“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Founder & President
Zachary is the Founder and President of SNAP, a program he developed in early 2022 to build a supportive platform that promotes inclusion and understanding between the neurodiverse and neurotypical communities. As a brother of two siblings with Autism, Zachary is deeply committed to finding ways to help his siblings and the community as a whole. He currently attends the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering as a pre-medical student, majoring in Bioengineering and minoring in Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, and Conceptual Foundations of Medicine.
In addition to his work with SNAP, Zachary is a Co-lead Undergraduate Researcher with the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Lab. He also worked with the Neural Tissue Lab in 2021 as an Undergraduate Researcher. He has deep connections with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where he has been a Medical Assistant, a Psychiatric Care Attendant, and currently works as a Patient Care Technician. Zachary has a wealth of experience in healthcare and research which he brings to SNAP.
Zachary also works as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for Organic Chemistry classes, and acts as a Co-Chair for first-year engineering students. He is a dedicated student who is always pushing himself to achieve more, and his drive, compassion, and energy make him an invaluable leader. He is constantly striving to make a positive impact in the lives of those around him.
Caitlin M Conner, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator and Thesis Advisor
Dr. Caitlin M. Conner’s research investigates emotional awareness and dysregulation in Autism and how to apply psychosocial treatments for co-occurring psychiatric conditions in those with ASD.
Dr. Conner works within the University of Pittsburgh’s REAACT Research Program (Regulation of Emotion in ASD Adults, Children and Teens).
After completing her PhD at Virginia Tech and clinical internship at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Dr. Conner joined the University of Pittsburgh as a postdoctoral associate.
Dr. Conner is a member of the American Mindfulness Research Association, International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), and the Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disabilities Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.
Carla A Mazefsky, PhD
Co-Principal Investigator and Thesis Advisor
Dr. Carla Mazefsky is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an internationally recognized expert in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), especially as it relates to emotion regulation and co-occurring mental health conditions. Her research takes a lifespan approach and includes both those with ASD who are severely affected (e.g., nonverbal, have intellectual disability, and severe challenging behavior) and those who are verbal with average or better cognitive ability.
Her primary emphasis is clinical research, including measure and treatment development. She developed the Emotion Dysregulation Inventory (EDI) which is now in use in more than a dozen countries and across the US in clinical and research settings. Dr. Mazefsky also co-authored the first emotion regulation intervention for adolescents and adults with ASD called the Emotion Awareness and Skills Enhancement (EASE) Program.
Howard Aizenstein, MD, PhD
Dr. Aizenstein is an expert on the cognitive and affective neuroscience of aging and geriatric brain disorders. He is trained as a geriatric psychiatrist and also a computer scientist. His research program is recognized for expertise in MRI analyses methods, as well as their use for clinical research in aging.
Dr. Aizenstein’s research group has developed semi-automated methods of morphometric and functional MRI analyses. He uses structural and functional neuroimaging to identify networks of brain regions associated with affective and cognitive processing, and how these change over time with and without intervention.
Dr. Aizenstein has experience with fMRI studies in a variety of psychiatric disorders involving mood and cognitive disorders. He will contribute his expertise in brain imaging, the analysis of brain images, and geriatric psychiatry. He has extensively worked with the other PIs and Co-Is through several NIH funded grants and publications. He is a skilled and valued mentor; he received the 2009 Departmental mentorship award. He has collaborated and mentored many investigators, including K awardees, post-doctoral students and graduate students.
Harvey Borovetz, PhD
Dr. Harvey Borovetz is a Distinguished Professor and former Chair (2002-2013) in the Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, the Robert L. Hardesty Professor in the Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, a Professor – Clinical and Translational Science Institute and a University Honors College Faculty Fellow. Within the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Borovetz holds the position of Deputy Director of Artificial Organs and Medical Devices.
Dr. Borovetz was elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, an inaugural Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, a Fellow of the Council on Arteriosclerosis, American Heart Association, a past member of the Board of Trustees of the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO), and a past member of the Board of Directors of The Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). Dr. Borovetz previously served on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the University of Louisville Speed Scientific School, the University of Massachusetts, the Departments of Bioengineering at Bucknell University, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, UCLA, Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University. He has also served on numerous NIH and NSF study sections, as a member of the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee, National Library of Medicine, as an ad hoc reviewer on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Whitaker Foundation and as a reviewer for The Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars Program. Dr. Borovetz holds 7 patents and is the author on hundreds of journal articles, abstracts, proceedings papers, monographs, and book chapters.
SNAP Leadership Board
SNAP Club Business Manager and Public Relations
Ashley Sabia is the Business Manager and Public Relations Officer at SNAP. She is responsible for member engagement and maintaining correspondence, as well as managing SNAP’s social media accounts. Ashley is a student at the University of Pittsburgh’s David C. Frederick Honors College, where she is a pre-medical student majoring in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Spanish.
