Autism Science Foundation Announces 2015 Undergraduate Summer Research Grant Recipients

April 30, 2015

Contact: Casey Gold For Immediate Release
Email:
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org April 30, 2015

Autism Science Foundation Announces
2015 Undergraduate Summer Research Grant Recipients

(April 30, 2015 — New York, NY)– The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced the recipients of its annual undergraduate summer research grants. Five grants will be awarded to highly-accomplished undergraduate student/mentor teams conducting research in gene/environment interactions, brain function and neurobiology, as well as co-occurring conditions including depression and bullying.

“These highly promising students are paired with well-established mentors and will work on projects that will give them exceptional real-world research experience and pave the way for their own autism research careers" said ASF Chief Science Officer Dr. Alycia Halladay. “It’s critically important to develop the next generation of autism researchers and to provide early training to highly promising young scientists”

“Last summer, ASF helped to support me in my first full time research experience, enabling me to work in a lab at Yale and collaborate with some of the most brilliant autism researchers in the field”, said 2014 undergraduate summer research fellowship recipient Max Rolison. “I can say with absolute certainty now that I want to spend my career helping individuals with autism. My ASF summer fellowship helped to jumpstart my career and provided me with the necessary skills to succeed.”

In its six years of operations, the Autism Science Foundation has funded over $2.3 million in grants including pre and postdoctoral fellowships, medical school gap year research fellowships, 3-year early career awards, treatment grants, undergraduate summer research grants, research enhancement mini-grants and travel scholarships to enable stakeholders to attend the annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).

The following students and their studies were selected for summer 2015 funding:

Megan Chin
Mentor: Theo Palmer, PhD, Stanford University
Researchers are starting to study the combined effects of genetic mutations plus environmental factors during pregnancy. In this project, Megan will examine the role of maternal immune infection, a known risk factor for autism, in animals who have a mutation in a known autism risk gene called GABAR. This will help scientists understand the mechanism by which both genetic and environmental factors work together to increase risk for ASD, potentially leading to preventative strategies.

Jordan Grapel
Mentor: Fred Volkmar, PhD, Yale University
Jordan will be participating in a follow-up study of adults with autism, which includes an analysis of depression and bullying. His project will also be studying how the new category of autism related diagnosis called “social-communication disorder” overlaps with what was previously known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). This project will also illuminate the potential impact of changes to the DSM5 made last year and document psychiatric and social challenges of individuals with ASD.

Timothy Kim
Mentor: James McPartland, PhD, Yale University
Researchers are now using real-time EEG imaging to study factors affecting brain development during infancy and early childhood. Timothy will examine the resting EEG of infants with an older sibling with autism in the hopes of developing a new diagnostic biomarker for ASD.

Dylan Ritter
Mentor: Scott Dindot, PhD, Texas A&M University
Individuals with mutations on chromosome 15 show high rates of autism symptoms. Dylan will be studying brain expression of a gene called UBE3A which is located on chromosome 15 – providing information on a potential new therapeutic target.

Zachary Williams
Mentor, Ty Vernon, PhD, University of California Santa Barbara
Real-time FMRI brain imaging is helping us understand how therapy brings about real changes in the brain and has allowed researchers to begin to predict how people will respond to specific therapies. Zachary will examine how brains in children with autism are activated, or not activated, in real time, during different tasks so that future autism interventions can be specifically tailored and personalized based on an individual’s personal brain function.

Support for the Autism Science Foundation’s Undergraduate Summer Research Grant Program is provided by the Joseph LeRoy and Ann C Warner Fund. Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c) (3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org.

Contact Info:
Casey Gold
Operations Manager
Autism Science Foundation
212-391-3913
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org