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

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

Graduate Students

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

Kirsty is a sixth-year student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program. She is currently on internship in the Pediatric Neuropsychology track at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, FL. 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. After graduation, Kirsty worked in early intervention 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

Mary Skapek, M.S.

Mary is a fifth-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

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

Becca is a fifth-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

MaryKate Frisch, B.A.

MaryKate is a third-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


Research Assistant

Paula Moreno, B.A.

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 increasing access to mental health resources for familias latinas. She is planning to attend graduate school for clinical or counseling psychology. Outside the lab, she enjoys traveling, reading, and knitting. She also hopes to find the best seafood in New England. Her favorite dairy bar flavor is husky tracks.

You can reach Paula at

Undergraduate Students

Gabrielle Cherubino

Gabby is an undergraduate research assistant in her senior year. She is majoring in Allied Health Sciences with a minor in Psychological Sciences. Gabby is interested in child development, she plans to attend graduate school to work in a clinical setting as a pediatric physician assistant. In her free time, Gabby enjoys spending time with her family, binge-watching tv shows and participating in campus organizations. Gabby is a lifelong fan of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream from the dairy bar!

Tess Cook

Tess is an undergraduate research assistant in her senior year. She is majoring in psychological sciences and minoring in neuroscience, and is part of UConn’s Honors Program. Tess is interested in the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. She has worked as an ABA behavior technician for the past year. After graduation, Tess plans to attend graduate school to become a BCBA. In her free time, Tess enjoys cooking, playing with her dogs, yoga, and drinking coffee. Her favorite Dairy Bar flavor is, and always will be, cookie dough!

Tracy Frimpong

Tracy is an undergraduate research assistant student in her junior year. She is majoring in Biological Sciences with a minor in Anthropology of Global Health. Over the summer, Tracy worked as an ABA Behavior Technician to gain more insight into the treatment aspects of ASD. Tracy is interested in learning more about the conduction and outcome of ASD evaluations. After graduating, Tracy intends to attend medical school, in hope of becoming an OBGYN or Pediatrician. In her free time, Tracy enjoys catching up on her favorite movies and television shows, as well as spending time with friends and family. Oreo cookies, which are the best in the world, are her favorite Dairy Bar flavor!

Claire Murphy

Claire is an undergraduate student in her sophomore year.  She is planning to double major in Molecular and Cell Biology and Psychology with a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies.  Claire is particularly interested in learning about the ASD diagnosis process and how evaluations are conducted in a clinical setting. Claire is part of UConn’s Special Program in Medicine, so she hopes to attend medical school.   Outside of the lab, Claire enjoys acting, baking, and gardening, and her favorite Dairy Bar flavor is banana chocolate chip!

Avital Sutin

Avital is an undergraduate research assistant in her senior year. She is majoring in Psychological Sciences and has two minors in Human Development & Family Sciences and Urban & Community Studies. Avital is interested in childhood and adolescent mental health and is looking forward to working in a clinical setting after her senior year and plans to go to graduate school. In her free time, Avital enjoys reading, baking, participating in clubs on campus, and her favorite dairy bar flavor is banana chocolate chip!