Basic Science Research

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.

Basic science research is intended to result in a gain in knowledge in a particular field, which extends understanding of that topic and provides a way of solving practical problems. One example might be how brain cells communicate with each other in Autistic persons.

Dr. Katrina Choe

Dr. Katrina Choe is a neuroscientist who investigates mechanisms by which Autism gene mutations disrupt social behaviour through a multi-level, integrative research strategy in animal models.

Dr. Mackenzie Salt

Dr. Mackenzie Salt recently received his doctorate in Cognitive Science of Language from the Department of Linguistics and Languages at McMaster University. His research has focused on describing the pragmatic languages abilities and social skills of Autistic adults.

Dr. Irene Drmic

Dr. Irene Drmic is a Psychologist at the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre in the Autism Program and Child and Youth Mental Health Program. Her clinical and research interests include mental health in individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities, phenotypic and genetic overlap of Autism and neurodevelopmental disorders, predictors of treatment response and outcome, and program development and evaluation.

Dr. Stephanie Lavoie

Dr. Stephanie Lavoie is a Neuropsychologist with the Pediatric Neurology Program and the Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Stephanie’s clinical and research interests focus on mental health and neurological underpinnings of neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Dr. Peter Szatmari

Dr. Peter Szatmari is a clinician-scientist and an international Autism expert. He has made significant contributions to the field in many areas including diagnosis, measurement, and longitudinal development – all of which led to significant changes in our understanding of Autism as well as the classification of Autism in both the DSM-IV and DSM-5. He was a co-leader of the Autism Genome Project and leads the national Pathways in ASD study.

Dr. Karun Singh

Dr. Karun Singh is a neuroscientist and stem cell biologist studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of Autism. He is using a combination of mouse models and human brain cells to understand how genetic risk factors impact brain development.

Dr. Diana Parvinchi

Dr. Diana Parvinchi is an Assistant Clinical Professor (Adjunct) in the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University. She has worked developing a software-based intervention for Autistic children and examining functional connectivity (fMRI) in Autism. The findings from the fMRI study are being used to improve the design of the software-based intervention. Dr. Parvinchi’s work on supports/care for Autistic children aims to “kick start” different processing mechanisms in the early stages of development.

Dr. Geoffrey Hall

Dr. Geoffrey Hall is an Associate Professor with the Department of Psychology, Behaviour and Neuroscience at McMaster University. Dr. Hall is interested in developing better classification metrics for Autism by understanding how genetic factors can produce changes at the level of the synapse and impact on neurodevelopmental trajectories.

Dr. Jane Foster

Dr. Jane Foster studies gene-environment interactions in neurodevelopment. The Foster Lab has developed tools to examine early life growth and development, stress responsivity, activity, and social behaviours prior to puberty in mice. The ongoing integrated analysis of behaviour and brain imaging data will link host genetics and target disease-related genes to behaviour and brain structure. They also measure microbiota composition and diversity, stress reactivity, and immune signaling.

Dr. Margaret Fahnestock

Dr. Margaret Fahnestock trained in Biochemistry at UC Berkeley, Cell Biology at Baylor and Neurobiology at Stanford. During the past 30 years at the Stanford Research Institute and McMaster University, she has led a continuously funded research program focused on the molecular regulation of neurotrophic factors and their contribution to neurological disorders. She is an active member of the Canadian Autism Research Training Program, as Autism is a major focus of her research.