University of Missouri
205 Portland Street
Columbia, MO 65211



Stephen Sheinkopf, PhD

Professor and Thompson Endowed Chair. Child Health
Executive Director, Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopment

Dr. Sheinkopf’s research employs novel approaches to studying risk for autism in infancy and on improved understanding of heterogeneous outcomes in autism spectrum disorders. Current projects utilize psychophysiology tools to interrogate individual differences in attention, arousal, and regulation in relation to developmental outcomes in children and adults with autism, and use of cry acoustics and neurobehavioral measures to identify indicators of risk for autism in early infancy. Dr. Sheinkopf’s research extends to other pediatric populations as well, including research on developmental course in children with prenatal exposures and children born premature. Throughout his career, Dr. Sheinkopf has maintained a deep commitment to clinical service, training, and mentorship. He maintains an active early diagnostic clinic and has mentored numerous trainees, ranging from undergraduate students to early career clinicians and scientists.


David Beversdorf, MD

Associate Professor, Departments of Radiology, Neurology, and Psychology

Dr. Beversdorf is currently involved in research on autism, drug abuse, dementia, cognitive effects of stress, the cognitive neuroscience of problem solving ability, functional neuroimaging, and pharmacological modulation of cognition. He has joined the University of Missouri in the departments of Radiology, Neurology, Psychology and the Thompson Center as an Associate Professor to focus on the field of autism, with particular interest in pharmaco-functional neuroimaging as a potential treatment marker, and gene/stress interactions in the development of autism.

Benjamin Black, MD

Assistant Professor, Department of Child Health

Dr. Black’s clinical and research work has focused on optimizing treatments for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including Autism and ADHD.  He remains a busy clinician, and it is his work with patients and their families that informs his research endeavors.  The goal of his research and clinical work is the same – to improve the lives of children and their families affected by neurodevelopmental disorders.  His research background has largely focused on identifying subsets of populations that may respond differently to specific treatments. He is actively involved in clinical trials of new medications for patients with autism spectrum disorder.


Paul Carney, MD

Professor, Departments of Child Health, Neurology, and Biomedical Engineering

Dr. Carney’s research is based on the fundamental neuropsychological paradigms of learning, namely, to induce changes in the brain and behavior, combining it with innovative developments in systems neuroscience and genetics, and computational algorithms. The central theme of his work is that he combines engineering, genetics, and neuroscience with medical research to develop more effective therapies for neurological disease. This leverages his experience as both a clinician and scientist. The passion that drives Dr. Carney’s career is the search for better ways to prevent and treat chronic neurological disease. In his computational neuroscience work, Dr. Carney seeks to implement new methods and models for the characterization of temporally dynamic, spatially embedded, and multi-scale network systems, with the goal of predicting systems behavior and designing perturbations to characterize and treat individuals with syndromic autism spectrum and genetic epileptic disorders.

Nancy Cheak-Zamora, PhD

Associate Professor, School of Health Professions

Dr. Cheak-Zamora’s research centers on the utilization of complex measurement tools to evaluate health status and health disparities in the uninsured, in the chronically ill, and within various populations with limited access to health care. Other areas of interest include HIV prevention and care, autism research and health policy.

Shawn E. Christ, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences

Research in Dr. Christ’s lab is primarily aimed at increasing our understanding of the cognitive and neural processes underlying typical and atypical development. As such, much of the work focuses on the development of cognitive abilities in children with neurodevelopmental disorders (primarly autism, but also other disorders such as phenylketonuria). In addition to conducting behavioral studies, Dr. Christ’s lab also utilizes neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, sMRI, DTI) to better elucidate the neural substrates of cognition in individuals with and without early brain injury.

