The STAR project is working to build professional capacity across disciplines through pre- and post-professional training in autism research and evidence-based practices.  Due to critical shortages of professionals with training in autism, many individuals and families lack access to diagnosis, care, and support in their communities.  By increasing the number of researchers and professionals with specialized training in autism, our goals are to accelerate the pace of autism research and to dramatically increase access to evidence-based care both locally and globally. 

  • ECHO Autism Networks

    ECHOs are case-based virtual networks that provide access to specialists at the local, state, and university level to improve the lives of individuals with autism.

    ECHO Autism Networks

Postdoctoral Fellows

  • STAR Postdocs

    Our postdoctoral fellows, along with undergraduate and graduate students receive interdisciplinary training in cutting-edge research and practice approaches, and have opportunities to co-develop, implement, and test innovative methods across fields of education, behavior analysis, psychology, and medicine.

    Beth Pokorski Natalie Badgett Melissa Robinson Nicole Zhong

Graduate Students

  • Christina Harkins

    Christina Harkins, M.Ed., is a doctoral student in the Clinical and School Psychology program working with Micah Mazurek, PhD. She received her bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology from the University of South Carolina and her master’s degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis from the University of Cincinnati. Christina’s research interests include co-occurring problems in ASD (sensory problems, aggression), comorbid psychopathology in ASD (ADHD, anxiety disorders), and novel assessment development. She hopes to improve outcomes for individuals and families affected by ASD through her research and clinical work in collaboration with the STAR program at UVA. Christina anticipates graduation in August of 2022 and intends to remain in academia to further her research on ASD and work clinically with the individuals who inspire her most.

  • Mary Margaret Hughes

    Mary Margaret Hughes is a doctoral student in special education at the University of Virginia working with Dr. William Therrien and the STAR (Supporting Transformative Autism Research) group.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Tech and a Master’s in Special Education from The University of Virginia. Mary Margaret has worked with people with disabilities across the lifespan, in a variety of settings from residential group homes to private and public schools.  She taught special education for a combined 14 years in functional skills classrooms, as a general special education teacher, and most recently in a resource room for elementary students with autism. For many of her years of teaching, Mary Margaret also held leadership roles, including Assistant Clinical Coordinator at a private ABA school for students with Autism and as Special Education Team Leader in local public schools.  Her research interests include addressing barriers to inclusion in standards based general education curriculum for students with autism, as well as the socioeconomic disparities in access to services.   

  • Michelle Menezes

    Michelle Menezes graduated from Brown University in December of 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. After graduation, she worked as a research consultant for the Health Equity Research Laboratory and the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance on a variety of projects aimed at improving youth mental health. She had a particular interest in studies focused on the mental health care of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Michelle also worked as a therapist for children with a variety of special needs, including autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In this role, she prepared and followed treatment plans to address the psychological and behavioral difficulties of her clients. In the fall of 2018, Michelle began her graduate study in the Curry School’s Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology program with Dr. Micah Mazurek as her advisor. Michelle’s research focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring mental health problems.

  • Sarah Emily Schutz

    Sarah Emily Schutz is a special education doctoral student in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education program at the Curry School of Education and Human Development. She graduated with a B.A.E. in Elementary Education and a M.Ed. in Special Education from the University of Florida. Previously, she worked in an Applied Behavior Analysis clinic before moving to Washington D.C. There she was a special education inclusion teacher and Response to Intervention coordinator at an elementary school. Her research interests include pragmatic language development and reading comprehension as well as cooperative learning interventions for students with autism She is also interested in professional development to support co-teaching and inclusion for in-service teachers.

Undergraduate Students

We are currently seeking undergraduate students interested in learning more about autism by assisting on current and future autism-focused research projects! If interested, email Moira Johnson at Our current undergraduate research assistants and students enrolled in directed research include:

  • Current Undergrad Students

    Elena Casalino
    Grace Clement
    Rachel Corney
    Summer Daub
    Mackenzie Cooper
    Sanchia Fernandes
    Eric Guilfoyle
    John Hollon
    Emma Howard
    Britney Huff
    Alyssa Lee
    Kate Lowenstein
    Caroline Marshall
    Madelynn Park
    Alexis Payne
    Alex Rode
    Rose Spainhour
    Carlee Strathmann