Researcher Profiles

The information collected through Simons Searchlight research is freely accessible to qualified researchers who want to learn more about the genetic changes we study. Anonymous information from surveys, genetic testing reports, and the medical history interview is summarized and made available to researchers, along with blood or saliva samples. We’ve interviewed some of the investigators that have recently used Simons Searchlight data.

 

Learn more about these researchers below and read the interview about their research:

 

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Vanessa Troiani, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor at Geisinger Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute

Dr. Troiani is interested in how our inborn motivations change the activity in the brain and affect our attention and perception. Her research aims to understand the role of behavior and genetics in atypical motivation processes in the brain and how this contributes to psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Troiani studies the structure and function of brain regions that are involved in motivated attention. This includes reward-processing structures like the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and orbitofrontal cortex. Her scientific worldview is multidisciplinary, as she is interested in how atypical motivation can happen in multiple disorders, from autism to obesity to addiction. Dr. Troiani uses a variety of techniques in this work, including psychophysics, eye tracking, brain imaging, electronic health record analysis, and genomics.

Read our interview with Dr. Troiani here.

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Sylvie Goldman, Ph.D. – Developmental Neuropsychologist

Sylvie Goldman is a developmental neuropsychologist. She is teaching faculty for the Parent-Infant Psychotherapy Program in Child Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Previously, she was faculty at Albert Einstein in the Department of Neurology and Pediatrics. She co-directed the National Institute of Health-Human Clinical Phenotype Core of the Rose F. Kennedy Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. During her postdoctoral training under the mentorship of child neurologist, Isabelle Rapin, she developed a validated, highly cited test for the classification of motor stereotypies.

Goldman’s clinical activities focus on early, comprehensive, diagnostic assessment of children who have neurodevelopmental disorders. She gained her clinical experience during her eight years as psychologist at the McCarton Center evaluating children aged 1 to 8 years.

Her research focuses on the use of technology to measure motor functions, especially walking, in children who have gene-based, neurodevelopment disorders with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her current project looks at gender and sex factors during the ASD diagnosis process, as well as related differences and delays in diagnosis of ASD in girls and minorities.

Read our interview with Dr. Goldman here.

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Paul Wang, M.D. – Deputy Director of Clinical Research Associates, LLC (CRA)

Paul Wang, M.D., is the Deputy Director of Clinical Research Associates, LLC (CRA), an affiliate of the Simons Foundation and he’s using your data! 

Wang is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, and he worked at CHOP from 1994-2002. He participated in the care of hundreds of children with developmental disabilities and genetic diagnoses, with a particular focus on Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, and the 22q11.2 del population.

Since leaving CHOP, Wang worked at Pfizer (on neurologic and psychiatric drug trials) and at Seaside Therapeutics, which was a biotech focused on Fragile X syndrome and autism. He later moved to Autism Speaks, and have been at the Simons Foundation since 2016.

Wang finds it incredibly energizing to work in New York City, and to be surrounded by the fantastic scientists (and visitors) at the Foundation. But when the weekend comes, he’s much happier to be at home, with the woods and stream in my backyard.

 

 

Read our interview with Dr. Wang here.

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Raphael Bernier, Ph.D. – Professor at the University of Washington/Executive Director of the Seattle Children’s Autism Center

Raphael Bernier, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Washington and the Executive Director of the Seattle Children’s Autism Center — and he’s using your data!

 

 

Bernier received his BS from Tufts University and then completed his MS degree from the University of Wisconsin.  He then received his PhD from the University of Washington in 2007 and completed his clinical training in UCLA. He’s been a professor at University of Washington since the month after he graduated. Bernier has been interested in the genetics and neuroscience of autism. His research focus has been on neurodevelopmental disorders and he has participated in clinical trials and behavioral research studies.

 

Outside of work, his interests include spending time with his family and being active. Bernier says he likes to complete “races of all sorts from multi-sport adventure races to marathons and a whole bunch of things in between.”

 

 

Read our interview with Dr. Bernier here.

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Jennifer Bain, M.D., Ph.D. – Assistant Professor in Child Neurology

Jennifer Bain, M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor in child neurology at Columbia University Medical Center. Bain completed both M.D. and Ph.D. as well as general pediatrics residency at Rutgers – New Jersey Medical School. She trained in child neurology at New York Presbyterian – Columbia University Medical Center and is a board certified neurologist with special certification in Child Neurology. Her early research career focused on spinal cord and brain development after injuries such as spinal cord injury and perinatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.

She currently works as a clinician at Columbia Doctors specializing in general pediatric neurology with expertise in development, behavioral neurology and autism. Her clinical research has focused on studying autonomic dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders as well as the gender disparity between girls and boys with an autism diagnosis. She is also very interested in the movement differences in children with autism. Bain authored a manuscript describing the first six girls with variants in the HNRNPH2 gene and is currently enrolling more individuals with HNRNPH2-related disorders to learn more about the natural course of this neurodevelopmental disorder.

Read our interview with Dr. Bain here.