Principal Investigator

Catherine Lord, PhD

Senior Research Scientist at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA 

Click here for Dr. Lord’s biography.


Administrative Assistant

Sandra Gaspar

Administrative assistant.


Postdoctoral Scholars

Christina Toolan, PhD

Dr. Christina Toolan is a postdoctoral scholar in the Lord Lab with an expertise in minimally verbal children with ASD. Dr. Toolan received her PhD in Human Development and Psychology from the Graduate School of Education at UCLA. As a graduate student, she worked on research projects where she conducted interventions and assessments with minimally verbal children with ASD in both home and school settings. Currently, Dr. Toolan works on the SPROUT, POLO, and BOSCC projects. Her research interests include language assessment and parent-child interactions. Fun fact: Dr. Toolan is a triple Bruin!

Rebecca Headshot

Rebecca Elias, PhD

Dr. Rebecca Elias is a postdoctoral scholar in the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She joined the Lord Lab in August of 2019 where she manages the longitudinal study and helps lead other ongoing projects. Her program of research largely focuses on understanding core processes associated with ASD across the lifespan, and the influence that these processes have in treatment response and adult clinical outcomes.  Dr. Elias received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Virginia Tech (APA & PCSAS-accredited) where she worked under the mentorship of Dr. Susan White.  She completed her predoctoral internship from Indiana University School of Medicine (APA-accredited).  Prior to her graduate studies, Dr. Elias received her B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley.  She has participated as a researcher and clinician on several federally funded clinical trials and has received independent funding through agencies such as the American Psychological Association.  She is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.  She is the author of several peer-reviewed publications, some of which you can find here. In her free-time, Dr. Elias enjoys cooking, urban gardening, and traveling throughout the United States.

Email: RebeccaElias@mednet.ucla.edu

Kyle Sterrett, PhD



Staff Research Associates

Hannah Singer

Hannah Singer

Hannah is interested in studying happiness in adulthood. Before joining the Lord Lab, Hannah worked as the undergraduate lab manager of the UCLA Social Communication Lab with Dr. Kerri Johnson. Among other research projects, she also served as the lead research assistant for the L.A. cohort of the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development’s Ready4Routines study (PI: Drs. Stephanie Carlson and Philip Zelazo), where Hannah assessed children and families to learn how parenting routines shape children’s executive functioning and school outcomes within lower income populations. She graduated UCLA with a B.A. in Psychology in 2020.

Email: hsinger@mednet.ucla.edu

Nina Masjedi

Nina Masjedi

Nina Masjedi graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Biopsychology. She joined the Lord Lab in January 2020, and has been working in data management and cleaning for the lab. Prior to working in the Lord Lab, Nina was a research assistant for Dr. Daniel Conroy-Beam's computational mate choice lab, where she assisted in coding models of mate choice. Nina hopes to join a PhD program in Clinical Psychology in the upcoming years, with a research emphasis on understanding mechanisms for psychological disorders.


Email: nmasjedi@mednet.ucla.edu



PhD Candidates

Kourtney Christopher

Kourtney Christopher is currently a graduate student in the Human Development & Psychology division of the Education department at UCLA. She earned her B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Avila University and M. Ed. in Special Education-Autism from the University of Missouri. Prior to working with the Lord Lab, she worked at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, where she gained extensive experience conducting diagnostic assessments and assisting with autism diagnostic training initiatives. She was the administrative lead of a core group of individuals that specialized in assisting with autism-related research projects. While there, she also pursued a research program assessing autism screeners, diagnostic assessment via telementoring, and disorders that co-occur with autism. Kourtney developed and assessed an innovative program designed to increase access to autism diagnostic services, called ECHO: Autism Diagnostics. She is a co-founder of GAIN (Global Autism Interactive Network), a professional development program designed to improve proficiency on the ADOS-2. Her research interests within the Lord Lab include autism assessment, conditions that co-occur with autism, and the impact of raising a child with autism on families.

Email: christopherkl@mednet.ucla.edu


Elaine Clarke

Elaine Clarke

Elaine is currently a graduate student in the Human Development & Psychology division of the Education department at UCLA. She earned her B.A. in Psychology and Studio Art from St. Mary's College of Maryland. Before joining the Lord Lab, she worked with Dr. Stephen Sheinkopf at Brown University, where she studied the impact of gender and socioeconomic characteristics on access to ASD diagnosis and treatment.

Her research interests at the Lord Lab include using developmental trajectories to predict personal, educational, and vocational outcomes in adults with ASD. She is also interested in how adults with ASD and their families obtain and utilize services following school exit. 

Email: eclarke@mednet.ucla.edu

Nicole Rosen

Nicole is currently a doctoral student at UCLA in the Division of Human Development and Psychology. She earned her B.A. in Psychology-Neuroscience-Philosophy and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis. Before joining the Lord Lab, Nicole worked as the Clinic Coordinator of the UCLA PEERS® Clinic, an evidence-based, parent-assisted social skills program for preschoolers, adolescents, and young adults with ASD and other social challenges. During her time with PEERS®, Nicole's research focused on the impact of intervention on the social developmental trajectories of individuals with ASD and related disorders. 

