Friends of the Life Span Institute Graduate Research Awards
Life Span Institute

Calendar Calendar
Directory Directory
Map and Directions Maps and Directions

Friends of the Life Span Institute

Marianna Beach
Randy and Kristi Billinger
Ron and Pam Borchardt
Scott and Julie Borchardt
Bill and Nancy Brady
Dan Biles and Amy McCart
Mike Cataldo
John Colombo and Dale Walker
David and Peggy Ekerdt
Steve Fawcett and Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett
Greater Kansas City Community Foundation: Laura McKnight, President & CEO
Charlie Greenwood and Judy Carta
Vance and Marilyn Hall
Floyd Horowitz and Frances Degen Horowitz
Todd Little and Patricia Hawley
Lee McLean
Fred and Virginia Merrill
Bob Mirman
Terrance and Judi Paul
Mabel Rice
Dick and Muriel Saunders
Dick Schiefelbusch
Steve and Carolyn Schroeder
Dale Slusser and Sherry Fowler
The Sosland Foundation: Debbie Sosland-Edleman, Executive Director
Joe and Rita Spradlin
John and Linda Stewart
Rud and Ann Turnbull
John and Patty Turner
April Waldron
Frances Waldron
Gary Waldron and Sunny Foster
Ruth Warren
Steve Warren and Eva Horn
Mike and Kathryn Wehmeyer
Bruce and Melinda Wetherby
Glen and Nancy WhiteNikki Wolf
David and Dee Yoder
Ed and Mary Ann Zamarripa

Friends of the LIfe Span Institute

Friends of the Life Span Institute GRA Awards

In 2005 the Friends of the Life Span Institute, a philanthropic group of LSI researchers, families and friends, launched a new endeavor to assist the research and professional development of outstanding graduate research assistants affiliated with an LSI project.

The Friends of LSI GRA Awards, established with the KU Endowment Association, were originally designed to recognize one GRA annually with a $1,500 honorarium. The awards quickly expanded. Since 2006, the program has recognized two doctoral students each year: one at the dissertation stage ($3000) and another in the early stages of graduate study ($2500).

Since their creation, the awards have helped to launch the careers of the following new scientists who have already made significant contributions to the growing body of knowledge in human and community development, disability and aging.


Joy Gabrielli

Joy Gabrielli was the 2013 award winner for an advanced graduate student for which she received $3000. Gabrielli is working toward her doctorate in Clinical Child Psychology emphasizing child and adolescent psychopathology specializing in risk and resilience processes. Longterm she would like to contribute to the growing field of developmental psychopathology as well as mentor and teach upcoming researchers.


Luke McCune

Luke McCune was awarded $2500 as the most promising 2013 graduate student in the pre-dissertation stage of an academic career. McCune is in a doctoral program in Psychology focusing on Quantitative Psychology. He is developing ways of conducting developmental research more methodologically efficient. His "driving passion" is to close the gap between methodological research and applied research.



Tracy McElhattan

Tracy McElhattan was awarded $2500 as the promising award winner – a student in the pre-dissertation stage of their academic career. McElhattan is working toward a doctorate in Special Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood and has been a GRA at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project since 2009. Her long-term career goal is to add to the literature on evidence-based interventions that address challenging behaviors in young children.

Heather Aldersley

Heather Aldersey was selected for the advanced graduate student award of $3000. She is a doctoral student in a Special Studies program, co-advised by Ann and Rud Turnbull. She works as a GRA at the Beach Center on Disability. Aldersey has a special interest sub-Saharan Africa and her long-term career goals include fostering partnerships between U.S. and African institutions and academics to increase the quality of life of  people with ID and their families and to improve public policy, develop interventions and create partnerships to benefit people with disabilities globally.



lalit venkatesan

Lalit Venkatesan received $3000 as the advanced graduate research assistant winner for 2011. Venkatesan is in his fifth year with the Intercampus Program in Neuroscience and as a GRA in the Communication Neuroscience Laboratories of Steven Barlow, professor of speech-language-hearing and LSI affiliated scientist. Barlow extols Venkatesan’s multidisciplinary training as a model of the LSI mission, citing his contributions to pioneering work as a doctoral student in neuroscience informed by his M.S. in computer engineering. Venkatesan’s research interests include sensory neurophysiology, adult stroke, neuroimaging and sensorimotor integration. Most recently he has been prototyping a means of assessing neural pathways with possible application to correct motor disorders of individuals who have had strokes and sensorimotor integration disorders of individuals with hypersensitive Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Kaston Anderson, Jr.

