Where Are They Now?

Autism advocacy organizations have funded millions of dollars in pre- and post-doctoral fellowship programs that train emerging talents in autism science. Yet, there is little data on the short and long-term impact of these investments.

Recently, we presented data from the first multi-year follow-up analysis of pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowship funding at INSAR. The goal was to identify scientific and career impact of ASF’s grant program. The purpose was to better understand the contributions of the funding in terms of outputs produced by the recipients and their continued engagement in autism research. Autism Science Foundation tracked pre- and post-doctoral fellows and unfunded applicants’ outputs for a 4-year period, and measured the impact through qualitative and quantitative metrics, and bibliometric analyses.


The fellows funded by private autism funding organizations are twice as likely to stay in autism research compared to those who were not funded.

Funded fellows overall contribute substantially to scientific discoveries through high-quality publications and engagement.

Funding in autism research did not predict scientific success. In other words, non-funded researchers went on to publish and to be heavily cited.

Longer term follow-up is needed to understand the impact of grant funding in autism science research.

ASF funded grantees are twice as likely to stay in autism research compared to those not funded

However, ASF funded grantees publish as much as those not funded, suggesting that those not funded are active in other scientific areas

And those who were not funded are as cited as often as those who were, indicating that applicant status predicts what the funded fellows are studying, not their impact in science

ASF Fellowship Hall of Fame

Dr. Karen Marie Barnes, Ph.D.
Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Autism Center
Dr. Barnes currently provides psychological services at The Seattle Clinic. She specializes in psychological and neuropsychological assessments including: cognitive (IQ), developmental, learning and memory, academic, and executive functioning (such as organization, planning, inhibition, and flexibility). She enjoys collaborating with families to better understand their child’s strengths and challenges and provide appropriate recommendations for home and school, and her treatment with children, teens, and families focuses on developmental, behavioral, and emotional challenges, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, social deficits/differences, and disruptive behavior.

Dr. Jessica Bradshaw, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychology & Director of the Early Social Development & Intervention Lab, University of South Carolina
Dr. Bradshaw received her PhD in Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara after which time she completed her postdoctoral work at the Marcus Autism Center, Emory University School of Medicine. She has been involved in autism research since her undergraduate work in Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego and her post-baccalaureate work at the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Bradshaw received an ASF predoctoral fellowship in her first year of graduate school that focused on very early intervention for infants at risk for ASD. This project became the foundation for a long line of inquiry related to discovering early biomarkers of ASD in infancy and translating those biomarkers to early intervention strategies. These issues remain central to her current program of research that aims to identify very early neurodevelopmental trajectories associated with the emergence of ASD and develop behavioral interventions for infants in the first year of life.

Sarah F. Laughlin, Ph.D.
Neuropsychologist & Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR), University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine
Dr. Laughlin provides neuropsychology inpatient and outpatient services within UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she has specialized clinical expertise and interest in epilepsy; autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, intellectual disability, and related genetic syndromes; the neuropsychological effects of childhood trauma and/or maltreatment. Dr. Laughlin regularly contributes to the education of SOM trainees by providing lectures and opportunities of observation of her clinical work. Dr. Laughlin is a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Related Disorders (LEND) faculty member and the lead LEND faculty member in the psychology discipline. In her LEND role she is the principal investigator (PI) of the University of Pittsburgh’s LEND Outcomes Study and contributes to cross-disciplinary training/education in the LEND clinic, psychology doctoral student recruitment and supervision, and the development of LEND’s autism curriculum.

Dr. Jill Locke, Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences
Jill Locke, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Washington in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, core faculty at the UW School Mental Health, Assessment, Research, and Training (SMART) Center and research affiliate at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center. To date, her research has focused on the: 1) presentation of social impairment for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in inclusive school settings; 2) identification of best practices for youth with ASD; and 3) understanding of successful implementation and sustainment of evidence-based practices (EBPs) for youth with ASD in public school settings. She is currently the principal investigator on a NIMH K01 Career Development Award that uses quantitative and qualitative methods to examine individual- and organizational-level factors as predictors of EBP implementation in self-contained settings for children with ASD.

Matthew Maenner
Epidemiologist and Surveillance Team Lead, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Matthew currently leads the Surveillance Team in the Developmental Disabilities Branch at CDC. His team runs the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which currently funds sites in ten states (plus one at CDC). Beginning next year, his team plans to include a new component to ADDM to follow-up on adolescents that had ASD (or symptoms of ASD) when they were younger. His team is focused on generating population-level data about prevalence, early identification, and health conditions for persons with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Dr. Mike Sidorov, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Sidorov earned his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at MIT in 2014. He is broadly interested in understanding how experience modifies synapses, cells, and circuits, and how these processes are disrupted in mouse models of human disease. As a graduate student, he studied how metabotropic glutamate receptor signaling regulates synaptic plasticity in mouse visual cortex, and tested the hypothesis that pharmacological inhibition of metabotropic glutamate receptors in adulthood may improve synaptic function and behavior in a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome. He currently focuses on how experience modifies synapses and circuits in mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders, using in vivo and in vitro methods.