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Summer Scholars ‘23 Wraps Up!

Photo of the summer scholars: Lauren Hino, Donald Pressley, Bineta Brooks, Rachel Guloy, Olivia McMullen.

September 21, 2023

We are thrilled to have hosted our third cohort of students this past summer for the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute Summer Scholars Program, which aims to provide talented undergraduate students from diverse ethnic, cultural, socio-economic, and neurodiverse backgrounds with the opportunity to immerse in rich and innovative mentored research experiences in autism with a focus on public health community impact. Having begun in 2021, we were excited to grow this program to have five students, whereas we had two students in the past two years. This year's program was made possible by sponsorship by Quadrant Biosciences, a molecular diagnostics company focusing on the early detection of neurological disorders and other large-scale health issues, and funding from our PHASES grant.

Working with Dr. Diana Schendel and Dr. Megan Bragg in our Modifiable Factors in Autism (MFA) Research Program Area were Lauren Hino, a rising Senior at Connecticut College majoring in Biochemistry, and Donald Pressley, a rising Senior attending Quinnipiac University majoring in Psychology. Lauren conducted a research study that explored the healthcare needs associated with comorbid conditions in individuals on the autism spectrum. She looks forward to continuing this research and having the opportunity to partner with members of the MFA team. Don shared some excellent insight about his takeaways, "You are important to the things you care about, find ways to observe people doing the work you think you want to do, and figure out what systems control the outcomes you care about." As a result of the Summer Scholars program, Don is considering pursuing a Master's degree in Public Health or Psychology after graduating.

In our Early Detection and Intervention (EDI) Research Program Area, working with Dr. Andrea Wieckowski and Dr. Ashley de Marchena was Bineta Brooks, a rising Junior at Penn State in the Physician's Assistant Track. Bineta focused on recruitment support for EDI studies and support for ongoing studies. As a result of her work in the Summer Scholars program, Bineta is now considering a focus on either Emergency Medicine or Psychology when becoming a PA. Additionally, working with Dr. de Marchena was Rachel Guloy, a rising Senior at The College of New Jersey majoring in Psychology and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Rachel also worked with Wei Song in the Policy and Analytics Center (PAC). Rachel was working with the Nonverbal Communication Study in EDI by participating in community partner meetings, study recruitment, and assisting with the literature review. While working with PAC, she supported the CAPS (Community Autism Peer Specialist) Study. She supported outreach efforts to seek potential participants, assisted with literature reviews, and conducted data analysis. Rachel shared that this experience opened her up to the number of possibilities and the number of paths that you can take to get there. She was grateful to learn that you don't have to have it all figured out when you graduate!

Lastly, Olivia McMullen worked with Dr. Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick and Dr. Jennifer Plumb, supporting SoDI Lab in the Life Course Outcomes Research Area and the Community Partnered Participatory Research (CPPR) for the Dissemination and Outreach Core as part of the PHASES grant. Olivia is a rising Junior starting at Drexel this Fall, majoring in Psychology. Olivia shared that this program gave her confidence in her abilities and made her realize that she can do well in an accommodating work environment. Ultimately, Olivia would like to get her PhD in Psychology and research with a focus in Neuroscience.

We are so grateful to have had such a bright, dedicated, and great group of students this summer.