The Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC
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Current T32 Post-Doctoral Research Trainees

Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities

Announcing 2021 T32 Postdoctoral Trainees in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The CIDD welcomes Drs. Dewran Kocak, Tehila Nugiel, and Catheryn Wilson as our incoming T32 postdoctoral trainees. We are thrilled to have these talented postdoctoral fellows join our interdisciplinary program in neurodevelopmental disorders and would like to welcome them and introduce them to the community.


Dr. Dewran Kocak
Dr. Dewran Kocak

Dr. Dewran Kocak completed his PhD in Biomedical Engineering in the Gersbach laboratory at Duke University. During his graduate work he developed methods for increasing the specificity of genome-engineering. He is currently a postdoctoral associate in the Roth laboratory at UNC's Department of Pharmacology, where he is developing genome-engineering methods for the correction of Angelman Syndrome.


Dr. Tehila Nugiel
Dr. Tehila Nugiel

Dr. Tehila Nugiel received her doctorate in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin working with Dr. Jessica Church. Her research examines brain systems supporting cognitive control in children with developmental disorders, such as learning disorders and ADHD. As a T32 Fellow at the CIDD, Dr. Nugiel will work with Dr. Jessica Cohen to examine large-scale brain systems involved in cognitive control and reward processing in ADHD, with a focus on how stimulant medication changes these systems. The ultimate goal of this program of research is to inform the development of individualized treatments targeted to dysfunctional brain systems.


Dr. Catheryn Wilson
Dr. Catheryn Wilson

Dr. Catheryn Wilson completed her Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where she studied the convulsant and cannabimimetic effects of drugs of abuse, known as synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, using preclinical models. At UNC-Chapel Hill, she will work in the lab of Scott Parnell, Ph.D., to investigate the neurobiological underpinnings of prenatal alcohol exposure-related seizure susceptibility in mice. In addition, she hopes to examine the potential role of the endogenous cannabinoid system in relation to such seizures.


Kelly Caravella
Kelly Caravella, PhD
Mentors: Heather Hazlett, PhD; Karen Grewen, PhD

Dr. Kelly Caravella earned her doctorate in Clinical-Community Psychology from the University of South Carolina under the mentorship of Dr. Jane Roberts. Dr. Caravella’s research focuses on the longitudinal development of autism symptomatology in infants and toddlers with fragile X syndrome (FXS). As a T32 postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Caravella will be working under the mentorship of Drs. Hazlett and Grewen to compare neurobiological and behavioral markers of autism spectrum disorder across groups of infants at high risk for developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), specifically, infants with FXS, infant siblings of children with ASD and infants who experienced prenatal drug and alcohol exposures. Dr. Caravella’s program of research aims to identify risk and protective factors in these high risks groups to inform early detection and intervention efforts to improve quality of life and support optimal developmental outcomes.


Dea Caric
Dea Garic, PhD
Mentors: Joseph Piven, MD; Mark Shen, PhD

Dr. Dea Garic received her doctorate in psychology from Florida International University, with a dual concentration in developmental science and cognitive neuroscience. Under the mentorship of Dr. Anthony Dick, Dea utilized diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) methods to assess microstructural properties that might underlie typical and atypical brain development and how early structural connectivity relates to language and executive function behavioral outcomes in young children. As a postdoctoral fellow at UNC, Dea will be applying her DWI expertise to collaborative investigations examining how axonal properties and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders. The overarching goal of this work is to potentially identify non-invasive biomarkers of symptomatic progression and may provide avenues for targeted, biologically based interventions for children with Angelman Syndrome and autism spectrum disorder.


Meredith Gruhn
Meredith Gruhn, PhD
Mentor: Margaret Sheridan, PhD

Dr. Meredith Gruhn received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Vanderbilt University under the mentorship of Dr. Bruce Compas. A central theme in Dr. Gruhn’s research involves the neurodevelopmental and psychosocial consequences of early life adversity (ELA). As a T32 fellow under the mentorship of Dr. Margaret Sheridan, Dr. Gruhn will examine (a) neural, physiologic, and cognitive-behavioral sequelae of adverse experiences and (b) etiologic and exacerbating roles of ELA in the presentation of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g., ADHD). The long-term goal of this work is to inform, develop, and disseminate interventions for high-risk youth.
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