In addition to her contributions at SNAP, Ashley is a student researcher at the Hildebrand Lab where she conducts research on the regulation and cellular components of the actomyosin network in relation to Shroom proteins. As a part of various Pitt associations, Ashley is a member of Pitt’s Alzheimer’s Research Coalition, Pitt Dance Ensemble, the Service Dog Training and Education Program, and Pitt Program Council. She also regularly volunteers at the local hospitals, where she works with a diverse community.
Chief Technical Officer
Shinwoo Kim is the Chief Technical Officer at SNAP and is responsible for designing and maintaining the SNAP Website and SNAP App Project. Currently, he is a student at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Computing & Information and the David C. Frederick Honors College, where he is studying computer science and mathematics. Originally from South Korea, Shinwoo moved to the United States in 2012 and has had many experiences working with diverse groups of people. He has lived in many places in the US, including Monterey(California), Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Before his work at SNAP, Shinwoo worked as a web developer on the [**TouchTheInvisible**](https://touchtheinvisible.com/) Research Project and as an Instructor teaching [**CompTIA A+ Certificate**](https://www.comptia.org/certifications/a) course to high school students in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. He's also worked to ensure education equity through his work at Pittsburgh's *Diversity Recruitment Education & Mentoring* (DREAM) Team, Pitt's *Community Engagement Center*, and by creating and teaching a free SAT Prep course. He currently works at Pitt's Department of Computer Science as a Teaching Assistant where he teaches introductory level computer science courses.
Nate Fligelman is the Secretary at SNAP. He is responsible for writing the monthly newsletter articles, reporting attendance of members and participants, and coordinating volunteer-centric relations with UPMC sponsored hospitals. Nate is a current student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and David C. Frederick Honors College. Nate is majoring in pre-medical Biology with a minor in Chemistry and certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine.
Beyond his work with SNAP, Nate is involved with several volunteering organizations, including local UPMC hospitals and the Southeastern PA Red Cross. On campus, Nate serves as an executive for Pitt’s Chabad board and is also the social chair for the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.
Aditi Choudhary is the Events Coordinator at SNAP. She is responsible for coordinating and planning club events with the SNAP Events Committee, Aditi is a student at the University of Pittsburgh’s David C. Frederick Honors College, where she is on the Pre-Medical track majoring in History and Philosophy of Science with minors in Neuroscience and Chemistry and a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine.
Before her work at SNAP, Aditi was on her township’s Health Advisory Board where she closely worked with the municipal health department and local organizations to create a Mental Health Awareness program. At Pitt, she currently works in the Office of Undergraduate Research as an Editor for Forbes & Fifth Research Journal. She is passionate about the intersections of medicine and the humanities, as well as increasing accessibility to healthcare for minorities and the neurodiverse.
Lydia Wayman is an autistic advocate with a B.S. in elementary education and an M.A. in English and nonfiction writing. She uses her education and experience to help others better understand how autistic people see the world. Her writing has appeared in a wide range of online and printed publications, including several books. Her advocacy work includes mentoring youth with disabilities, presenting at events and conferences, and working with organizations to develop courses and training programs. The topics she is most passionate about include alternative forms of communication, the importance of friendship, and improving the experience of people with disabilities in healthcare settings. Lydia’s story has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, on Good Morning America, and in We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation by Eric Garcia. She received the Autistic Advocacy Award in 2018 by the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy.
Elizabeth is a student at the University of Pittsburgh’s Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, where she is on the pre-medical track majoring in Biology with a minor Chemistry and a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Before joining SNAP, Elizabeth worked closely with her middle school and high schools’ neurodiverse community and was a part of the Students helping Students club and the Special Olympics. Elizabeth has volunteered with multiple organizations and is currently volunteering at UPMC. Additionally, she works as a Care Attendant at UPMC Shadyside, and plans on becoming a Patient Care Technician over the summer. She is interested in going to medical school and then becoming either a Pediatrician or Neonatologist.
