Brianna Heath, PhD

Program Manager

Brianna Heath, PhD, is the program manager for the APP and GAIN studies. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Southern Oregon University and her PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Pittsburgh, working with cell and animal models of neurodegenerative disease, before moving into autism research. Her role serves as a bridge between project leaders, collaborators, the research team, and participating families. She also serves on the MIND Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, aids with sharing research findings through the IDDRC (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center) Scientific Dissemination efforts, and is an alum of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program. She has ADHD and is passionate about promoting self-advocacy for neurodivergent individuals. Across all these domains, her work is aimed at bridging the gap between those with lived experience and the policy makers, clinicians, and researchers whose work directly affects the lives of those individuals.

Melissa Regester

Staff Research Associate

Melissa Regester joined the research team in 2017 as a Lab Assistant. She is responsible for processing and managing inventory of biospecimens from APP participants. She maintains a specialized database system to track available quantity and quality of processed materials like DNA and blood cells and helps coordinate sharing materials with research collaborators. She has also undergone training at the MIND Institute to assist the pediatric phlebotomist during blood draws to ensure participant and staff safety. In addition to her role on the research team, Melissa maintains the MIND Institute Biorepository and manages operations for the MIND Institute Bioscience Building.

Alexa Hechtman, EdS

Study Clinician

Alexa Hechtman, EdS is a School Psychologist and Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor. She received her BS in Psychology at UC Davis and received her MA in Education and EdS in School Psychology at California State University Sacramento. As an undergraduate, she joined the GAIN study at the MIND Institute as a volunteer research assistant in 2013. She continued on as a study coordinator for GAIN starting in 2015 has been a program coordinator for APP, GAIN, and related studies since 2020. In her current role, she administers standardized language, academic, and cognitive assessments with study participants and clinical diagnostic interviews with their parents. She is interested in strengths-based assessment, clinical evaluation of anxiety in children with autism and intellectual disability, and behavioral and mental health supports for students with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Mason Brown

Student Assistant

Mason Brown is a student assistant working with David Amaral and Christine Wu Nordahl on the Autism Phenome Project team. He joined the lab as a volunteer when he was a sophomore at Vista del Lago High School in 2017. After graduating in 2020, he began attending UC Davis where he is currently a junior majoring in English. Mason assists with many different tasks, including acquiring night time MRI scans, preparing MRI scans for analyses and managing undergraduate research assistants in the lab. We feel fortunate to have his perspective as an autistic young adult on our team.