Kaston Anderson, Jr., was the 2011 $2500 winner as a promising early career doctoral student. Anderson is in his second year of the Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology and a GRA with the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development, an LSI-affiliated center. Anderson has been involved in the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG ) research project, under the direction of Jomella Watson-Thompson, LSI principal investigator and assistant professor in the Department of Applied Behavioral Science. The project focuses on reducing underage drinking in 14 Kansas counties using evidence-based prevention strategies. The project, funded by the Kansas SRS, ends in 2012. But Anderson will use his Friends award to examine the sustainability of the approaches used in the project in a random sample of the counties as a component of his dissertation research. Watson-Thompson commends Anderson’s commitment to examining the sustainability of evidence-based research, particularly in addressing health disparities.


Andrea Courtemanche

Andrea Courtemanche Courtemanche received the award for an advanced student in the dissertation stage of graduate work. A fourth-year doctoral student in behavioral psychology, Courtemanche is a graduate teaching assistant for James Sherman and Jan Sheldon in Applied Behavioral Science (ABS). She is also a research assistant for Stephen Schroeder in a project that is promoting early identification of neurodevelopment disorders and problem behavior in Peruvian children.

Courtemanche completed her master's degree in ABS at KU in 2010. Her doctoral dissertation will focus on measuring behavioral signs of pain prior to and after individuals with intellectual disabilities engage in self-injurious behavior. She hopes to ultimately work in an interdisciplinary academic setting, specializing in applied neurobehavioral pharmacology with an emphasis on treating aberrant behavior by people with intellectual disabilities.

Clarice Wang

Clarice Wang Wang received the award for a promising student in the early stages of graduate school. She is a second-year clinical psychology graduate student working with David Johnson, assistant professor of psychology and gerontology and director of the Clinical Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory.

A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., Wang plans to focus her doctoral work on Alzheimer's Disease, using neuroimaging techniques to study how patients with AD process expository text (logical presentation and support of a thesis) versus narrative stories (such as a fairy tale). This could conceivably lead to a reliable imaging marker of AD in the early stages of the disease. Wang, who also works as a student therapist in the KU Psychological Clinic, hopes to ultimately work at an academic teaching hospital.


Emily Zimmerman

Emily Zimmerman * is a fifth-year doctoral student in developmental speech physiology and neuroscience and a GRA in KU's Communication Neuroscience Laboratories. Her dissertation research, with Steven Barlow as adviser, is looking at how vestibular stimulation that varies in frequency and acceleration can encourage respiratory and oromotor patterns in pre-term infants. She will collect data at Stormont-Vail Regional Hospital in Topeka, Kan. Zimmerman has also worked with LSI scientist Nancy Brady.

Kimberly Hu

Kimberly (Hiaoyi) Hu ** is a third- year special education doctoral student at the Beach Center on Disability working with Ann Turnbull and Rud Turnbull, Ross and Mariana Beach Distinguished Professors and Beach Center co- directors. Since receiving the Friends GRA award last year, she has continued her doctoral studies in family support, family quality of life and inclusive education for children with developmental disabilities. This year she will collect data in five research sites in urban and rural areas of China in preparation for her dissertation on the family support needs of Chinese families with children who have intellectual disabilities.


