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Campus & Community

Diana L. Robins, PhD, Named Director of A.J. Drexel Autism Institute

November 20, 2019

Diana L. Robins, PhD.

Below is a message from Interim Provost Paul E. Jensen, PhD, and Executive Vice Provost Aleister J. Saunders, PhD:

After a national search, we are pleased to announce that Diana L. Robins, PhD, has been named director of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University. Her exciting plans for the Autism Institute include deepening the integration among its research programs, across the University and throughout the community.

Dr. Robins, a professor and research program leader at the Institute, has been serving as interim director this year following the departure of founding director Craig J. Newschaffer. During her tenure as interim director, Dr. Robins has launched Initiatives to strengthen the team at the Institute, and developed plans for its next phase of strategic growth.

Since January, a new, monthly seminar series offers the opportunity for faculty, staff and trainees to explore research ideas in development and brainstorm approaches to grant competitions, while the Drexel Autism Consortium will be created to link scientists across the University.

As a clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Robins will continue her groundbreaking work on early screening in community settings, early diagnosis, and intensive evidence-based early intervention once children are identified to have autism spectrum disorder. This work — part of an $11 million collaborative effort with other researchers — is identifying children with autism spectrum disorders among thousands of children.

Prior to joining the Drexel faculty in 2014, Dr. Robins was an associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University, which followed a postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at the Yale University Child Study Center. She did her internship in clinical psychology at the University of Florida, undergraduate studies at Oberlin College, and earned a masters and doctorate at the University of Connecticut. She has published widely, and at Drexel has mentored students from three colleges working on doctoral, masters and other projects.

Now in its seventh year, the Institute has 9 faculty members, 12 fellows, 48 staff, and a number of undergraduate and graduate students. This dedicated team has built tremendously successful research, clinical, and outreach programs to carry out the Institute’s mission. Last year, research and contract expenditures totaled $10.5 million.

The Institute also has been generously supported by more than $5 million in gifts, including more than $800,000 from the Eagles Autism Challenge. Dr. Robins plans to expand the Institute’s Leadership Council to help guide its work in the public health science of autism, and enhance the Autism Institute’s visibility in the community.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Robins on her appointment as permanent director.