Morse Scholars

Current Morse Scholars

Desia Bacon, MS

Curriculum Vitae

My work centers on how infants learn language and how they utilize perceptual and social cues in their environment to facilitate that learning. In one line of research I am working to understand how social information is linked with language and objects, and how infants use this ubiquitous source of information in language learning. Understanding how and when infants begin to harness social category information in language processing will provide a new view into the timing of these developmental processes. I plan to extend this work to individuals with developmental disabilities, allowing us to assess how minimally verbal and non-verbal children use these cues during online language processing.

Another line of research investigates the role color plays in the way infants build their semantic representations to aid in identifying familiar objects, as well as learning about novel objects.

Home Department: Psychology 

Major Professor: Jenny Saffran, PhD 

Disciplines that I pull from in my research include: Psychology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Linguistics, Sociology, Education

Articles That Influenced My Research:  

Perry, L. K., & Saffran, J. R. (2016). Is a Pink Cow Still a Cow? Individual Differences in Toddlers’ Vocabulary Knowledge and Lexical Representations. Cognitive Science. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12370.

Kinzler, K. D., Shutts, K., & Correll, J. (2010). Priorities in social categories. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(4), 581–592.

Borovsky, A., & Creel, S. (2014). Children and adults integrate talker and verb information in online processing. Developmental Psychology50(5), 1600–1613.

Dudley-Marling, C., & Lucas, K. (2009). Pathologizing the Language and Culture of Poor Children. Language Arts, 86(5), 362-370.

Lee-James, R., & Washington, J. A. (2018). Language Skills of Bidialectal and Bilingual Children. Topics in Language Disorders38(1), 5-26.

Robbie Dembo, PhD

Curriculum Vitae

I am currently a T32 postdoctoral fellow in the Lifespan Family Research lab at the Waisman Center. My research agenda is broadly concerned with identifying compensatory resources that support the well-being of parents of children with developmental disabilities over the life course. The goal of this line of work is to better understand the social (e.g., egocentric networks) and psychological (e.g., coping styles) factors that facilitate resilience under conditions of chronic caregiving stress. I also have a strong interest in using research to promote racial/ethnic and socioeconomic equity in the context of intellectual and developmental disabilities, specifically in relation to health services and outcomes.

Postdoctoral Training Mentors: Marsha Mailick, PhD, and Leann Smith DaWalt, PhD

Disciplines that I pull from in my research: Sociology, Social Psychology, Network Science, Human Development and Family Studies, and Gerontology

Articles that influenced my research:

Berkman, L. F., Glass, T., Brissette, I., & Seeman, T. E. (2000). From social integration to health: Durkheim in the new millennium. Social science & medicine51(6), 843-857.

Kahn, R. L., & Antonucci, T. C. (1980). Convoys over the life course: Attachment, roles, and social support. In P. B. Baltes & O. Brim (Eds.), Life-span development and behavior (Vol. 3, pp. 254–283). Academies Press.

Borgatti, S. P., & Halgin, D. S. (2011). On Network Theory. Organization Science, 22(5), 1168–1181.

Mailick Seltzer, M., Floyd, F., Song, J., Greenberg, J., & Hong, J. (2011). Midlife and Aging Parents of Adults With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: Impacts of Lifelong Parenting. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 116(6), 479–499.

Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1985). If it changes it must be a process: Study of emotion and coping during three stages of a college examination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(1), 150–170.

Jessie Greenlee, PhD

Curriculum Vitae

The overarching goal of my research is to understand the role of the family environment in the socioemotional development of children with special healthcare needs, with a particular focus on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I am interested in exploring how the emotional climate of the family during early childhood, such as exposure to parental mental health or interparental conflict, may put children at risk for maladaptive developmental trajectories as well as family factors that foster healthy socioemotional functioning. My work increasingly focuses on how neurobiological predispositions and the unique care needs of children with ASD interact with the family environment to shape socioemotional and mental health outcomes. I hope my research directly informs policy, practice, and prevention and promotes the healthy development of children with ASD.

