Staff and Trainees

Marjorie Risman, M.A.

Marjorie Risman, M.A., is a Senior Research Coordinator & Project Manager at the University of Pennsylvania. Her responsibilities have included recruiting research study participants; creating, managing and querying study databases using a variety of software; and interacting with university regulatory offices. She previously served in similar capacities at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

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Jing Zhang, MHS

Jing Zhang, MHS, is a PhD student in Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.  She received her Master of Health Science in Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2016. She works on human genetics projects about autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Jing is interested in genetic epidemiology research in ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Kyra Levy, M.S.

Kyra Levy, M.S., is a Neuroscience graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania working towards her Ph.D. in Tom Jongens’ lab. She previously received her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University, and her Master’s degree in Neuroscience at Drexel University where she studied the involvement of the orexin/hypocretin system in cocaine self-administration in rats. In the Jongens lab, Kyra will be studying how mutations in Neurexin may affect sensory responses, sleep and circadian rhythm, and social behaviors in Drosophila melanogaster.

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Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor is a Neuroscience graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience at William and Mary, where she studied how attention, social cognition, and implicit bias related to autistic behaviors. In the Brodkin Lab, she plans to study at the intersection of neuroscience and genetics by relating social behaviors to genetic pathways implicated in ASD.

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Holly C. Dow, B.S.

Holly C. Dow, B.S., is a Research Specialist and Laboratory Manager at the University of Pennsylvania. She has 17 years of research experience working for Dr. Brodkin. Holly’s work has focused on the neurobiology of social behaviors in mouse models related to ASD. Currently, she has completed training as a Clinical Research Coordinator and has been working as part of the ASPE Study Recruitment Team.

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Brielle Gehringer

Brielle Gehringer is a Clinical Research Coordinator on the ASPE Study. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. While at Penn, Brielle worked as a Research Assistant at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she studied cognition, linguistics, and communication in children with ASD.

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Arpita Ghorai, M.S.

Arpita Ghorai, M.Tech., is a Data Analyst for the ASPE study. She completed her Bachelors in Biotechnology and Masters in Bioinformatics in India.  Under the supervision of Drs. Bucan and Almasy,  she is involved in the analysis of sleep-related traits, heritability estimates and  also in the application of several pipelines for the analysis of Whole Genome Sequence.

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Allison Langer

Allison Langer is a Clinical Research Coordinator on the ASPE Study. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in the Biological Basis of Behavior and Psychology. While at Penn, Allison worked as a Research Assistant at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she studied motor coordination in adolescents with ASD. After graduating, Allison worked at the Negev Autism Center in Israel where she researched methods for quantifying social symptoms of autism using motion capture.

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Mara Cowen

Mara Cowen is a Neuroscience Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania working in Mike Hart’s lab. She received her Bachelor of Science in Developmental Neuroscience from the University of South Carolina, where she conducted research on the molecular mechanisms of rare neurodevelopmental disorders using human induced pluripotent stem cells. In the Hart lab, Mara is studying the effect of mutations in the autism-related gene, Neurexin, on social behavior, stress response, sleep, and neuronal morphology in C. elegans.

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Stacey D. Elkhatib Smidt

Stacey D. Elkhatib Smidt, MD, is a physician and a T32 research trainee at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She completed her pediatrics and child neurology residency at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and her sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Given her background, Dr. Elkhatib Smidt is interested in sleep in autism spectrum disorder.

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Eric Rawot

Eric Rawot is a Clinical Research Coordinator on the ASPE Study. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in the Biological Basis of Behavior and Philosophy. While at Penn, Eric worked as a Research Assistant in the Boundaries of Anxiety and Depression Laboratory, where he studied the relationship between Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.

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