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College of Arts and Sciences

Center Affiliates

Directors 

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Jane Roberts, Ph.D., Professor and Chair

 Dr. Roberts' work focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms that underlie cognitive and behavioral functioning in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, fragile X syndrome, and ADHD.

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Jeff Twiss, Ph.D., Professor and Interim Chair

The Twiss lab uses molecular and cellular biology approaches to understand how neurons develop and function. They are particularly interested in how post-transcriptional regulation impacts neuron growth, focusing on subcellular mRNA translation and RNA dynamics in neurons.

Affiliates

College of Arts and Sciences

 

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 Jessica Bradshaw, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Bradsahw’s research focuses on early identification of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the first years of life, including: 1) quantifying the emergence of, and interrelations between, social behavior, visual attention, and motor skills in neonates, infants, and toddlers, 2) identifying aberrant neurodevelopmental pathways that lead to the emergence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and 3) translating these basic findings to early detection and intervention strategies for ASD.


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 Jessica Green, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Dr. Green’s research uses non-invasive brain recordings to examine multisensory perception and attention, including how these processes are altered in individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

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Parastoo Hashemi, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Dr. Hashemi's research develops and applies sensors for brain measurements of neurotransmitters in the context of mental illness etiology, diagnosis and treatment. She has pioneered tools for measurements of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter important in the pathology of depression. Her team is using these tools in a variety of models to better understand, diagnose and treat mental disorders, with a focus on depression.

 

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Kimbery Hills, Ph.D., Clinical Professor

 Dr. Hills provides clinical training in ASD assessment skills to clinicians across the state of South Carolina. Her current research interests focus on autism diagnosis, psychological assessment, prevention and intervention for at-risk youth and positive psychology.

 

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Abigail Hogan, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor

 Dr. Hogan’s ongoing research aims to characterize the predictors of social-emotional functioning in siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her work utilizes multiple methods, including eye tracking, heart activity measurement, electroencephalogram (EEG), and behavioral phenotyping.

 

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Xianzheng Huang, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Huang’s longstanding research endeavor is studying effects of measurement error on statistical inference and developing nonparametric methods for mean regression, mode regression, and density estimation in the presence or absence of measurement error.

 

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Sofia Lizarraga, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Lizarraga is interested in understanding the basic mechanisms that contribute to the development of the cerebral cortex, particularly how endosomal signaling and epigenetic regulators contribute to the development of neuronal circuitry formation during cortical development. Her work focuses on the role of these pathways in neuronal arborization and synapse development and function and their relation to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Her work utilizes a combination of genome edited and patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) as well as epigenetic, imaging and physiological approaches.

 

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Linyuan Lu, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Lu is well-known nationally and internationally for his research work on large information networks, sparse random graphs, probabilistic methods, extremal problems on hypergraphs and posets, spectral graph/hypergraph theory, Ramsey type problems, Discrete Geometry, and other problems in graph theory.

 

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John Richards, Ph.D., Carolina Distinguished Professor

Dr. Richards has three related research themes. The first theme is the development of sustained attention in young infants. The second theme is the development of extended fixations to television programs in the first two years. Third, Dr. Richards uses EEG and ERP in the study of saccade planning, its development in the first few months of infancy, and its relation to cortical areas controlling eye movements. He also is using structural MRI of infants along with ERP to study the cortical sources of the behavior associated with planned eye movements.

 

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Fabienne Poulain, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Research in the Poulain lab aims at understanding how neuronal circuits are formed, maintained and refined during development. We use a unique combination of genetic, biochemical and high resolution live imaging approaches in zebrafish to decipher the cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain wiring directly in vivo. Our discoveries may give new insight on the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders that originate from miswiring of neuronal circuits during development.

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Deanna Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor

In humans, heterozygous mutations in LIS1 typically cause a severe developmental brain abnormality, lissencephaly, in large part due to a critical role in regulating intracellular trafficking. Recently, in conjunction with the Greenwood Genetics Center, we identified a conservative mutation in LIS1 in a child diagnosed with autism. We are currently trying to understand how this mutation impacts LIS1, focusing on potential dysfunction in the axon.

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Kristy Welshhans, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Welshhans research focuses on understanding how appropriate connectivity within the nervous system is established during development. Her research examines this process both in health and disease, with a focus on Down syndrome. She is interested in the mechanisms by which growth cones, which are the pathfinding structures of the developing neuron, migrate to and connect with their appropriate targets. Her research employs a wide variety of molecular, cellular and imaging techniques, including primary cell culture, human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons, viral-mediated gene expression, innovative fluorescent proteins and reporters, live cell imaging and TIRF microscopy, to elucidate the mechanisms underlying neural development.

College of Education
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Ali Brian, Ph.D., Associate Professor

As the research director of the Institute of Movement Studies for Individuals with Visual Impairments, Dr. Brian has traveled throughout the world assessing and evaluating the perceived and actual motor competence, physical activity, and health-related fitness levels of individuals with visual impairments in order to develop targeted intervention strategies. Additionally, as an investigator with the Research Center for Child Well-Being, her research also focuses upon developing integrated (physical, psychological, and cognitive) intervention strategies for rural, title one preschoolers and that features the assistance of their parents and/or their classroom teachers.

 

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Erik Drasgow, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Drasgow's research interests include language and communication intervention for individuals with severe disabilities, functional assessment and positive behavior support, special education law, and teacher training and retention.