Postdoctoral Training Mentor: Sigan Hartley, PhD

Disciplines that I pull from in my research: Psychology, Human Development and Family Studies, Education, Sociology, Neurophysiology

Articles that influenced my research:

Baker, J. K., Seltzer, M. M., & Greenberg, J. S. (2011). Longitudinal effects of adaptability on behavior problems and maternal depression in families of adolescents with autism. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 601–609.

Boykin, W., & Allen, B. A. (2002). Beyond deficits and difference psychological integrity in developmental research. In E. W. Gordon (Ed.), Producing knowledge, pursing understanding, (15-34). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Cridland, E. K., Jones, S. C., Magee, C. A., & Caputi, P. (2014). Family-focused autism spectrum disorder research: a review of the utility of family systems approaches. Autism : The International Journal of Research and Practice, 18(3), 213–222.

Mazefsky, C. A., Pelphrey, K. A., & Dahl, R. E. (2012). The need for a broader approach to emotion regulation research in autism. Child Development Perspectives, 6(1), 92–97.

Morris, A. S., Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., Myers, S. S., & Robinson, L. R. (2007). The role of the family context in the development of emotion regulation. Social Development, 16(2), 361–388.

O’Keefe, S. B., & Medina, C. M. (2016). Nine strategies for helping middle school students weather the perfect sotrm of disability, diversity, and adolescence. American Secondary Education, 44(3), 72-87.

Strauman, T. J. (2017). Self-Regulation and pychopathology: Toward an integrative translational research paradigm. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 13, 497–523.

White, S. W., Mazefsky, C. A., Dichter, G. S., Chiu, P. H., Richey, J. A., & Ollendick, T. H. (2014). Social-cognitive, physiological, and neural mechanisms underlying emotion regulation impairments: Understanding anxiety in autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 39, 22–36.




Emily Lorang, MS, CCC-SLP
Emily Lorang, MS, CCC-SLP

Curriculum Vitae

My research focuses on intrinsic and extrinsic factors that contribute to language learning in young children with developmental disabilities, including children with Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders. Specifically, my research investigates the relationships between parent and child factors during naturalistic parent-child interactions. By including both mothers and fathers, we can better understand similarities and differences in parent behaviors, which may shed light on ways in which parents may need different supports during parent-coached interventions. In addition, I am particularly interested in how we can gain additional insight into interactions and child language development through the use of multiple methods, including standardized measures, behavioral coding, parent report, physiological measures of parent-child synchrony, and Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA).

Home Departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders

Major Professor: Audra Sterling, PhD

Disciplines that I pull from in my research include: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Human Development and Family Studies, Developmental Psychology, Linguistics

Articles That Influenced My Research: 

Adamson LB, Bakeman R, Deckner DF, Romski M. (2009). Joint engagement and the emergence of language in children with autism and Down syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39, 84–96. PMCID: PMC2640949

Brady N, Warren SF, Fleming K, Keller J, Sterling A. (2014). Effect of sustained maternal responsivity on later vocabulary development in children with fragile X syndrome. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57, 212–226. PMCID: PMC3864610

de Falco S, Esposito G, Venuti P, Bornstein MH. (2010). Mothers and fathers at play with their children with Down syndrome: Influence on child exploratory and symbolic activity. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23, 597–605. PMCID: PMC3530190

Sterling A, Warren SF. (2014). Maternal responsivity in mothers of young children with Down syndrome. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 17, 306–317. PMCID: PMC4113603

Zhan (Ross) Luo

Curriculum Vitae

My research investigates the genetic and environmental contributions to brain structure and how individual differences in brain measures relate to psychopathology such as anxiety disorders. I utilize a wide range of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques such as diffusion-weighted MRI and quantitative T1 relaxometry to characterize specific brain properties ranging from neurite dispersion to axonal myelination. My hope is that better understanding the genetic basis of individual differences in brain structure can inform both typical and atypical brain development.

