines. Dr. Camp is passionate about outreach to the community and in K12 education.
- Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
- Cultural traits–behaviors that are learned from others–can change more rapidly than genes and can be inherited not only from parents but also from teachers and peers. Research in my lab builds on knowledge about learned behaviors from linguistics, animal behavior, and anthropology by integrating techniques and data from mathematical modeling and population genetics to ask: how do behaviors change over time, and how does culture alter the course of evolution? Human innovation is often treated as a random mutation-like process in cultural evolution, but we constructed the first models to show that treating human innovation as a multifaceted process can better explain patterns of cultural change in human populations. By considering the different ways in which humans innovate, we can better understand both our past and our future.
Laurie E. Cutting
- Associate Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor
- Dr. Cutting studies the cognitive and neurological correlates of academic development and learning.
- Senior Scientist, Biological Sciences
- I work at intersection of fundamental and applied research. My research deals with investigating intracellular mechanisms of protein and lipid homeostasis; perturbations in such mechanisms are associated with neurological disorders.
- Senior Lecturer in Organizational Leadership
- Dr. Doyle is interested in organizational strategies that improve the diversity of the workforce and the inclusivity of work groups. While researchers and employers are paying increased attention to some aspects of diversity, Dr. Doyle feels that we know too little about those who are differently abled. She believes that the Frist Center’s focus on a neurodiverse workforce has the potential to yield insight that will improve employer diversity and inclusion broadly.
- Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Paul Dressler MD MPH is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Much of his clinical work is around evaluation and treatment of adolescents who might have an autism spectrum disorder. He has a particular interest in improving the transition from adolescence to adulthood in this population.
- Professor of Physics, Vanderbilt University and Adjunct Professor, Fisk University
- Dr. Ernst works with particle/nuclear physics with a focus on neutrino oscillations and the possible existence of a fourth neutrino. His work involves computational modeling and calibrating the models of contemporary experiments.
- Postdoctoral Scholar- Research, Computer Science Dept.
- My research includes design, analysis, and implementation of data mining and machine learning systems addressing unique challenges arising in specific application domains, such as education and healthcare domains. My Ph.D. research focused on (i) data-driven decision making within a middle school reading platform and (ii) developing interpretable machine learning algorithms. Currently, at AIVAS lab, I am working on two projects on people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One is job matching for ASD people and another is an educational game to teach social skills to kids with ASD. I’ll apply machine learning and behavioral data mining to understand ASD people’s behavior.
- Research Fellow, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt School of Medicine
- Dr. Feldman is a research fellow in the laboratories of Dr. Tiffancy Woynaroski and Dr. Mark Wallace. His research focuses on (a) sensory functioning of autistic individuals, (b) the efficacy of novel interventions for autistic youth, and (c) the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder throughout the linespace. While a doctoral student at Vanderbilt, he was a trainee with the Frist Center’s NISE training grant and currently oversees a study on the diagnosis of autism in adulthood in Dr. Woynaroski’s laboratory.
Noah R. Fram
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Music Cognition Lab, Department of Otolaryngology
- I study temporal prediction and pattern detection, particularly in the context of music perception, trying to understand how and why music is so important both to autistic and nonautistic people. That research involves a combination of functional neuroimaging, behavioral psychology, and computational modeling, and draws on my background studying music cognition and the functional role music plays in everyday life. I am currently working in the Music Cognition Lab with Drs. Miriam Lense and Reyna Gordon, doing eye tracking and EEG research with autistic children and adults listening to songs.
- David K. Wilson Professor of Psychology
- Dr. Gauthier’s lab studies individual differences in domain-general visual abilities as well as the effects of experience in specific domains. Their approach includes psychophysics, functional and structural MRI.
Deborah E. Grant
- Executive Director, Human Resources
- As a human resources leader, Deborah Grant believes strongly that a diverse workforce is a stronger workforce and that an important part of diversity is neurodiversity. Organizations and teams are most effective when the talents and abilities of each employee are fully engaged and utilized. She also recognizes that diversity brings difference and organizations benefit from leaders skilled in leading teams through new experiences and being open to diverse communication and work styles. This requires intention, skills and resources and Grant is interested in exploring how to educate employees and leaders to be successful in a neurodiverse work environment.
- TRIAD Educational Consultant
- Katie Gregory is an Educational Consultant and Behavior Analyst with The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD).
- MPH, Department of Biological Sciences
- I am interested broadly in physical activity/ nutrition practices among the intellectually disabled. I am also interested in mask wearing and Covid-19 transmission rates among intellectually disabled populations.
- TRIAD Educational Consultant and Assistant in Pediatrics
- Aislynn Kiser is a Behavior Analyst and Educational Consultant with The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). In addition to her role with TRIAD, she coordinates the online learning platform development for VKC. Current work and interests include projects for distance learning and coaching, as well as programming for individuals transitioning to the workforce.
- Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology (Head and Neck Surgery) and Director, Music Cognition Lab
- The Music Cognition Lab investigates music, rhythm, and social engagement. This includes studying the rhythm and timing of multimodal social interactions, modulating emotions/arousal via music, and using music to support social engagement.
- TRIAD Educational Consultant
- Kelly Luo has been collaborating with the Frist Center in the development of online tools to support educators and professionals in their work with individuals with ASD as they prepare to enter the workforce. She looks forward to continuing this collaboration, as well as developing new initiatives that are in line with the Frist Center mission.
- Assistant Professor, Computer Science
- My research is at the intersection of Machine learning, Formal Methods, and Cyber-Physical Systems. Specifically, I develop rigorous and robust AI by integrating Formal Methods and Machine Learning, and create AI-powered safe, robust, and reliable Cyber-Physical Systems, especially in the areas of Smart Cities and Healthcare. Recently, I am working on explainable AI for healthcare, such as, quantitatively measuring the quality of exercise in remote physical therapy.
- PhD Student, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences
- Jennifer is a clinical fellow in speech-language pathology and a PhD student mentored by Dr. Tiffany Woynaroski. She is interested in supporting caregivers of autistic children, the process of autism diagnosis for all ages, and supporting the preferences and perspectives of autistic and neurodiverse voices.
- Associate Director of Volunteer Outreach, Owen Graduate School of Management, Office of Annual Giving
- Chandler MacDonald works with Nashville community groups that provide resources and opportunities for children and adults with developmental disabilities. MacDonald would like to use her professional background and social interest in bridging the disabilities employment divide to engage in the areas of research, policy, and community coordination. She aligns with the Center’s goal of being a community that makes things happen and gets things done so that this area of research and development can grow in the Nashville area and expand into other communities.
T A McDonald
- Faculty Research Instructor in the Department of Neurology, VUMC
- T A M. McDonald’s work is directly related to improving the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum by examining factors, and designing interventions and programs, that optimize the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of adults on the autism spectrum. Her work on identity, self-determination, and health factors, such as sleep, are all focused on improving the quality of life of autistic adults. She believes in inclusive research and my past and current projects explicitly include self-advocates in the research process from inception to completion. And finally, she has a strong interest in codifying neurodiversity-sensitive training for mentors, counselors, coaches, teachers/professors, and managers working with autistic adults.
Elise D McMillan
- Co-Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and Senior Associate, VUMC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
- Elise McMillan is Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, one of Tennessee’s two federally designated Centers of Excellence in Disabilities. She holds leadership positions with TennesseeWorks, Next Steps at Vanderbilt, the Tennessee Inclusive Higher Education Alliance and Tennessee Disability Pathfinder.
- Research Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, School of Engineering
- Dr. Neema’s current research interests include: “Heterogeneous Simulation Integration”; “Hardware-in-the-loop Simulation”; “Cyber-Physical Systems”; and “Machine Learning”. His current projects include: “CPS Simulation Integration Framework” sponsored by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that resulted in an ‘open-source’ platform called Universal CPS Environment for Federation (UCEF) and has been transitioned to NIST; “Science of Security CPS Lablet” project sponsored by the US National Security Agency Research Directorate where the focus is on developing foundational cybersecurity science that is needed to mature the cybersecurity discipline and to underpin advances in cyberdefense; and “Performance Impact of Securing Industrial Control Systems” sponsored by NIST that focuses on creating HIL testbeds for analyzing cybersecurity implications in the railway transportation domain.
- Pharmacology, School of Medicine
- My work broadly integrates art, science communication, and user experience design, and my scholarship examines through pedagogical and design constructs how science is communicated visually. This is mainly accomplished through ArtLab, a program I founded in 2017, and has become an epicenter for design, visual science communication, and science outreach using innovative and engaging approaches to showcase top biomedical researchers’ latest findings through art. I am very interested in exploring and studying these concepts with neurodiverse creators and audiences.
- Professor of Surgery, School of Medicine
- As a research scientist and clinician in the medical center, Dr. Pearson is witness to how innovation benefits healthcare and hopes to bring his insight to the Frist Center in ways that could help those with autism.
- Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Division of Genetic Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
- Dillon Pruett is a postdoctoral research fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His primary research area is stuttering comorbidities and genetic associations. Pruett is also interested in how communication disorders are characterized by medical staff within electronic health records during clinical care.
- Associate Director, Peabody Career Services, Peabody College of Education and Human Development
- As a career development professional with 8 years of experience, Kathleen seeks to partner with students in their career development journey. This process includes helping student identify their career path, build their pitch, and connect with employers. Specifically pertaining to the Frist Center, Kathleen is interested in best practices for employers in attracting, recruiting, and retaining neurodiverse talent.
- Doctoral Candidate, Clinical Psychology; Founder & CEO, Very Real Help
- Noah Robinson’s research involves the use of a social virtual reality (VR) platform to deliver a transdiagnostic peer-based intervention. After receiving NSF funding (I-CORPS) to commercialize his intervention, Noah founded Very Real Help. Over the past three years he has led a team of engineers to build Help Club, a social VR clinical research platform that delivers synchronous peer support via anonymous avatars. Noah’s research is currently supported by an NIH STTR grant to provide socials support for individuals with substance use disorders. Noah has built Help Club as a flexible research platform and is excited to explore how anonymous social VR environments can be used to provide social support and emotion regulation skills for neurodiverse individuals.
