Meet our team!

Principal Investigator 

Suma Jacob, MD, PhD

Suma Jacob

Suma Jacob, MD, PhD is the co-director of the CAN Lab. She is a Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. Suma received honors for her AB undergraduate degree at The University of Chicago and her thesis on “Hemispheric Asymmetries in Attention on a Lateralized Continuous Performance Task”. Continuing at the UofC, she did her PhD and post-doctoral research in the emerging field of social neuroscience. She studied hormone-pathway chemical signals and how they act as modulator pheromones to influence another human’s biology, mood, and unconscious behaviors. Dr. Jacob completed her medical training at UofC and residency in adult, child, and adolescent psychiatry at UCLA, UofC, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is double board certified and her research focuses on biomarkers, genetic risk, and treatment targets for neurodevelopmental disorders including autism. Her transdiagnostic research focuses on compulsive and social behaviors; her therapeutic modalities include group and systems interventions. Her current work focuses on data-driven approaches in early development that will differentially predict dimensional and categorical diagnostic outcomes.

Angela Tseng, Ph.D

Angela Tseng
Angela Tseng, Ph.D. earned her doctorate in Child Psychology and Neuroscience from the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, where she trained in the use of neuroimaging techniques (e.g., fMRI, high-density EEG) and imaging genomics in the context of a research-oriented program focused on developmental psychology. Subsequently, she completed a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) sponsored Postdoctoral Fellowship for Translational Research in Child Psychiatric Disorders at Columbia University College of Physician & Surgeons. Concurrently, as a recipient of the Gray Matters at Columbia Research Fellowship, she began to work towards improving our understanding of the neural underpinnings of social and cognitive function in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Before joining the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Minnesota, she was a Research Associate at the Institute for Translational Research (ITR) in Children’s Mental Health where she worked to bridge the gap between research and practice in children’s mental health. Presently, her primary research focus in the CAN Lab is on the development of novel interventions and treatments for Autism Spectrum and related Neurodevelopmental Disorders. In addition, Dr. Tseng is principal investigator for the PAAD (Project to Assess Assistance Dogs) Study which aims to elucidate genetic and biobehavioral factors that contribute to the psychosocial benefits of assistance dogs in the lives of children with ASD and their families. This project also includes a longitudinal exploratory investigation of the genetic and behavioral traits that underpin successful outcomes for potential assistance dogs and human-animal partnerships.

Marwa W. Ibrahim

e Marwa graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor's of science in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience. In the lab, Marwa acts as the coordinator lead for the V1aduct study while helping coordinate other studies and working on outreach/recruitment tasks. Her favorite part about working in the lab is interacting with participants and witnessing the research process unfolds. Her long term goal is to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical or Counseling psychology. Outside of the lab, Marwa enjoys spending time with her friends and Family and watching Netflix.

Amy Yang

Amy is a first-generation Hmong college graduate from the University of Minnesota Rochester with a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. In the lab, she is a Research Coordinator for the SPARK autism genetics study and assists with outreach and recruitment strategies. Amy is especially interested in investigating genetic and behavioral traits of children with ASD and other comorbid neurodevelopmental disorders. Her interests outside of the lab include couponing, cooking, nurturing her plant babies, and being a great aunt to her nieces and nephews. 

Andrea Jarratt - Research Coordinator (Alumni)

e

Andrea has a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and a Master of Library and Information Science. She has previously worked as a science research librarian. In the CAN Lab she primarily works on our lab's outreach efforts, managing volunteers, the FiND Network, and SPARK, a nationwide autism genetics study. Outside of research, she enjoys playing and listening to music, cooking for friends and family, and spending time with her daughter, Eleanor, and two small dogs, Claude and Mac. 

Lizzy Egbert (Alumni)

Lizzy Egbert

Lizzy is a counseling psychology doctoral student at the University of St. Thomas. Her research interests include how to effectively implement evidenced based practices to reduce rates of recidivism with clinical-forensic populations. In addition to working in the CAN Lab, Lizzy works at the Center for Personalized Prevention Research where she assists in the coordination and training of research staff. 

