Our Goals

The study’s primary goal is to understand how communication features associated with autism and fragile X syndrome are shaped by genetic and physiological factors. Our work often adopts a family approach, where we study both children affected by neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as their parents.

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Our Team

Our team is comprised of a wonderful, interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate student research assistants who contribute to this research. The team is directed by Dr. Jessica Klusek. Interested in joining our team? We are currently recruiting PhD students, post-docs, and undergraduate students interested in becoming involved.


Our Lab

Our research facilities are located on the campus of the University of South Carolina in the Montgomery Speech and Hearing Clinic at 1705 College Street. Visitors can park in the Close-Hipp parking garage on Henderson Street. We are conveniently located within walking distance to Columbia’s Five Points district, home to a number of local eateries and shopping.

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Jessica Klusek

PhD CCC-SLP

Dr. Jessica Klusek is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Klusek received her PhD in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She followed her doctoral training with an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship in Psychology at the University of South Carolina, where she completed interdisciplinary training in physiology, psychology, and genetics. Dr. Klusek is also a certified, licensed speech-language pathologist.

Carly Moser

Doctoral Student

Carly is a doctoral student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of South Carolina. She completed her BA in Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2016. Upon graduating, she joined the Neurodevelopmental Disorders Lab working as a research specialist, conducting assessments with children with developmental disorders. Her current research interests include understanding the behavioral phenotype of FMR1 mutations and exploring factors contributing to the variability in developmental outcomes in those with fragile X syndrome.

CarlyMoser1
Jillian Gierman

Jillian Gierman

Research Specialist

Jillian is from Cary, NC and is currently working as a research specialist in the lab. She attended the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a minor in Speech and Hearing Sciences in May 2018. Upon graduating, Jillian worked at the UNC Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, where she was a research specialist for an NIH-funded study on aging, disability, and long-term care. In the future, she plans to earn her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology, with particular interest in neurological disorders, such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease.

Sara Mousavi

Graduate Student

Sara is a graduate student pursuing her Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of South Carolina. In the lab, she primarily focuses on narrative coding as well as administering assessments of research participants. She grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in English and Education. When she graduates, she is interested in working with families and their infants in early intervention and specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Sara Mousavi
Lyndsay Schmitt

Lyndsay Schmitt

Graduate Student

Lyndsay is a graduate assistant in the lab and is currently a first-year master’s in speech pathology student.  In the lab, she works on a variety of projects including working alongside Alyssa in coding different autism subtypes as well as beginning her master’s thesis on results of antisaccade tasks and their relationship to anxiety.

Azalfa Lateef

Undergraduate

Azalfa, a Columbia native, is a junior majoring in biochemistry. Her work in the lab includes heart activity data analysis to create a pathophysiological phenotype of women with the FMR1 premutation and the broad autism phenotype.  She is currently working on her Explorations Project and she recently received her Magellan’s Scholars Grant.

Emma Grace Cornell

Emma Grace Cornell 

Undergraduate

Emma Grace is from Greenville, SC and works in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant. She is currently in her junior year, pursuing her undergraduate degree in Public Health with a minor in Business Administration. After graduation, she plans to earn her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. In the lab, Emma Grace is working alongside graduate students to help code mothers with the FMR1 premutation using a Pragmatic Rating Scale.

Alyssa Campanelli

Undergraduate

Alyssa, a West Columbia native, is a sophomore majoring in biochemistry.  In the lab, she will receive an Exploration Grant to study the relationship between social interaction style and language ability of a sample of boys with autism and fragile x syndrome.

Alyssa Campanelli
Veronica McLean

Veronica McLean

Undergraduate

Veronica is from Blythewood, SC and is currently in her senior year. She is pursuing her undergraduate degrees in Psychology and in English. As a SURF grant recipient in the Honors College, Veronica works in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant, completing her project on story grammar coding and narrative ability associated with the FMR1 premutation. She hopes to attend law school after graduating in May 2020.

Emily Szabo

Graduate Assistant

Emily is originally from Greenville, SC and is currently a Graduate Assistant in the lab. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Clemson University in December 2018 and will begin University of South Carolina’ s Masters in Speech Pathology program in the fall. She will continue working in the lab throughout her time in the graduate program and hopes to complete a master’s thesis. In the future, Emily’s goal is to become a speech-language pathologist and work with children who have developmental disabilities such as autism, fragile X and Down syndrome.

Emily Szabo
Savannah Fuchs

Savannah Fuchs

Undergraduate

Savannah is originally from Atlanta, GA. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Psychology. She is also a member of USC’s Honors College. As a senior, Savannah works in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant, focusing on transcription of speech samples collected from our recent NIH-funded studies. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school with hopes of becoming a pediatrician.

Cayla Wakser

Undergraduate

Cayla is a sophomore double majoring in Biology and Spanish.  She recently received the Magellan Apprentice Grant in order to research language abilities of others with the fragile X premutation.

Cayla Wakser

Additional Members:

  • Moriah Camak – Graduate research assistant – Masters of SLP Class of 2020
  • Marian Easler – Graduate research assistant – Masters of SLP Class of 2020