Autism Speaks has announced the ninth cohort of Dennis Weatherstone Predoctoral Fellows. Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, this year's fellows will pursue two-year research projects under the mentorship of leading scientists in the field.
Launched in 2009 with a $3.75 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the program provides $64,000 over two years to as many as eight fellows annually for a broad range of basic and applied research aimed at improving the lives of children and adults on the autism spectrum. The program is named for the late financier Sir Dennis Weatherstone — who chaired the SNF board from 1996 to 2008 — and is intended to advance his commitment to the education of early-career scientists pursuing autism research.
Selected by a panel of scientists, medical specialists, and community advocates, this year's fellows include Maya Reiter, who, under the mentorship of Ralph-Axel Müller at San Diego State University, will use non-invasive brain imaging techniques to assess the risk for challenges in mental health and daily living among adolescents affected by autism; Murat Kilinc, who will work with Gavin Rumbaugh at the Scripps Research Institute-Florida to seek biological targets for autism treatments by determining how different isoforms of the protein Syngap1 regulate dendritic development and synapse physiology in neurons; and Elyza Kelly, who, under the mentorship of Peter Tsai at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, will study the brain circuits underlying cerebellar regulation in autism to assess the potential therapeutic benefits of neural circuit modulation.
"By funding the development of these early-career scientists, we are fostering the innovative ideas and powerful collaborations needed to truly enhance the lives of people with autism," said Autism Speaks chief science officer Thomas Frazier. "The Weatherstone Predoctoral Fellowships are key to broadening and deepening research focused on understanding autism and the needs of those affected by it."