Held at Columbia's campus and virtually in April 2023, this event brought together 350+ participants to spread acceptance for neurodivergent conditions.
Juliette Gudknecht is an autistic/ADHD graduate student researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University, pursuing a PhD in ID/Autism starting this fall. She received her undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics and will receive her masters degree in applied statistics from Teachers College this spring. Juliette's research interests focus on the experiences of autistic students in educational contexts, and she is specifically interested in the reciprocal effect of academic self concept on academic achievement, specifically in neurodivergent populations. She is also the CEO of her own nonprofit, Autism and Neurodivergency Advocacy Association, aimed at mentoring, educating, and empowering neurodivergent individuals and allies. Juliette is dedicated to using her knowledge and skills to improve the lives of autistic adults and advocating for their rights and well-being.
Ara Bakhteyar (She/Her), is an autistic undergraduate student at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, pursuing a degree in Biophysics. She serves as the co-founder and co-president of Neurodivergent at Columbia University and is deeply dedicated to raising awareness and promoting acceptance of neurodevelopmental disabilities. Additionally, she is committed to providing support to neurodivergent individuals at Columbia and beyond. Throughout her studies, Ara has been actively involved in various research projects and was awarded the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) for her work on investigating the impact of periodontal diseases on the development of neurocognitive disorders. Currently, she works as a research assistant at the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, where she is exploring the micromechanical properties of human uterine layers related to implantation disorders.
Maycee McClure is an undergraduate student studying Neuroscience and Behavior at Columbia College. She is on the executive board for the “Neurodivergent at Columbia” club, and enjoys creating a conducive social environment for neurodivergent students, as well as discussing neurodivergent advocacy. She works as a research assistant in the Living Lab with the Psychology Department, studying motion processing and developing new performance measures that can more precisely describe differences in processing abilities between various groups. Maycee has a range of interests in applied research, from autism spectrum disorders to animal conservation, and is excited to explore work in these areas after graduation!
Dr Matt Zajic
Dr Matt Zajic is an assistant professor in the ID/Autism program at Teachers College. He is the advisor of the club “Neurodivergent at Columbia” and generously has helped to plan the event with us. His research interests surround understanding and supporting the writing development of autistic individuals, with specific attention to theory, measurement and assessment, and instruction.
Dr. Heather M. Brown was trained initially as an elementary school teacher, but she is now an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. She is also an autistic researcher passionate about supporting the academic achievement and overall well-being of autistic children, youth and adults. Her research aims to empower autistic individuals to be more self-confident in their neurodiversity and better understand the factors that most support their well-being at home, work and school. She currently serves as the chair of the Autism Spectrum Research Committee for the American Educational Research Association and a member of the Autistic Researcher Review Board for the Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health.
Professor Liz Pellicano has long been committed to transforming autism science so that it more accurately reflects everyday autistic life. She is Professor of Autism Research at University College London (UCL), having recently been Professor at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Previously, she was Professor of Autism Education and Director of the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at UCL Institute of Education. Her most recent research, funded by a Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council, identifies ways to bridge the gap between lab and life and open up research to greater involvement of Autistic people
themselves, with the aim of generating scientific discoveries that bring real benefits to Autistic people and their families.
Alex is a passionate advocate for individuals who are neurodivergent and happens to be on the autism spectrum herself. She holds a Masters degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and is the founder of her own company, ActuallyAlex. Her primary goal is to bridge the gap between neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals in order to eliminate the stigma surrounding invisible disabilities. Through her organization, she offers a variety of services such as informative sessions, consulting, and digital products that provide relatable stories, practical examples, and takeaway tools to promote better understanding, support, and validation between both groups in corporate and university settings.
Patrick is an autistic PhD candidate in developmental psychology in the Neurocognitive Development Lab at the University of California, Davis. His main research interest sensory processing and attention in autism. However, Patrick is more broadly interested in anything relevant to the well-being of autistic and neurodivergent people, and he has studied community perspectives regarding intervention and neurodiversity controversies. Patrick is a co-founder of the Autistic Researchers Committee at the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) and helped to found a neurodivergent peer-support and advocacy community at UC Davis. He maintains a blog, autisticscholar.com.
Emily is a counseling psychology graduate student at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. They are presently also a researcher affiliated with the University of Alberta in Alberta, Canada and the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. As an autistic and queer person, their research pertains to furthering the understanding of their community, specifically the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identities and autism, with a focus on autistic women/femme-identifying people.
Hari is a minimally-speaking autistic and adhder, who recently graduated from UC Berkeley, majoring in psychology and minoring in Disability Studies. At Berkeley, he was lead instructor for a semester-long class on autism, was the first nonspeaking president of the student org, Spectrum at Cal, wrote for the Daily Californian and was an RA at the university Psychology Labs as well as the UC Berkeley Disability Lab. Hari was awarded the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a presitigous scholarship which will assist him in pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, where he plans to conduct more research in autism. He also enjoys music, watching pro sports in addition to learning tennis. He loves creative writing with some of his poems and other work winning awards including a National Award at Carnegie Hall. Hari is passionate about disability advocacy and is a board member of ASAN. Hari was featured on President Obama’s Instagram campaign on the 30th anniversary of ADA.
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