Her research interests at the Lord Lab include analyzing the impact of family dynamics, specifically the role of siblings and sibling relationships, on the developmental trajectories of individuals with ASD. Nicole is also interested in the overall outcomes, well-being, and adjustment of siblings of individuals with ASD.

Email: nrosen@mednet.ucla.edu


Katherine Byrne

Katherine is currently a graduate student in the Human Development & Psychology division of the Education department at UCLA. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from UC Santa Barbara where she worked with Dr. Robert Koegel at the Koegel Autism Center. Here, she was trained as a clinician implementing Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT) with toddlers and school age-children. Additionally, she studied the use of Pivotal Response Treatment in decreasing children’s disruptive behaviors and improving children’s verbal language.  

Her research interests at the Lord Lab include the development of social communication skills, both verbal and nonverbal, in children with autism. She is also interested in the development and validation of the Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC) assessment which is designed to measure social communication changes for autistic individuals as a result of treatment.  

Email: KAByrne@mednet.ucla.edu


Volunteer Research Assistants

Cherice Chan

Cherice Chan

Cherice is pursuing a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Anthropology, and plans to graduate from UCLA in 2022. Besides joining the Lord Lab in fall 2020, she is a Research Assistant for UCLA's Memory and Lifespan Cognition Lab and UCLA's Social Relations Lab. Cherice is a sibling of a brother with autism and has worked with children on the autism spectrum for over six years. She hopes to continue her education with a PhD in Social Psychology and hopes to incorporate her interest in child development. 


Helena Huynh

Helena is currently pursuing a BA in Psychology with a minor in History, graduating in the spring of 2021 from UCLA. She is currently a Research Assistant helping with Project Play and the longitudinal study. She manages data entry and is a reliable BOSCC coder. 


Jessica Rhelfond

Jessica is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and will be graduating UCLA in 2022. She helps work on Project Play and the Longitudinal Study. For Project Play, she carries out and records BOSCC play sessions/interviews with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is also being trained to code behavioral observations from BOSCC videos. For the Longitudinal Study, she keeps online database updated with information from current research participants. 

Julia Ward

Julia Ward

Julia graduated from UCLA in June 2020 with a B.S. in Psychobiology and Minor in Disability Studies. She joined the Lord Lab in 2019 as a volunteer and has assisted with multiple projects for the Lab. Previously, Julia worked as an intern at KidsConnect at UCLA (previously ECPHP), a day treatment program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In addition to her work at the lab, Julia currently works as a Patient Service Representative at a pediatric medical office. 


Previous Members


James McCauley, PhD

 A former post-doctoral scholar in the lab, Dr. McCauley now teaches to university students. 


Pratishta Natarajan

Pratishta graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in Psychology in 2020. She volunteered at the Lord Lab from July 2019 to September 2020, and currently works with the PEERS® Clinic. She hopes to pursue a PhD in School Psychology and continue working with children.



Dr. Deanna Dow

Deanna Dow, PhD

Dr. Deanna Dow is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in early detection of toddlers with autism. She joined the Lord Lab in 2019 and is excited to continue working with the team on the Brief Observation of Symptoms of Autism (BOSA) and Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC) measurement development projects.

Dr. Dow received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan, where she first worked with Dr. Lord (back in 2006!), completing an undergraduate honors thesis under her direction at the University of Michigan Autism and Communication Disorders Center (UMACC). Dr. Dow then sought out post baccalaureate training with Dr. Joseph Piven at the UNC Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD). She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University under the mentorship of Dr. Amy Wetherby, specializing in early detection and parent-implemented intervention for toddlers with ASD. She completed pre- and post-doctoral training at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Behavior, with specialized experience in the UCLA Child and Adult Neurodevelopmental (CAN) Clinic, PEERS® Clinic, and JASPER Baby Bears intervention study. She currently runs a private practice in Los Angeles in addition to working with the Lord Lab.

Niki Bahri

Niki Bahri

Niki Bahri graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a BS in Psychology. She has been working with Dr. Lord since May 2019, where she works on the longitudinal study, and assists in other projects running in the Lord Lab. Prior to working with Dr. Lord, Niki was a project coordinator at the UCLA PEERS® clinic, a social skills parent-assisted and empirically supported social skills intervention for preschoolers, adolescents and young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, anxiety, depression, and other social impairments. She also has experience providing early intervention and home-based therapies, working closely with children and adolescents with ASD and their families to help meet developmental milestones. Her research interests include autism assessment, social-emotional development, and family dynamics.

She is currently working to obtain her PhD at Loma Linda University. 



Alison Holbrook, PhD

A former post-doctoral scholar in the lab, Dr. Holbrook now works for the Simons Foundation in New York.