The Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC
The Carolina Institute includes:

Current T32 Post-Doctoral Research Trainees

Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities


Rebecca Grzadzinski
Rebecca Grzadzinski, PhD
Mentors: Heather Hazlett, PhD; Linda Watson, PhD

Dr. Rebecca Grzadzinski received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University under the mentorship of Dr. Catherine Lord. Dr. Grzadzinski’s research focuses on sensory and motor profiles in infancy and toddlerhood that predict later diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and differential responses to treatment. This research will add to the field’s understanding of early behaviors that are related to later neurodevelopmental disorders, contribute to identifying maximally effective interventions, and promote the development of individualized treatments for children with ASD.


Jessica Girault
Jessica Girault, PhD
Mentors: Kathleen Gates, PhD; Joseph Piven, MD

Dr. Jessica Girault is a developmental neuroscientist studying the neurobiological mechanisms that shape individual differences in cognition and behavior during infancy and toddlerhood. She received her doctorate in Neuroscience from UNC Chapel Hill under the mentorship of Dr. John Gilmore. As a T32 Postdoctoral Fellow at the CIDD, Dr. Girault will work with data collected as part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) investigating the brain development of infants at high familial risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Dr. Girault will focus on deriving neurobiologically-based subgroups of infants and toddlers, with the ultimate goal of identifying specific brain phenotypes associated with the development of dimensional behavioral profiles in ASD.


Helen Mao
Hanqian Mao, PhD
Mentor: Mark Zylka

Dr. Hanqian Mao received her doctorate at Duke University where she focused on posttranscriptional regulation of embryonic neurogenesis under the mentorship of Dr. Debra Silver. Dr. Mao’s thesis work characterized the role of RNA binding proteins in regulating the proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells in mouse models. For her post-doctoral work at UNC, Dr. Mao is mentored by Dr. Mark Zylka, where she applies her expertise in molecular and cellular biology with in vivo mouse modeling to determine the efficacy of genomic editing therapy in treating Angelman syndrome. The goal of her research is to identify potential therapeutic strategy to mitigate the behavioral deficits in human patients, and perhaps prevent the manifestation of symptoms through early genetic intervention of patients.


Nicholas Fogleman, PhD
Nicholas Fogleman, PhD
Mentor: Jessica Cohen

Dr. Nicholas Fogleman received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Louisville. Dr. Fogleman’s research explores the emotional and social functioning of children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with a particular focus on how challenges with emotion regulation affect social relationships. As a T32 Postdoctoral Fellow at the CIDD, Dr. Fogleman will be working under the mentorship of Dr. Jessica Cohen to examine neural networks involved in emotion regulation among children with ADHD, as well as the effects of stimulant medication on emotion regulation brain network organization. His research will provide further insight into the emotional functioning of children with ADHD and inform future interventions designed to improve long-term social outcomes.


Kelsey Murphy, PhD
Kelsey Murphy, PhD
Mentor: Dr. Patricia Maness

Kelsey Murphy received her doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Toledo under the mentorship of Dr. Joshua Park. Kelsey's graduate work focused on neuronal defenses against oxidative stress mediated neurodegeneration. She analyzed neuroprotective effects and identified the molecular pathways of a CNS-targeting potential Alzheimer’s disease therapeutic. Kelsey joined the CIDD T32program under the guidance of Dr. Patricia Maness. She will contribute to ongoing research in defining the function of the high confidence autism gene Ankyrin 2 (AnkB). The significance of this research is its relationship to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), where spine pruning and hyperexcitability occur at altered developmental stages. The goal of this work is potential target identification for intervention at critical developmental time points. Overall, this work will contribute to identifying the mechanisms of hyperexcitability that play a role in autism related behaviors.


Brittany Williams, PhD
Brittany Williams, PhD
Mentor: Ben Philpot

Dr. Brittany Williams received her doctorate in neuroscience under the tutelage of Dr. Amy Lee at the University of Iowa. Dr. Williams’ thesis work used electrophysiology and biochemical approaches to characterize the modulatory effects of visual disease-causing mutations in voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. Now as a postdoctoral fellow at UNC, she works under the leadership of Dr. Ben Philpot, where she combines her expertise in electrophysiology and biochemistry with mouse models to understand how the overexpression of UBE3A impacts neurodevelopment and contributes to the manifestation of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The goal of her research is to not only better understand (mechanistically) how such disorders arise, but to identify novel therapeutic strategies to correct and/or prevent the manifestation of ASD symptoms associated with the overexpression of UBE3A.
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