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Matthew Lerner, PhD

Associate Professor and Life Course Outcomes Program Leader

headshot of Matthew Lerner


Matthew D. Lerner, PhD, is an Associate Professor, Director of the Social Connections and Treatment Lab, and Life Course Outcomes Program Leader at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. At the heart of Dr. Lerner's research lies a dedication to understanding the intricate processes underlying social development and connection across the lifespan. His work explores perception, cognition, behavior, and context to develop new models of social functioning across the range of neurodiverse populations, and develops, implements, and tests novel interventions to facilitate social connection for those who may otherwise struggle to do so. He leverages advanced quantitative methods (e.g., machine learning, person-centered and multivariate models, longitudinal analysis via HLM and latent difference modeling), electrophysiology (e.g., event-related potentials [ERP]) and multi-method and lifespan-relevant assessment (e.g., observational, multi-informant, ecological momentary analysis [EMA]), ongoing community engagement methods, and dissemination and implementation methodologies to support community and clinic-based approaches to improve quality of life via person-center approaches and lab-based experimental designs.

Dr. Lerner has received grants from organizations including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA), the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the Simons Foundation, the Medical Foundation, the American Psychological Association, the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has received several acknowledgments and awards, including the Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the David Shakow Early Career Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Clinical Psychology from the Society of Clinical Psychology, the Sara S. Sparrow Early Career Research Award, the Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Early Career Research Award from the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, the Richard "Dick" Abidin Early Career Award from the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, the Transformative Contributions Award from the Autism & Developmental Disabilities SIG of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the Rising Star designation from the Association for Psychological Science. His work has been cited >7,000 times, and been published in top scientific journals including Psychological Bulletin, Clinical Psychology Review, Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Biological Psychiatry: CNNI, Child Development, Developmental Science, Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, Behavior Therapy, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Biological Psychology, Autism Research, and the Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders. He serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, and on the Editorial Board of 7 other leading outlets in the fields of autism, development, and clinical psychology.

Prior to arriving at Drexel, he spent ten years as an Assistant and tenured Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, where he directed the Social Competence and Treatment Lab. He was a Founder and Research Director of the Stony Brook Autism Initiative and the Stony Brook LEND Center Co-Founder. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Virginia. He completed his internship in Child Clinical Psychology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He completed Fellowships in Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities at the University of Illinois – Chicago and in Evolutionary and Ontogenetic Dynamics through the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. He has provided clinical services for hundreds of children, adolescents, and adults in hospital, clinical, educational, and community settings. Before his time in academia, he founded the Spotlight Program at the Northeast Arc in Massachusetts, a year-round social competence and confidence development program, which formed the basis for a novel set of inclusive intervention practices currently implemented around the world.