Audra Sterling

Audra Sterling * completed her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology in 2009. She worked with several LSI scientists including Steve Warren, John Colombo, Mabel Rice and Nancy Brady, LSI associate professor. She also managed the NIH-funded Fragile X lab. Sterling's dissertation focused on the language development of children with Fragile X. She is now a post- doctoral fellow working with noted Fragile X researcher Len Abbeduto at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sterling is investigating the language and cognitive development of females with Fragile X, the impact of autism on Fragile X and the best methods to identify autism in the Fragile X population.

Daniel Schober

Daniel Schober ** is now a fourth-year doctoral student in applied behavioral science and preventative medicine and public health. He is a GRA for the Work Group for Community Health and Development and works with LSI scientists Stephen Fawcett, the Kansas Health Foundation Professor of Applied Behavioral Science, and Glen White, director of the Research and Training Center on Independent Living and professor of applied behavioral science. Schober is part of a community-based participatory research project funded by the Centers for Disease Control. His dissertation will examine the effects of community-level interventions to promote physical activity among Latinos in Kansas City, Kan.


Sara Gould
Sara Gould* was a GRA in the Juniper Gardens Children's Project. She completed her Ph.D. in clinical child psychology in summer 2010. While at LSI she worked with Yolanda Jackson, associate professor, applied behavioral science and clinical child psychology, and Dale Walker, associate research professor at Juniper Gardens, among others. Gould's dissertation research studied the associations between printed materials, parent- child interactions and child language development. She completed a pre-doctoral internship in clinical child psychology at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where she is now a post-doctoral fellow, focusing on early childhood, feeding difficulties and eating disorders.

Brandon Aylward
Brandon Aylward ** was a doctoral student in clinical child psychology and worked with John Colombo, Ric Steele, associate professor, clinical child psychology, and Michael Roberts, director and professor, clinical child psychology. His dissertation focused on the impact of risk on the developmental course of visual attention in premature infants. Aylward also completed a pre-doctoral residency at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is continuing his research through a post-doctoral fellowship in the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology. He plans to specialize in three overlapping areas: nutrition science, pediatric pain (headache) and quality improvement methods and health services research.


Christa Anderson

Christa Anderson*
completed her Ph.D. in psychology in May 2010 and worked primarily with John Colombo, LSI director and professor of psychology, and Steve Warren, vice provost of research and graduate students and professor of applied behavioral science. She is currently a research associate in LSI's Early Cognition Laboratory. Her dissertation focused on pupil size and associated neural responses in children with autism. In her post-doctoral position Anderson will continue this line of inquiry in the hope of identifying biomarkers that can be used to diagnose autism and to determine if such biomarkers indicate prenatal neurological impairment.

Meredith Poore

Since receiving the LSI GRA Award, Meredith Poore ** (first row, far right) has published numerous papers on adult speech acoustics, orofacial kinematics (the science of motion), infant vocal development and infant sucking behaviors and presented her research at national meetings. A GRA in developmental speech physiology, Poore is working with Steven Barlow, professor of speech-language-hearing. Her dissertation research is a longitudinal investigation of orofacial kinematics in infants five to ten months of age, which she hopes will reveal information about what skills allow the onset of pre-speech vocal babbling in infants.


Tiffany Hogan

Tiffany Hogan* was the first recipient of the LSI Friends award while she was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) pre-doctoral fellow in speech-language hearing. She worked with Huge Catts, professor and chair, speech-language-hearing; Mabel Rice, the Fred and Virginia Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies; and Holly Storkel, associate professor, speech-language-hearing. Today Hogan is assistant professor of special education and communication disorders at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. She is studying the genetic, neurological and behavioral links between oral and written language development in children with communication disorders. Her research has garnered outside funding from NIH, the Institute of Education Sciences and the American Speech- Language-Hearing Association, to name just a few.

* Award for advanced student at the dissertation stage
** Award for student in first few years of doctoral studies


Friends footer

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability, status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, retaliation, gender identity, gender expression and genetic information in the University’s programs and activities. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and is the University’s Title IX Coordinator: the Executive Director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access,, 1246 W. Campus Road, Room 153A, Lawrence, KS, 66045, (785)864-6414, 711 TTY.