Meet the Recipients of the 2023 MacART Trainee Awards!

Autism Care



“Future research needs to focus not only on the biological markers of autism but also include data about functioning, participation, and environmental barriers and facilitators.”

Dr. Olaf Kraus de Camargo  //  Developmental Pediatrician


MacART is laying the foundation for creating a systematic way of linking scientific research on autism at McMaster University to clinical practice at McMaster Children’s Hospital.

The physical proximity of McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University has a number of characteristics that provides the rare opportunity for collaborative research. Taking advantage of existing university and clinical infrastructure and cross-appointments for clinicians at the university, autism experts from these organizations are coming together to integrate autism research into clinical practice.

The focus of MacART members’ research is in the areas of basic science, clinical practice, clinical research, epidemiology and statistical modelling, knowledge translation and exchange, and social science research. By promoting the collaboration of stakeholders across disciplines, MacART is reducing barriers to implementing research in clinical practice, with the goal of advancing autism care through meaningful research.

Learn more about our research HERE.


MacART members are now supervising more than 50 research trainees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate levels, and are engaged in the mentoring of junior and intermediate faculty members.

In the future, we intend to establish research and clinical training programs for students in McMaster’s undergraduate medical, health sciences, and psychology programs, and for residents and fellows in Pediatrics and Psychiatry.

By training and mentoring emerging researchers and practitioners, we will help to solidify their understanding of and commitment to using basic science to inform their clinical practice, and to use their clinical experience to help formulate research questions. It is our belief that involving these learners in MacART educational activities will promote their use of practices that advance autism care through meaningful research.


“Our scientists are working collaboratively with local clinicians to generate the evidence needed to improve autism services. This symposium is a great example of McMaster’s community engagement efforts.”

Dr. Patrick Deane // President & Vice-Chancellor // McMaster University


The community engagement component of MacART strives to work with stakeholders and involve them as partners in every step of the research process.  By doing so, the questions that drive research begin to change. They become more meaningful because they address the real day-to-day challenges faced by children and their families, and the clinicians supporting them.

MacART aims to increase participation and involvement of members of the McMaster and Hamilton communities in the research process. With community members driving the research, new and relevant knowledge can be produced to bridge the research-to-practice gap in autism and advance autism care through meaningful research.


“People whose lives are connected to the challenge of autism can share knowledge – from clinicians to educators to parents – and what an amazing opportunity that is. We have a real opportunity to translate challenges into research, and research into practice that will help families living with autism.”

Rob MacIsaac  //  President & CEO // Hamilton Health Sciences


Policies should be created using the best available evidence that make positive impacts on the lives of Autistic individuals, along with their families.

MacART’s founder, Stelios Georgiades, serves on both federal and provincial advisory committees about autism supports/service funding. Along with the wide-ranging expertise of its many autism experts, MacART is set to act as a highly credible source of evidence-based information to influence and inform public policy about the provision and funding of autism diagnosis, services, and family supports.

MacART will continue to find ways to collaborate with policymakers to both learn more about the policymaking process, and to contribute our expertise and knowledge to inform policymaking, in order to advance autism care through meaningful research.

At our recent Research Symposium, MacART Founder & Co-Director Dr. Stelios Georgiades announced the seven recipients of the 2023 MacART Trainee Awards.

The MacART Trainee Awards are meant to help trainees working in research in autism and/or other neurodevelopmental conditions, by supporting travel to events that would enhance their research training experience or by providing material supports such as software licenses, journal fees, other supplies, etc.

"The next generation will learn and do better. You may think that you are learning from us, but we are learning from you." - Dr. Stelios Georgiades at the MacART Research Symposium.


This year, our winners are:

Dr. Yun-Ju (Claire) Chen

Dr. Yun-Ju Claire Chen        

Claire will be using her Trainee Award funds toward her 2023 International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) meeting attendance and research presentation.

Claire is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences, under the supervision of Dr. Stelios Georgiades.

“This cross-disciplinary exchange will help broaden my perspectives on autism research, and inspire me to think more creatively about potential research directions.”

Areeba Sharafuddin

Areeba Sharafuddin        

Areeba will be using her Trainee Award funds toward supporting the focus group participants of her project, who will provide her with feedback on the feasibility of the Transitional Autism Communication Tool (TACT), an empirically-derived communication tool.

Areeba is in her second year of her MSc in the Neuroscience graduate program, under the supervision of Dr. Stelios Georgiades.

“The TACT aims to be the first tool to help bridge the communication gap addressed in previous literature amongst caregivers, clinicians, and educators.”

Sureka Selvakumaran

Sureka Selvakumaran        

Sureka will be using her Trainee Award funds toward supports for studies on the Autism Classification System of Functioning: Social Communication (ACSF), including statistical software (STATA/BE) and research participation incentives. She will also use her funds for printing her European Academy of Childhood Disability (EACD) 2023 conference poster.

Sureka is a third-year student in the OT/PhD Dual Degree Program, under the supervision of Dr. Briano Di Rezze.

“This research will expand our understanding of the ACSF as a new tool for the ASD field.”

Shane Cleary

Shane Cleary        

Shane will be using his Trainee Award funds toward travelling to the Canadian Association for Neuroscience Conference to present his work on gastrointestinal symptoms and behaviour phenotypes in neurodevelopmental disorders.

Shane is a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience graduate program (MiNDs), under the supervision of Dr. Jane Foster.

“This travel allowed me to network with other autism researchers, creating opportunities for future collaborations. It helped me disseminate my doctoral research findings to others interested in the immune role in autism.”

Jeffrey Esteves

Jeffrey Esteves        

Jeffrey will be using his Trainee Award funds to attend the Association for Behaviour Analysis International (ABAI) conference. He will present findings from his research on Autistic children’s use of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Jeffrey is a PhD candidate in Psychology, entering as an Autism/Child and Youth Mental Health resident under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Roncadin.

“Learning about new developments in the field will allow me to provide the highest level of care for PECS users, and training and support to direct care staff who support these children.”

Stephanie Studer

Stephanie Studer        

Stephanie will be using her Trainee Award funds to attend the Society for Psychological Anthropology (SPA) Biennial Conference.

Stephanie is a 2nd-year PhD candidate in the Anthropology graduate program, under the supervision of Dr. Ellen Badone.

“Ultimately, I hope that my research will help to provide practical and sustainable support for Autistic individuals who have high needs and for their caregivers, helping them to understand the disorder, its etiology, what support methods are available, and which ones are best suited to their circumstances.”

Mona Abdollahi

Mona Abdollahi        

Mona will be using her Trainee Award funds toward travelling to the 16th Canadian Neuroscience Meeting (CAN-ACN 2023) to share her research findings on the underlying molecular mechanisms of autism.

Mona is a PhD candidate in the Medical Sciences PhD program, under the supervision of Dr. Margaret Fahnestock.

“By connecting with experts and sharing knowledge, I believe that I can contribute to the ongoing efforts to better understand the underlying mechanisms of autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions, which can lead to the development of more effective treatments and interventions.”

Learn more about the MacART Trainee Awards HERE.