- Jack and Pamela Egan Professor of Chemistry; Professor of Physics, Pharmacology, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; Former Director, Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering
- We are interested in the molecular diffusion dynamics of a genetic variation of the serotonin transporter protein that is linked to autism. We can follow these dynamics with our custom ligand conjugated quantum dots; nanometer sized semiconductors. We are also interested in developing technologies to assist individuals with seasonal mood disorders.
- Senior Research Associate, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, Vanderbilt University
- Ben Schwartzman is the principal investigator for the Whole Community Transition Project (https://vkc.vumc.org/vkc/ucedd/cbtp/) which is a community-based project to develop and implement an innovative transition model to improve outcomes for transition-aged youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition to this project, he also serves as an interventionist on the Transition Pathways Project (https://transition.vcurrtc.org/partners/vu.cfm) which is investigating how paid work in the final year of high school impacts the post-school outcomes of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
- My work lies in the social network research tradition dating back to the very beginning of sociology as a discipline. My overarching research question is “What are the causes and consequences of social networks across society and time?” I investigate three major research themes: how social networks produce inequalities in health and well-being, how social networks generate social stratification, and how social forces stratify social networks.
- PhD student, Vanderbilt Neuroscience, Soros Fellow
- Neurodiversity self-advocate
- About Hari
Caoimhe Harrington Stack
- Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Computer Science, Vanderbilt School of Engineering
- Dr. Harrington Stack is a postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Kunda’s AIVAS lab. Her current research is focused on (1) designing a video game for autistic middle schoolers which helps to teach social skills, and (2) investigating visual-spatial skills in autistic and non-autistic populations with the goal of improving employment prospects by focusing on strengths of autistic job-seekers.
- Ed.D., Lecturer and Director of the Human & Organizational Development Capstone Program at Vanderbilt University
- Kristen’s main research interests focus on experiential learning, mentorship to students, creative career development practices (design thinking, developing meaningful stories, assessments) and the implications these tools and concepts have on undergraduate students. She is also interested in expanding her research on addressing the misconceptions employers have for hiring individuals in the neurodivergent community and the potential for mitigation.
- Program Coordinator, Project SPARK, Dept. of Special Education and Founder, IEP Guru
- Mallory Whitmore is interested in helping to improve the IEP and transition planning processes so that students with autism are both expected to and empowered to work after high school.
Zachary J. Williams
- MD/PhD Candidate, Hearing and Speech Sciences/Vanderbilt Brain Institute, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
- Zach is an MD/PhD candidate in Neuroscience and Hearing & Speech Sciences, co-mentored by Tiffany Woynarosky and Carissa Cascio. He is also openly autistic and serves as the chair of the newly-formed International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Autistic Researcher Committee. Zack’s research is primary concerned with measuring and characterizing decreased sound tolerance (hyperacusis and misophonia) in autistic as well as non-autistic adults. He is also generally interest in the psychiatric care of autistic adults across the lifespan and developing better outcome measure to use in autism research and clinical practice.
- Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, VUMC
- Dr. Williamson is the director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry fellowship program and serves as the Faculty Head of Hank Ingram House.
Xin (Maizie) Zhou
- Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University
- My lab intends to deploy high-throughput DNA sequencing and computational methods to uncover the genetic causes of Autism, and investigate the relationship between gene and phenotype. One ongoing project is using machine learning techniques to take advantage of large genomic data and text mining of published research to investigate clinically relevant variants and phenotypes in autism.
Mary Kate Brown
- Center for Disability Integration
- Companies with neurodiversity hiring initiatives report benefits such as higher employee engagement and productivity, increased identification of talent for hard-to-fill skills categories, and improved community reputation. As a long-time student of disability life and policy and a dedicated diversity and equity professional, Brown supports organizational efforts to implement neurodiverse hiring initiatives using the Autism @ Work Playbook and the Tools of Cultural Proficiency. Brown studied disability identity under Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt and has personal connections within the disability community that fuel her dedication to excellence. She is excited to use her expertise to break down barriers between neurodiverse talent and gainful employment.
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Middlesex University
- I am autistic and I aspire to develop an autism in the workplace programme in my organisation, following on from my MBA.
- School of Teaching and Learning, University of Florida, College of Education
- Dr Newbutt’s research interests lie in working with autistic and neurodiverse populations to help co-design and co-create solutions to real-world problems. Currently these focus around employment, education and transitions, where we are locating ways to utilize immersive and innovative technologies to support these challenges. His work is also seeking to assess and measure long-term impact of technology integration/use, with a view to seeing greater uptake and scale of such technologies in places of work, education and at home.
- Engineer and self-advocate working in the Nashville area