 

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David Stodden, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Stodden's research agenda focuses on promoting the acquisition and development of fundamental motor skills and the association of motor skill competence with physical activity, health-related physical fitness, perceived competence, and obesity across the lifespan. His research emphasizes the need to address and understand developmental mechanisms and casual pathways related to youth physical development and trajectories of physical activity and obesity. In addition, research addressing ballistic skills allows him to further explore the behavioral and mechanical nature of multijoint ballistic motor skills and apply this knowledge to skill acquisition, youth physical development and assessment validation.

 

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Katie Wolfe, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Dr. Wolfe's research interests include the development and implementation of interventions to promote language and communication skills in young children with autism, the synthesis of single-subject research to identify empirically-supported treatments, and the use of technology in training individuals to analyze single-subject data. She is also interested in parent and practitioner training.

 

College of Engineering and Computing
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Neset Hikmet, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Hikmet is heavily involved in research and health sector related activities. He has led numerous distributed data collection and management projects and led and participated in grant-funded health informatics research in a wide range of contexts. His recent research project Health Services Utilization Dashboard leverages Health Sciences South Carolina’s (HSSC) 2.7 million patient based clinical data set which provides insightful information.

 

School of Medicine
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Norma Frizzell, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Dr. Frizzell is interested in the chemical modification of proteins by mitochondrial metabolites, and understanding the conditions that govern metabolite reactivity. She has a particular focus on the succination of proteins by the Krebs cycle intermediate fumarate. Her lab is investigating the role of fumarate and protein succination in mitochondrial encephalopathies derived from defects in the electron transport chain machinery, describing for the first time how metabolic alterations lead to increased brainstem and olfactory bulb succination in a murine model of Leigh Syndrome. They are currently examining several protein targets whose structure and function is altered as a consequence of succination. This has informed new avenues of therapeutic intervention that they anticipate will benefit Leigh Syndrome patients.

 

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Fiona Hollis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

 The Hollis lab uses behavioral and cellular biology approaches to investigate the role of brain mitochondrial function in social behaviors relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

 

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David Mott, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Dr. Mott’s research is directed toward understanding how synaptic transmission between excitatory and inhibitory nerve cells in the brain is modified as a result of experience, with a focus on neurons in the limbic system and the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays important roles in learning and memory, as well as in pathological conditions, such as epilepsy, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. His current work investigates changes in synaptic transmission that occur in the hippocampus in temporal lobe epilepsy.

 

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Marlene Wilson, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Wilson investigates the neurochemical underpinnings of anxiety- and stress-related behaviors, with an emphasis on individual differences in neural systems that may represent risk factors for disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A major focus is the role of neuropeptides and the amygdala in stress-induced behavioral and endocrine responses, as well as actions of anxiety-reducing modalities. The project utilizes a multidisciplinary approach highlighted by virus-mediated gene transfer technology in combination with behavioral analyses, neurochemical assays including in vivo microdialysis, anatomical analyses, and molecular assessments of expression changes.

 

College of Pharmacy
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Sajish Mathew, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Sajish’s research focus is to understand and to explore the potential of NAD+ metabolism and signaling through SIRTuins and PARPs in the regulation of the new biology of tRNA synthetases.

 

Arnold School of Public Health
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Guoshuai Cai, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

 Dr. Cai is an bioinformatician and his research focuses on the development and application of bioinformatic, statistical and computational methods for analyzing genomic and biomedical data to investigate complex human disease including Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Specifically, his current research aims at developing efficient methods for single-cell RNA-seq data analysis, multi-dimensional genomics data integration, and marker identification and disease outcome prediction using machine learning methods.

 

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Jessica Klusek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Klusek’s research program aims to delineate the nature and basis of communication deficits in conditions associated with FMR1 gene dysfunction: fragile X syndrome and the FMR1 premutation. Her research focuses on three primary areas: (1) defining communication features and their interface with psychiatric and cognitive aspects of the phenotype; (2) identifying biomarkers to inform mechanistic underpinnings, with a focus on autonomic and molecular genetic markers; (3) addressing syndrome-specificity via the use of a cross-population comparison approach that juxtaposes fragile X with autism-- disorders of shared behaviors but distinct genetic etiologies.

 

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Suzanne McDermott, Ph.D., Professor

Dr. Suzanne McDermott is an epidemiologist and her research program involves identifying risk factors during pregnancy such as infections, chemicals and disease processes that increase the risk for fetuses to develop a neurodevelopmental disability, especially intellectual disability and autism.

 

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R. Davis Moore, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Moore’s research and teaching interests include determining the functional outcomes of concussive injuries and the factors that moderate injusry outcomes, the active rehabilitation of post-concussion syndrome, and the influennce of health factors such as physical activity, fitness, and obesity on neuropsychological health and development. 

 

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Feifei Xiao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

Dr. Xiao's research mainly focuses on the development and application of powerful and efficient statistical methods for high throughput genetic data, driven by the challenges arising from the modern biology technologies such as microarray and next-generation sequencing. She specifically works on chromosomal copy number variation detection, integrative analysis of ‘omic’ data (such as SNP, methylation and expression data), and neuroimaging genetic data analysis. Much of her effort is motivated by ongoing collaboration projects in cancer, aging, maternal and child health. She is interested in providing efficient statistical tools to integrate the genetic data into practice of precision medicine.

 

College of Social Work
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Robert Hock, Ph.D., LMSW, Associate Professor

Dr. Hock is currently serving as principal investigator on a South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services-funded award to study person-centered service design in behavioral health organizations. The research will focus on how to more actively engage patients in their care by developing and implementing an actionable plan to assist in achieving personal recovery goals.

His research expertise includes person-centered design in behavioral health organizations, treatment of autism spectrum disorder, and mental health of children and families.

 

 

 


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