ASPE Trainee Tuesday – Maya Rajan  

Posted On: June 18, 2024

Here at the Autism Spectrum Program of Excellence (ASPE), we take pride in our leading team of clinicians, scientists, and trainees. Our trainees include a multi-disciplined group of Postdoctoral Fellows, Undergraduate and Graduate Students, Clinical Research Coordinators, Data Analysts, and Research Specialists. 

At ASPE, not only do our trainees have the opportunity to apply what they are learning to meaningful scientific research, but they are also encouraged to explore professional and scientific opportunities to lead them to successful scientific careers at both Penn and beyond.  

Our trainees do not go unnoticed for their exceptional achievements, ongoing commitment to ASPE, and substantial contributions made to the research community. 

Welcome to Trainee Tuesday! This feature will act as a space to recognize and celebrate our exceptional trainees.

For our first Trainee Tuesday, meet Maya Rajan – Clinical Research Coordinator in the Brodkin & Bućan labs!

Brodkin and Bucan Labs at Maya’s Farewell Lunch

For the past four years, Maya has been a member of the Brodkin and Bućan labs here at ASPE. Some of the areas she has been involved with include recruitment for the Study, collecting phenotypic data, and sending out our genetic testing kits (aka – the saliva sample kits we mail out to participants!). Maya has also been a key team member in another study related to ASPE – the Penn Sleep Study.   

Now, Maya is off to begin the next exciting chapter of her life…medical school! Congratulations, Maya!! 

Continue reading to learn about the exciting work that Maya has been a part of over the years here at ASPE!  

1. How many years have you been with ASPE? Under what role/s?  

Research Assistant (May 2020-May 2022), Clinical Research Coordinator (September 2022-April 2024) (Almost 4 years in total)  

2. Tell us a bit about your responsibilities as a Clinical Research Coordinator for ASPE.  

As a CRC for ASPE and the Penn Sleep Study, I help recruit and screen participants, collect their phenotypic data, and keep track of their progress throughout our study. I also send genetic testing kits to participants in ASPE to collect saliva samples for whole genome sequencing. As part of the Penn Sleep Study, I calibrate and send GENEActiv watches to participants that collect their sleep and activity data. Some other tasks include REDCap database management, working with undergraduate students on their projects, and preliminary phenotypic data analysis.  

3. What made you join the ASPE team?  

Due to personal connections in my family and working with organizations supporting neurodivergent individuals, I had always been interested in learning about autism since high school. After declaring my Neuroscience major at Penn, I wanted to participate in research looking into both the behavioral and biological components of autism, and ASPE did just that! What really drew me in was the cross-collaboration between many labs: model organisms, human genetics, behavioral phenotyping, etc. because of the exposure to many dimensions of autism-related research.   

4. Congratulations on your medical school acceptance! Can you share a bit about your educational background, and future academic and professional plans? 

I graduated from Penn in 2022 with a BA in Neuroscience and a minor in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. This July, I am planning on attending University of Michigan Medical School to earn my MD. I am not sure what area of medicine I want to specialize in, but I am excited to start the journey and discover my interests!  

5. What’s been the most interesting thing you have gotten the chance to work on at ASPE? 

Looking into the interactions between sleep, physical activity, sensory sensitivities, and autism-related traits through the Penn Sleep Study has been incredibly interesting. Specifically, analyzing differences between hyper and hypo sensitivities within certain sensory domains.   

6. What was the most valuable thing you learned during your time at ASPE? 

Over my time with ASPE, I’ve been educated on ethical research practices, especially relating to autism genetics research. One of the aspects that stood out to me was the importance of involving community members and self-advocates to ensure that research goals align with the values of the community. It is imperative for us to consider how our findings and the language that we use to communicate them would realistically affect the community. This principle can be applied broadly across clinical research fields and I plan on carrying it with me in my future endeavors  

7. Fun fact you’d like to share? 

I love to play the ukulele!