Sarah worked on the Toddler Project as a Project Coordinator after she graduated from University of San Diego with a B.A. in Behavioral Neuroscience. Sarah coordinated many aspects of the Toddler Project, including communication with the families, coordination of night scans, and overall project management. After working with us for three years, Sarah wanted to pursue her love of outdoors and her passion for understanding the human experience, and she is currently leading wilderness therapy groups for teens with challenging behaviors. She is likely rock climbing or rappelling somewhere in the Utah wilderness right now. She is planning to return to academia to pursue a graduate degree in counseling.
Mikaela Kinnear, PhD
After completing her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a postdoctoral training at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, Dr. Kinnear joined SCANgroup in January 2016 to pursue her research interests in understanding the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying social communication challenges in neurodevelopmental disorders. In 2019 Dr. Kinnear returned to Rady Children’s and joined the Developmental Evaluation Clinic (DEC) team as a Clinical Psychologist, where she specializes in the assessment of toddlers, children and adolescents with developmental, behavioral and learning concerns.
Shadia Assi, MPH
Shadia was SCANgroup’s Community Outreach Coordinator. A graduate of the SDSU’s Master of Public Health program, with an emphasis in Health Promotion and Behavioral Science, Shadia focused on increasing local and regional awareness of our research by building collaborative relationships with educational and medical organizations, and community at large. Shadia promoted the idea that community members and organizations are active participants, contributors and beneficiaries of research projects. She was instrumental in communicating with many our community partners and building new partnerships and collaborations.
Elly was an undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in psychology and minoring in statistics. She joined the lab in January 2016 and has assisted with various projects examining sensory abnormalities in ASD. She was awarded an Autism Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2017 and was an IMSD scholar. Elly completed an Honors Thesis project focusing on sensory processing abnormalities in toddlers with ASD and was named the 2018 Outstanding Graduating Psychology Senior! She is now working on her doctorate in Developmental Psychology at USC.
Nicole (Nikki) Velasco
Nikki worked on the Toddler Project as a Rady Children’s Hospital’s liaison after she graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Psychology. Nikki was instrumental in communicating with the families of young children diagnosed with ASD and recruiting them into our study. Nikki has moved to the LA area to be closer to her family, and currently works for Anthem as an Outreach Specialist.
Cynthia Ibarra, MA
Cynthia was a Master’s student in Psychology at SDSU. As an undergrad at UC Riverside, she investigated the role of interactive media and individual differences in children’s cognitive development. While at SCANgroup, Cynthia’s work focused on examining the neural mechanisms underlying emotional dysregulation in children with ASD. Although she has completed her Masters thesis and graduated with flying colors, Cynthia still graciously assists with our night scans and can be seen with our young participants at the MRI Center.
Chris Fong, MA
After receiving his B.S. in Psychology from UCSD, Chris was a key member of the SCANgroup while completing a Masters Thesis in psychology at SDSU. In his thesis project, Chris examined functional brain network development in children with ASD. He stayed in the lab to complete several manuscripts and to assist with many aspects of the Toddler Project, including night scans. He is now pursuing a doctorate in Clinical Psychology in the SDSU / UCSD Joint Doctoral Program.
Lindsey joined SCANgroup as an undergraduate student in Psychology at the University of San Diego (USD). Lindsey was involved in many aspects of the Toddler Project and became the Project Coordinator upon graduating from USD. Lindsey left to be closer to her family in Northern California during the Covid-19 pandemic, but she is still with us in spirit (and continues working with us on some of the research projects remotely).
Irene was an undergraduate student at SDSU majoring in psychology. She worked on the Toddler MRI Project in 2017-2018, assisting with data entry, developmental assessments, and translating study materials from English to Spanish. She is now working on her Masters degree in Counseling at Point Loma Nazarene University.
Katherine worked with SCANgroup for about 3 years, after graduating from Syracuse University with a B.S in Psychology. Passionate about autism research, Katherine played a leading role in our Improv Project, as both an instructor and facilitator of the data collection from parents and teens participating in the Unscripted Learning SDSU-Connections Project. Katherine presented results from this pilot program at the 2019 INSAR meeting. Currently, she is pursuing a Masters degree in Applied Child & Adolescent Psychology at University of Washington in Seattle, and receives training at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center.
After graduating from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in Psychology, Tamae joined SCANgroup in June 2018 to assist with the Toddler Project. She has always been interested in communication and communicative challenges, including those in autism, wishing to pursue a professional career in Speech and Language Pathology. She is currently a Master’s student in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences program at SDSU.
Natalia completed an Honors Thesis project with us when she was an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology at SDSU. Using the Toddler MRI Project data, Natalia identified presence of affective symptoms, including elevated emotional reactivity and internalizing symptoms, in toddlers with ASD. These symptoms were associated with core autism symptoms and greater delays in expressive language. At present, Natalia is working on her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at California Lutheran University.
Michael assisted with the Toddler Project while working on his undergraduate degree at the University of San Diego (USD). He was particularly involved in our sleep MRI studies and in characterizing sleep disturbances in children with ASD. Michael graduated from USD in Spring 2020 and plans on pursuing a graduate degree in psychology.