My name is Maria Palmer I was born on June 7th 1993 I live in McKeesport, Pa I graduated McKeesport on June 8th 2011 the day after my 18th birthday but I didn’t always live in McKeesport I use to live in Elizabeth Forward until the summer of 2006 when I moved to McKeesport in my 8th grade year. When I was growing up I was shy and timid person didn’t want to ask people to hang out didn’t really go out as much as I am now but it is thanks to the mon yough resource center that I have been blooming a lot now ever since than I have been involved with many kinds of groups, Volunteering at the Carnegie Science Center and events to show my support for many communities because I have been involved with McKeesport Community Newsroom which are a Photography and Journaling group that is helped by Point Park University. Martha Rial is the person in charge and anybody can join we sometimes have our meeting at the old Daily News Building other times we meet on zoom but we travel all over the mon valley and we even wrote a book called the Corona Diaries which is on sell on amazon for $10. I have worked at Kennywood Park started in 2014 in Food and Beverage stopped going for a couple of years and then when the pandemic started I came back in 2020 in 2022. I became a rides operator in my 4th year but it was my first year as a ride operator and a scare actor during Phantom Fall Fest. I have been Volunteer at the Carnegie Science Center since 2018 where I do many kinds of events. I am very enthusiastic, positive and creative I love to write stories, crafting, music both singing and play flute, I also created my own blog on podcast, facebook and youtube called T.I.E Together Individual Entertainment along with businesses like my photography business called T.I.P True Image Photography because I love to take pictures and I see things much more different than others that’s why I also love to be creative but I have been showing my support for autism awareness as well since I have autism and I am glad that the people like Tim Burton, Jerry Seinfeld, Hans Christian Anderson, Emily Dickson, Lewis Carrol, Michelangelo, Mozart and our very own Pittsburgh Native Andy Warhol has made me realize not to be ashamed for what I have but learn to accept it and it because of them that I have been inspired to finally show support and speak up about me having autism and it is because of them that I am not ashamed anymore like I was many years ago I now feel proud to be autistic to inspire others as well who has autism I am happy and proud to be who I am to this very day. I am now back at Kennywood as a rides operator maybe as a scare actor for the phantom fall fest for this of 2023 things are different but I am trying to start as many fundraisers as I can as well because of what happened at Elizabeth Forward High School on Feb 12th I want to help as much as I can because the music department got hit pretty badly I may not have graduated from that school but it is still close to my heart and that is the place to where my older siblings and family friend graduated from so there is a lot of things that I mostly know about me but I hope you also got to enjoy a lot of information that I have shared with you as well
Benjamin L Handen, PhD
Dr. Handen is a leader in the development of clinical services for children with autism and developmental disabilities, and an internationally recognized researcher in the field of autism and developmental disabilities.
After obtaining a PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Handen completed his clinical psychology internship at Brown University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1985 he began his career at the University of Pittsburgh as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and later joined the Department of Psychiatry as an associate professor. Dr. Handen also currently holds secondary appointments in Pitt’s departments of Pediatrics and Learning and Instruction.
Dr. Handen is responsible for many notable contributions in the clinical area. He oversaw the opening of two new partial hospital programs and an outpatient autism diagnostic clinic at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), and was instrumental in developing wraparound services that provide practical help to families experiencing severe psychosocial stressors, such as those with childhood psychiatric disorders. Dr. Handen also spearheaded the adaption of evidence-based diagnostic and psychosocial treatments for populations with autism spectrum disorder at the Merck Child Outpatient Clinic. He continues to actively see patients at the Merck Child Clinic, proving both diagnostic and treatment services.
Alexis Franks, MD
Dr. Alexis Franks specializes in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities, and her area of clinical focus is the care of children with neurogenetic and neurodevelopmental conditions in addition to general pediatric neurological concerns. Her research is focused on investigating underlying etiologies of neurodevelopmental conditions, specifically perinatal exposures to exogenous compounds. Her active projects include the study of prenatal exposure to the cannabinoids delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol and how they influence cellular metabolism and gene expression within the developing brain. She also is evaluating how perinatal exposure to glucocorticoids can affect neurodevelopment, and how molecular interactions between glucocorticoid and endocannabinoid signaling pathways lead to differential outcomes.
Michael Granovetter, PhD
Research Advisor, Advisory Member
Dr. Granovetter is a third-year medical student in the University of Pittsburgh-Carnegie Mellon University Medical Scientist Training Program. He plans to specialize in child neurology. Dr. Granovetter is primarily interested in leveraging our understanding of neural mechanisms underlying brain plasticity to advance diagnostic and treatment practices for individuals with neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders. He also has interests in improving and reforming medical and graduate education.
Akiko Mizuno, PhD
Granting Funding Manager, Advisory Member
Akiko Mizuno is a postdoctoral scholar at Dr. Howard Aizenstein’s Geriatric Psychiatric Neuroimaging Lab. She is a cognitive psychologist who studies the neurobiological mechanisms underlying dysfunctional metacognition among individuals with psychological disorders. She received herbun
Janice Nathan, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Pathology Advisor
Janice Nathan is a certified speech-language pathologist and owner of Nathan Speech Services. Janice works with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) providing individual speech and language therapy as well as social skills therapy. Her area of expertise is cognitive processing of language and its effect on child development, interpersonal relationships and learning. Janice’s interest and unique language intervention approach in this area developed as a result of growing up with a brother and a mother with ASD.
Janice is a member of the Professional Advisory Council (PAC) for Autism Connection of PA, which is a nonprofit Autism education and advocacy organization. Janice is a Network Supervisor (Clinical Supervisor) with the University of Pittsburgh’s Communication Sciences and Disorders program. In 2012 Janice was accepted as a member into the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), a scientific and professional organization devoted to advancing knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder.
IRB Expert and Consultant
Amy Russell is an experienced Research Coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in psychiatric research settings. She is skilled in Human Subjects Research, Psychiatric Assessment, and Data Management, and earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree with a focus in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University.