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NAAR Commits Nearly $1 Million to Fund Mentor-Based Fellowships

2003 Funding Includes 13 Pre- and Post-Doctoral Autism Fellowships in the U.S., Canada & Europe and Two Collaborative Training Programs in Canada
April 23, 2007

The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) has recently committed nearly $1 million to fund 13 pre- and post-doctoral mentor-based fellowships focusing on autism research and two collaborative training programs in Canada.

NAAR's 2003 Mentor-based Fellowship Awards include seven post-doctoral fellows and six pre-doctoral fellows. In addition, NAAR and the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction are planning to co-fund two separate autism training programs for young Canadian investigators. NAAR's total commitment to fellowships and training programs in 2003 is $991,000.

“While autism is no longer considered a rare condition, finding experts specializing in autism spectrum disorders remains a serious challenge,” said Prisca Chen Marvin, NAAR President, and a parent of a child with autism. “NAAR's Fellowship program nurtures the best and brightest young researchers and brings them into the field of autism research.”

The program appears to have attracted the attention of an increasing number of prominent researchers interested in serving as mentors. This year, NAAR received 47 funding requests for fellowships, nearly twice as many requests as last year.

NAAR's Mentor-based fellowships provide the necessary financial support and professional guidance for young investigators interested in focusing on autism as a career. Fellowships typically provide a salary and professional support for two years.

“Despite the high prevalence of autism, and an increasing number of research institutions realizing that autism deserves more attention, there is still a dearth of specialists in the field,” said Andy Shih, Ph.D., NAAR's director of Research & Programs. “Our commitment to fellowships illustrates an appropriate, effective response to remedy this situation throughout North America.”

Families across the country who are faced with autism have limited options on where to go for an accurate diagnosis, treatment and educational services.

As part of its 2003 fellowship portfolio, NAAR is planning to collaborate with the Canadian Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction to co-sponsor a pair of six-year, interdisciplinary autism training programs, known simply as the Training Programs in Autism Research. NAAR will invest approximately $200,000 annually for six years as a co-sponsor of this unique program – the first of its kind in Canada to focus on autism.

In addition, NAAR approved funding the following 13 fellowships:


Cambridge University, London (England) - Mentor: Simon Baron Cohen, Ph.D.; Fellow: Christopher D. Ashwin, Ph.D. “Social Emotional Processing”

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI- Mentor: Jeffrey Hutsler, Ph.D.; Fellow: Hong Zhang, Ph.D. “Quantitative Neuroanatomical Training: New Methods to Reveal Structural Changes in the Cortex of Individuals with Autism”

King's College, London (England) - Mentor: Francesca Happe, Ph.D.; Fellow: Aparna Nadig, Ph.D. “A Language Processing View of Pragmatic Impairments in Autism Spectrum Disorders”

University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ - Mentor: Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, M.D.; Fellow: Kristina Sennvik, Ph.D. “Neurodevelopmental Origins of Autism Brain Abnormalities”

Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT - Mentor: Paul Bloom, Ph.D.; Fellow: Melissa Allen Preissler, Ph.D. “Symbolic Understanding in Children with Autism”

Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY - Mentor: Carol Mason, M.D.; Fellow: Phillip Buttery, Ph.D. “Regulation of the Purkinje: Cell Dendritic Growth, Spine Formation and Synaptogenesis”

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN - Mentor: Wendy Stone, Ph.D.; Fellow: Robin Page, Ph.D. “Developing a Downward Extension of the STAT”


Centre for Molecular Medicine & Therapeutics, Vancouver, British Columbia - Mentor: Elizabeth Simpson, Ph.D.; Fellow: K.Y. Bibiana Wong “Mouse Models of Autism: Behavior and Genetics”

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN - Mentor: James Sutcliffe, Ph.D.; Fellow: Jacob McCauley “Genetic Analysis of Serotonergic and GABA-ergic Genes in Autism”

University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA - Mentor: Alice Carter, Ph.D.; Fellow: Chantal Jennifer Kuhn ”The Impact of Parental Autism-related Cognitions on Interventions”

Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD - Mentor: Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D.; Fellow: To Be Determined “Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders”

Universidad Miguel Hernandez, San Juan de Alicante (Spain) - Mentor: Jorge J. Prieto, M.D., Ph.D.; Fellow: Edith Lopez Hurtado “Immuncytochemical and Morphometrical Analysis of Double Bouquet Cells Microcircuitry in the Cerebral Cortex of Autistic Patients”

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ - Mentor: Samuel Wang, Ph.D.; Fellow: Megan Sullivan “Multiphoton Investigation of Sensory Encoding in the Mammalian Cerebellum”