Brad Ferguson, PhD

Assistant Research Professor, Departments of Health Psychology & Radiology

Dr. Ferguson’s main research focus involves the study of the gut-brain relationship and how the stress response and anxiety relate to gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in autism spectrum disorder. His goal is to better understand the mechanisms underlying GI symptoms in ASD so that more precise treatments may be created to increase the quality of life in those with ASD. Dr. Ferguson is also involved in clinical trials in ASD where he uses multiple methods (fMRI, electrocardiogram, skin conductance, pupillary light reflex, and endocrinological and immunological techniques) in an attempt to find treatment response biomarkers for core and co-occurring symptoms in ASD.

Christina McCrae, PhD

Professor in the MU Department of Psychiatry and director of the MizZzou Sleep Research Lab

McCrae’s work in the area of autism is relatively recent, but stems logically from her longstanding interest in comorbid insomnia and the impact of treatment for insomnia on co-occurring disorders. She is a licensed psychologist who is board certified in behavioral sleep andshe have a background in clinical psychology with specialized training and expertise in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavioral sleep medicine. In 2005, sheI completed the NIH/OBSS training program on the conduction of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving behavioral interventions. Since 1999, she have been involved in the conduction of multiple federally-funded RCTs involving CBT.

Judith Miles, MD, PhD

Professor Emerita, Child Health-Genetics

Dr. Miles research interests are the delineation of the clinical and genetic heterogeneity within the autism behavioral diagnosis and how this information can be used to improve diagnosis, find specific genetic and epigenetic causes and to direct treatment choices which will improve outcomes. Collaborative studies with Dr. Ye Duan are using advanced computational techniques to extract 3D surface models of brain structure and analyze brain anatomy including volume, asymmetry and highly localized shape variations. Studies with Dr. Gary Yao are analyzing the dynamic pupillary reflex, as a technique to evaluate functions of the retina, midbrain and cortex which can help characterize brain function in children with autism.  Additional research studies include investigations of the differences between males and females with autism, the role of macrocephaly as an autism risk factor and the relationship between facial and brain structure in autism.

Kerri Nowell, PhD

Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Health Psychology

Dr. Kerri P. Nowell is an Assistant Clinical Professor and Licensed Psychologist in the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri. She is the Principal Investigator for several research grants, leads autism diagnostic clinics, and provides clinical supervision and training for students at various training levels. Prior to obtaining her doctoral degree from the University of Houston, Dr. Nowell was a Site Supervisor for the Simons Simplex Collection at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Nowell has clinical expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She also has considerable experience with interdisciplinary collaboration in clinical and research contexts.

Dr. Nowell’s research focuses broadly on improving the diagnostic process for individuals suspected of having ASD. Specifically, her clinical research to date has focused on diagnostic evaluation and characterization of the ASD phenotype. Her scientific contributions fall into three major categories: 1) characterizing phenotypic profiles in ASD with an aim to identify possible subpopulations within the spectrum 2) working on interdisciplinary research teams to examine the relation between behavioral phenotype and genotype, and 3) examining how socio-demographic and individual factors may influence timeliness of ASD diagnosis.

Janine Stichter, PhD

Professor, Department of Special Education

Dr. Stichter presents nationally and conducts research in the following areas: Implementation science, social competence and the antecedent strategies. She has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, provided over 120 national and international presentations, developed and published a suite of curricula(The Social Competence Curricula) focused on Social Competence K-12, and has received over $12 Million in federal grants including the Institute of Educational Sciences, National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health as Principal Investigator and Co- Investigator.

Dr. Stichter’s research interests include:

  • Study of social skills assessment and intervention for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
  • Correlation of specific environmental variables with increases in communication and pro-social behavior in children and youth with Emotional Behavioral Disorders (EBD) and ASD.
  • Antecedent Interventions for children with social and behavioral challenges.

Gang Yao, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Biological Engineering

Dr. Yao’s research interests include:

  • Biomedical optics, photon migration in turbid media and subsurface imaging.
  • Tissue optics and non-invasive tissue characterization.
  • Optical imaging in vision studies, dynamic pupil light reflex and cortical imaging.
  • Biomedical instrumentation and signal/image processing.