University of Wisconsin–Madison

Program Directors


Seth Pollak, PhDSeth D. Pollak, PhD
College of Letters and Science
Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Anthropology, and Pediatrics

Professor Pollak is the Director of the Waisman Center’s Clinical Translational Core, and holds the College of Letters and Science Distinguished Professorship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also holds appointments in the UW Department of Pediatrics, Biological Anthropology, Neuroscience and Public Affairs. Pollak received dual PhDs in Child Clinical Psychology and Brain & Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester, earned a masters degree in child development from Harvard University, and studied philosophy of mind at Oxford University. A Waisman Center IDDRC investigator since 1997, his research examines environmental risk factors on children’s brain and behavioral development, with particular focus on emotions and children’s health. His research is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating psychophysiological, experimental, hormonal, and epigenetic methods. He has published more than 150 articles across variety of sub-disciplines. His research has been funded continuously by the NIH since 2000. He is currently the chair of the Clinical and the Developmental graduate programs within the Psychology Department. Dr. Pollak has been a Visiting Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute and a visiting fellow at the American Academy in Rome. He has been the recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health fellowship in developmental psychopathology, the Boyd-McCandless Award for Distinguished Contributions to Child Development, and the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association for Psychological Science. Dr. Pollak also serves on the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development.


Brittany G. Travers, PhDBrittany G. Travers, PhD
Assistant Professor, Occupational Therapy Program in Department of Kinesiology

Dr. Brittany G. Travers joined the faculty of University of Wisconsin-Madison in August of 2014 as an assistant professor in the Occupational Therapy Program in the Department of Kinesiology. In her first years as faculty, she has established a strong track record of independent funding and publication, and she was bestowed the Young Investigator Award by the International Society for Autism Research in May of 2016. Dr. Travers’s research program – the Motor Lab – housed at the Waisman Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, combines neuroimaging measures with quantitative measures of motor function, cognition, and daily living skills in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her work is inherently interdisciplinary, as Dr. Travers is a trained cognitive psychologist who received interdisciplinary postdoctoral training in developmental disorders and biomedical physics.

Founding Director:

Marsha Mailick, PhDMarsha R. Mailick, PhD
Vaughan Bascom and Elizabeth M. Boggs Professor
Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education

Dr. Marsha R. Mailick is the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison). She received her undergraduate education at the UW-Madison in Psychology and Sociology, and her PhD in social policy from Brandeis University. She was on the faculty of Boston University before joining UW-Madison in 1988. From 2002 until 2014, she served as Director of the Waisman Center. She is the author of more than 200 publications. The focus of Dr. Mailick’s research is on the life course trajectory of developmental disabilities. She is interested in how the behavioral phenotype of specific developmental disabilities, including autism, fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome, changes during adolescence, adulthood, and old age. In addition, she studies how the family environment affects the development of individuals with disabilities during these stages of life, and reciprocally how parents and siblings of individuals with disabilities are affected. Her current research includes three projects: a 14-year longitudinal study of autism during adolescence and adulthood, research on a demographically-representative sample of parents of individuals with developmental disabilities, and a study of family adaptation to fragile X syndrome (FXS). She recently completed an epidemiological study of the premutation of FXS and a 20-year follow up of a cohort of older adults with Down syndrome, examining how the family environment shapes outcomes in midlife and old age. Together, these studies offer insights about developmental disabilities across the life course, and the impacts on families.


The Morse Society was founded and initially co-directed by Professors Marsha Mailick and Seth Pollak.

Drs. Mailick and Pollak have complementary yet overlapping areas of scientific expertise. Dr. Pollak is an internationally renowned scientist focused on factors that compromise brain development and functioning, whereas Dr. Mailick focuses her research on specific IDD syndromes and disorders. Both are concerned with how the social and affective environment can compromise or optimize development, and both incorporate biological measures into their research as well as social and psychological approaches. Both have been long-time investigators at the Waisman Center, which greatly facilitates their co-administration of the training program, and they have worked closely for many years in the administration of the Waisman Center’s IDDRC. They were both thrilled to co-leading the Morse Society Fellows program. In 2016 Dr. Brittany Travers, a member of the inaugural class of Morse Scholars, became the Society’s Co-Director. Dr. Travers focuses on IDD conditions, such as autism, with a focus on motor and cognitive development.