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Drexel Team Analyzes Possible Links between Autism and Environmental Factors as Part of NIH Program

October 21, 2016

CCI Assistant Professor Gabriela Marcu, PhD, is serving as a co-investigator on a research team that is trying to identify the relationship between environmental factors and the risk of autism development in children. The team – led by Craig Newschaffer, PhD, founding director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University – will work with co-investigators at nine other institutions to study whether prenatal exposure to certain chemicals increases the risk of autism. As a part of a cooperative agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this research is funded under the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program.

To determine the risk of autism, a group of 1,713 subjects will be studied. The baby teeth that these subjects lost during infancy will be used to measure the traces of certain chemicals that can increase the risk of autism in children. Newschaffer and his team will work with institutions such as the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Washington University at St. Louis and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, among many others. According to Newschaffer, the research that would be developed during the study would be beneficial not just for studying autism, but for a much wider range of health issues.

Marcu’s research interests include human-computer interaction, health informatics, ubiquitous computing, action research, ethnography, user experience design, designing for social change and organizational information systems. She specializes in designing, developing and deploying collaborative systems through field studies. She is a 2013 Siebel Scholar and a 2010 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Marcu received her doctorate in human-computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University and her bachelor of science degree in informatics from the University of California at Irvine.

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