Gregory Hooks - Research Coordinator (Alumni)

Gregory Hooks

Greg worked with participants and personnel to run multiple studies in the lab, supervised volunteers, and helped out with other outreach and data projects. Greg was a longtime volunteer in the lab before his appointment as a research coordinator. Outside of school, Greg is an avid motorsport fan, a lifelong hockey player, and dabbles in art and carpentry projects.

Principal Investigator 

Christine Conelea, PhD

photo

Christine Conelea, PhD is the co-director of the CAN Lab. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota and a licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Conelea received her BA from the University of Nevada, Reno and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She completed a predoctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship in child mental health at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Her training has been supported by T32, F32, and K23 awards from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Prior to coming to Minnesota, Dr. Conelea was an Assistant Professor (Research) at Brown University Medical School. Dr. Conelea's research interests are in Tourette Syndrome/tic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anxiety disorders. She is particularly interested in understanding how the brain, environment, and psychosocial factors interact to impact symptoms and treatment outcome. Dr. Conelea's research integrates behavioral and neuroscience methods, including neuromodulation and brain imaging. She is also interested in dissemination of efficacious cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) and in studying ways to improve CBT outcomes.

Jennifer Alexander, Ph.D.

Jennifer Alexander

Jennifer Alexander, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral associate in the CAN Lab.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Accounting from Washington University in St. Louis, her master’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University, and her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Marquette University.  Mirroring the focus of her graduate clinical and research training, Dr. Alexander’s interests primarily center on obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders (such as Tourette’s disorder, trichotillomania, and OCD) and anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and adults.  In terms of research, she is particularly interested in improving the experiences of individuals with these disorders and their family members by (1) advancing understanding of the neural, psychological (e.g., emotion regulation tendencies), and sociocultural factors that activate, maintain, and exacerbate these disorders and (2) improving treatments of these disorders.

In her spare time, Dr. Alexander enjoys spending time with her friends and family, discovering the best places to get cheese curds and custard, and reading Harry Potter.

Katie Beard

Katie Beard

Katie Beard graduated with a B.S. in psychology and neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She currently works in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences as a research coordinator as well as in the Autism Spectrum and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Clinic and Voyager Clinic in the Department of Pediatrics. She will also be doing various projects through the community LEND fellowship during 2019-2020. Her research interests include helping to better provide services to families with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders as well as social skills training, behavioral therapy (i.e. ABA), and neuromodulation for these individuals. She enjoys songwriting, crossfit, and veganism. 

Megan DuBois - Research Coordinator

m

Megan graduated from St. Olaf College with a B.A. in Psychology and American Studies. She is a Research Coordinator In the CAN lab and works primarily on the AV1ation study and the Cognitive Training study. Her research interests include further understanding neurodevelopmental disorders and exploring how new interventions can work to improve symptoms. Her favorite part about working in the lab is the opportunity to learn more about these topics and work directly with families. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking and spending time outside with friends and family.

Richard Nguyen

RichardNguyen

Richard Nguyen graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in neuroscience. He is a research coordinator in the CAN lab and primarily works on the SPARK and FiND programs. Before his appointment in the CAN lab, he was working in the field as an EMT. Outside of the lab he has interests in tennis, cycling, singing/songwriting, and fixing stuff.

Natasha Lillie - Research Coordinator (Alumni)

Natasha Lillie

Natasha worked on SPARK, our autism genetics study, as well as various other projects in the lab. Natasha is currently attending a graduate program in genetic counseling and will continue to work with families affected by neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic conditions. In her free time she enjoys taking care of her plants and cooking.

Jesse Dzombak - Research Coordinator (Alumni)

Jesse Dzombak

Jesse Dzombak works with the Converging Approaches to Neurodevelopment (CAN) Lab and the Minnesota Center for Eating Disorders Research at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. His research interests include dimensional approaches to the operationalization and assessment of transdiagnostic behavior maintenance mechanisms of impulsivity, compulsivity, and habit. He is especially interested in investigating these mechanisms within such conditions as eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, body-focused repetitive behaviors (e.g., hair-pulling, skin-picking), tics, and nonsuicidal self-injury. He is most interested in projects that aim to translate existing assessments to idiographic behavioral contexts in order to elucidate their cognitive and affective valences, determine the mechanisms by which they are maintained, and develop more efficacious interventions for psychiatric disorders.