Home Department: Neuroscience (Neuroscience Training Program)

Major Professor: Andy Alexander, PhD

Disciplines that I pull from in my research include: Neuroscience, Psychology, Medical Physics, Radiology

Articles That Influenced My Research: 

Alexander AL, Lee JE, Lazar M, Field AS. (2007). Diffusion tensor imaging of the brain. Neurotherapeutics: The Journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 4(3), 316–329. PMCID: PMC2041910

Adluru, N., Luo, Z., Van Hulle, C.A., Schoen, A.J., Davidson, R.J., Alexander, A.L., Goldsmith, H.H., 2017. Anxiety-related experience-dependent white matter structural differences in adolescence: A monozygotic twin difference approach. Scientific Reports 7, 1–11.

Chung, M.K., Luo, Z., Adluru, N., Alexander, A.L., Davidson, R.J., Goldsmith, H.H., 2018. Heritability of nested hierarchical structural brain network, in: 40th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC). Presented at the 40th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), pp. 554–557.

Jahanshad, N., Kochunov, P.V., Sprooten, E., Mandl, R.C., Nichols, T.E., Almasy, L., Blangero, J., Brouwer, R.M., Curran, J.E., de Zubicaray, G.I., Duggirala, R., Fox, P.T., Hong, L.E., Landman, B.A., Martin, N.G., McMahon, K.L., Medland, S.E., Mitchell, B.D., Olvera, R.L., Peterson, C.P., Starr, J.M., Sussmann, J.E., Toga, A.W., Wardlaw, J.M., Wright, M.J., Hulshoff Pol, H.E., Bastin, M.E., McIntosh, A.M., Deary, I.J., Thompson, P.M., Glahn, D.C., 2013. Multi-site genetic analysis of diffusion images and voxelwise heritability analysis: a pilot project of the ENIGMA-DTI working group. Neuroimage 81, 455–469.

Zhang, H., Schneider, T., Wheeler-Kingshott, C.A., Alexander, D.C., 2012. NODDI: Practical in vivo neurite orientation dispersion and density imaging of the human brain. NeuroImage 61, 1000–1016.



Olivia Surgent
Olivia Surgent

Curriculum Vitae

My research focuses broadly on sensorimotor integration in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I am particularly interested in the neural mechanisms of motor modulation in response to sensory feedback from the environment and how these mechanisms may be different in individuals with ASD compared to those with typical development or other developmental disorders. In order to further characterize these neural mechanisms of sensorimotor integration, I am to use behavioral measures of sensory and motor function along with innovative structural and functional neuroimaging techniques.

Home Department: Neuroscience (Neuroscience Training Program)

Major Professors: Brittany Travers, PhD and Brendon Nacewicz, MD, PhD

Disciplines that I pull from in my research include: Neuroscience, Psychology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Computer Science.

Articles that influenced my research:

Cascio, C. J., Woynaroski, T., Baranek, G. T., & Wallace, M. T. (2016). Toward an interdisciplinary approach to understanding sensory function in autism spectrum disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary approach. Autism Research, 9(9), 920–925. doi:10.1002/aur.1612

Nacewicz, B. M., Angelos, L., Dalton, K. M., Fischer, R., Anderle, M. J., Alexander, A. L., & Davidson, R. J. (2012). Reliable non-invasive measurement of human neurochemistry using proton spectroscopy with an anatomically defined amygdala-specific voxel. NeuroImage, 59(3), 2548–2559. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.08.090

Robertson, C. E., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2017). Sensory perception in autism. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 18(11), 671–684. doi:10.1038/nrn.2017.112

Travers, B. G., Bigler, E. D., Tromp, D. P. M., Adluru, N., Destiche, D., Samsin, D., Froehlich, A., Prigge, M. D. B., Duffield, T. C., Lange, N., Alexander, A., Lainhart, J. (2015). Brainstem White Matter Predicts Individual Differences in Manual Motor Difficulties and Symptom Severity in Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(9), 3030–3040. doi:10.1007/s10803-015-2467-9

Morse Scholars Reunion 2018

Morse Scholars Reunion 2018

Morse Scholars Reunion - 2018