Lab Directors

Deborah Fein, Ph.D., ABPP-Cn

Deborah Fein is a clinical neuropsychologist who has been doing autism research since the late 1970’s. She is currently Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Psychological Sciences and Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut. She has investigated numerous areas in autism, and her recent research focuses on screening, outcome, and parent training. She is a co-author or editor of 3 recent books: The Neuropsychology of Autism (Oxford Press, 2011), Autism in Your Classroom (Woodbine Press, 2007),  Activity Kit for Babies and Toddlers at Risk (Guilford Press, 2016) and co-author of the widely used screening tool, Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT). She has authored over 150 articles on autism, and has served as Secretary of the International Society for Autism Research, on the Board of the American Association of Clinical Neuropsychology, and as Intellectual and Behavior Assessment topic chair for the International Meeting for Autism Research.  

You can reach Dr. Fein at deborah.fein@uconn.edu.

Marianne Barton, Ph.D.

Dr. Barton is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, where she is also the Director of Clinical Training for the graduate program in Clinical Psychology, and Director of the Psychological Services Clinic. Her research interests are in the early detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in very young children and in the long term developmental trajectories of children at risk. She is also interested in the development of effective early intervention for young children and their families and has worked closely with the Birth to Three Program in Connecticut. Dr. Barton has clinical interests in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, in the treatment of parent-child dyads and in training clinicians and supervisors. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, reading and traveling.

You can reach Dr. Barton at marianne.barton@uconn.edu.

Graduate Students

Yael Dai, M.S.

Yael is a sixth-year doctoral student in Clinical Psychology. She is interested in interventions for ASD and in novel approaches to enhance intervention dissemination. Yael participated in a research study that evaluated the acceptability and efficacy of a digital parent-training program in Albania. She is pursuing similar research on web-based parent-training programs in the U.S. and hopes to develop a deeper understanding of how individual characteristics may influence the relative success of remote parent-training programs. Yael’s research interests also include early detection, language development, and the study of comorbidities in individuals with ASD. Yael’s master’s thesis examined language abilities in dual language learners with ASD and other developmental disorders. Prior to joining the Early Detection Lab, Yael earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brandeis University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Yael then worked at the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was involved in research investigating genetic and neurological bases of anxiety and mood disorders. She also participated in the examination of the use of electronic health records to predict suicide. In her free time, Yael enjoys spending time with friends, traveling, and watching This Is Us

You can reach Yael at yael.dai@uconn.edu.

Katelynn Porto, M.S.

Katelynn is a fifth-year doctoral student in Clinical Psychology. Her research interests include early detection of ASD, early neurodevelopmental processes in infants with ASD, visual social attention, and early profiles of repetitive and sensory driven behaviors in very young children with ASD. Katelynn's current projects consider parental perceptions and concerns about repetitive and restricted behaviors prior to diagnosis of ASD and its influence on early detection. Before joining the Early Detection Lab, Katelynn received her B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Sociology from the University of Georgia in 2016. At UGA, Katelynn contributed to projects in both infant and ASD research. For her undergraduate honors thesis, Katelynn investigated developmental trends in infant temporal visual processing speed in the first six months of life. She also previously worked in the Severe Behaviors Clinic at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, GA. In her time outside the lab, Katelynn enjoys live music, exploring New England with friends, and keeping up with college football.

You can reach Katelynn at katelynn.porto@uconn.edu.

Kirsty Coulter, Ed.M., M.S.

Kirsty is a fourth-year student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program. She has a background in early intervention for autism, and her research interests include individual differences in ASD presentation and progression, early intervention, and access to services. Kirsty completed her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at McGill University in 2014. At McGill, she pursued a variety of research experiences, ranging from animal work to neuroimaging of students. After graduation, Kirsty worked as an Applied Behavior Analysis interventionist with children age 3-5 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for two years in a publicly-funded clinic in Montreal. In 2017, she completed a Master’s in Mind, Brain, and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While in Boston, she worked for Dr. Charles Nelson, assisting on a project examining an early intervention in children at high genetic risk of developing ASD. In her free time, Kirsty enjoys camping and finding new trails to run.

You can reach Kirsty at kirsty.coulter@uconn.edu.

Mary Skapek, B.S.

Mary is a third-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program. She earned a BS in Biology and minors in Neuroscience and Dance from Duke University in 2016. After graduation, Mary worked as a clinical research coordinator at Children’s National Health System in the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders under Dr. Lauren Kenworthy. There, she served as the primary coordinator for an NIMH and Organization of Autism Research-funded executive function clinical trial for high schoolers with ASD, analyzing both behavioral and neural responses to treatment. She also assisted with an fMRI study of executive function across pediatric psychiatric disorders stemming from the NIMH Research Domain Criteria initiative. As a graduate student, she would like to understand the connection between cognition, behavior, and neural substrates to identify effective treatments that promote favorable outcome in autism. Outside the lab, Mary enjoys dancing, rock climbing, and exploring Connecticut with friends and family.

You can reach Mary at mary.skapek@uconn.edu

Rebecca Thomas, M.A., M.S.

Becca is a third-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program. She has a BA in Psychology from Bowdoin College, and an MA in Intellectual Disability/Autism from Teachers College Columbia University. After receiving her MA, she spent three years as a special education teacher and Applied Behavior Analysis instructor at a school for children with autism spectrum disorders. In her most recent research assistant position at the Center for Autism Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, she worked on quantifying response to name in children with ASD using EEG and a novel smartphone application. As a graduate student, she is interested in researching how we measure and identify the early, specific signs of ASD, and how these tools might shorten the timeline to diagnosis. In her free time, Becca enjoys cold brewing coffee, reading a good novel, and finding the best scoop of ice cream in Connecticut. 

You can reach Becca at rebecca.p.thomas@uconn.edu.

MaryKate Frisch, B.A.

MaryKate is a first-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program. She earned a BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017. After graduating, MaryKate worked at the University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program providing an Early Start Denver Model-based intervention for toddlers with autism and their families and examining the outcome measures of the program.  In collaboration with Research Triangle Institute International and TEACCH, she served as the primary coordinator for a clinical trial of a pilot intervention for infants with fragile X syndrome and their parents. As a graduate student, she would like to understand how early interventions for autism and related developmental disabilities are implemented in community settings and how caregivers perceive and understand intervention services. In her free time, MaryKate enjoys recreating recipes from the Great British Bake Off and hiking.

You can reach MaryKate at mary.frisch@uconn.edu.

 

Research Assistant

Leanne Just, B.S.

LeanneLeanne is a part-time Research Assistant in the Early Detection Lab. She earned a BS in Psychology from Drexel University in 2017. As an undergraduate student, Leanne worked in two high schools in Philadelphia as a Special Education Assistant. After graduation, she worked as a Research Assistant at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute under Dr. Diana Robins. Leanne is currently pursuing a master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking, cooking, traveling, and finding the best place to watch the sunset. 

You can reach Leanne at leanne.just@uconn.edu.

Paula Moreno, B.S.

Paula is a research assistant in the Early Detection Lab. She completed her Bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in German at Duke University. While at Duke, she assisted in psychology research ranging from social cognition to the development of joint attention in children. Paula is interested in learning more about early interventions and preventing the development of mental health disorders. She is planning in attending graduate school for clinical psychology. Outside the lab, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. She also hopes to find the best seafood in New England.

You can reach Paula at maria.p.moreno@uconn.edu.

Undergraduate Students