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.

Laura Friedman

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Laura Friedman is a postdoctoral fellow in the SC Family Experiences Lab. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked with adolescents with autism spectrum disorder and fragile X syndrome. During her doctoral studies, Dr. Friedman worked with families of children with autism spectrum disorder as a certified speech-language pathologist in a pediatric private practice. Dr. Friedman’s research interests include characterizing the language skills of adolescents and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as examining the broader impact of language on later adulthood outcomes, including friendship development, employment, and self-advocacy skills.

Laura
Carly Moser

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 exploring factors contributing to the variability in developmental outcomes in those with autism spectrum disorder and fragile X syndrome.

Jillian Gierman

Graduate Assistant

Jillian is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at USC. 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. Jillian continued her work in research, joining our lab as the research specialist in 2019. She has a particular interest in neurological disorders, such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease.

Emily Szabo

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.

Eve Guiney

Graduate Assistant

Eve is from Charlotte, NC and is currently a first-year in the Speech-Language Pathology Master’s program at the University of South Carolina. She works as a Graduate Assistant in the lab where her primary roles are data scoring and data entry. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders with minors in Psychology and Special Education from Appalachian State University in May 2020. When she graduates, she is interested in working with adults with neurogenic disorders.

Alexandra Hickey

Research Specialist

Alexandra graduated in 2019 from the University of Maryland, where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Psychology and a minor in Neuroscience. She has previously worked in the Developmental Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, assisting in research on social interaction in children and adolescents. In the future, she hopes to work towards a PhD in Clinical Psychology and focus her research on adults with neurological disorders.

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

Sarah Carter

Undergraduate

Sarah Carter is from Hilton Head Island, SC and works in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant. She is currently in her senior year and pursuing a degree in Public Health with a minor in Psychology. She plans to pursue a masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She works in the lab alongside graduate students to help code mothers with the FMR1 permutation.

Kathryn Klein

Undergraduate

Kathryn Klein is currently enrolled in the University of South Carolina Honors College. She is from Dunlap, Illinois and currently participates in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant. In the lab, she works with language transcription. Kathryn is pursuing a degree with majors in Biological Sciences and Experimental Psychology, as well as minors in Spanish and Medical Humanities. She plans to attend medical school and work towards a career as a physician.

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.

Meagan Lauber

Undergraduate

Meagan Lauber is graduating in May with a dual degree of a Bachelor of Science in Experimental Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts in Global Health Studies with a minor in German. For three years, she has been a member of Dr. Jessica Klusek’s family experiences lab. During her time with Dr. Klusek, she has been involved in many projects around the lab, from coding assessment data in RedCap and helping graduate students practice participant batteries, to conducting an independent study on vocal quality in female FMR1 premutation carriers, for which she was awarded the Honors College Exploration Research Grant. This independent study developed into her Honors College Senior Thesis quantitatively analyzing phonatory parameters as an early biomarker of neuromuscular decline associated with the neurodegenerative movement disorder fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS). Her involvement in the lab has not only prepared her for a career in academia through technical and methodological training, but has made her more confident as a researcher. After graduation, she is looking forward to attending graduate school and earning a PhD in computational neuroscience.

Kellie McIntyre

Undergraduate

Kellie McIntyre is originally from Havertown, PA. She is a senior pursing a degree in Public Health, on a pre-med track. This will be her second year working as an undergraduate research assistant in the SC Family Experiences Lab, focusing primarily on transcription and heart rate editing. She is planning on applying to medical schools this upcoming year in the hopes of working in pediatrics and pursing research opportunities in the future.