Tell me about the projects you work on in the lab. 

I am one of the UI site coordinators on SPARK, a nation-wide study of autism genetics. SPARK aims to better understand what genes play a role in autism and why. The goal of which is to develop more accurate diagnostic tools and more personalized treatments for people on the autism spectrum.  

My job is to support our participating families throughout the study process and toconnect them to the resources available to them through SPARK. As a result, I spend much of my time communicating with members of the Iowan autism community - that is by far my favorite part of my job. I'm also excited to be involved in the lab's outreach and education; I really enjoy connecting families with high-quality research findings that are most relevant to them.


What made you want to work in the Michaelson Lab? 

I have a younger sister on the spectrum who was diagnosed as a young adult. Our family faced a lot of challenges trying to find her the support she needed to thrive throughout our childhood, particularly in school. It was basically an impossible task because without a diagnosis, we didn’t fully understand what her needs were to begin with. However, with her diagnosis came the access to the support that she needed. In the past few years alone, the amount of personal growth I’ve seen in her is simply immeasurable.

I know first-hand the impact a missed autism diagnosis can have on a person and her family. I also fully appreciate the significance of having the right tools at your disposal when caring for a loved one on the spectrum. So, when I learned about SPARK’s mission to better understand the biology of autism so that more people are properly identified and more individualized interventions can be developed, I applied to join the research team right away.


What is the state of your current relationship with spreadsheets? 

It is very much a mutual love-hate relationship. I love the versatility, but I dislike how tedious they can be - particularly if the data isn't cleaned well. They love to tell me that I don't have access to them, regardless of how many times I properly type the correct password, plus they tend to get bogged down when I manipulate particularly large data sets. 


Do you have any pets?

Jasper is my cat, although he prefers the term "house panther". His Patronus is an otter and he's particularly infamous for making direct eye contact with you while continuing to do that thing you just explicitly told him to stop doing. 

His little brother, Milo, is my speckled shadow. He's a German Shorthaired Pointer mix, whose best friend is a stuffed alien named Sebastian. He whole-heartedly believes that one can never receive too many snuggles and that if left to their own devices, squirrels will be the end of us all. 


What are your feelings about the Minnesota Vikings? 

The Vikings have not won a single title since their franchise was founded the better part of sixty years ago; therefore, my feelings are that of indifference. 


I take it you’re a Packers fan, then? 

I'm a purebred cheesehead. GO PACK GO!