SARRC Research Faculty
Chief Science Officer
Dr. Christopher J. Smith is an experimental psychologist with expertise in diagnosing autism spectrum disorder and measuring associated traits. Dr. Smith oversees all diagnostic evaluations and assessments for our clients while also directing all internal and external research projects. Prior to joining us at SARRC, he worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he still maintains a faculty position. Originally drawn to study autism because of the complexity of the disorder, here at SARRC, Dr. Smith values the ability to work with clients across all age groups and engage in out-of-the-box research endeavors. Originally from New York, when he’s not doing science, he enjoys running, biking, hiking, and being active with his family.
Director of Research
Dr. Matthews’ research program includes multiple lines of research with a broad goal of improving quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Her recent research includes: (1) development and testing of adaptive functioning and social skills interventions for adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); (2) the development of novel methods for improving access to ASD screening and evaluation, and (3) the experiences of individuals with ASD and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical Director and SARRC Co-Founder
Raun D. Melmed, MD, co-founder and medical director of SARRC, is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and is director of the Melmed Center in Scottsdale, Ariz. He is an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Translational Genomics Institute in Phoenix and on faculty at Arizona State University. Dr. Melmed earned his medical degree at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, and completed a fellowship at the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, where he was an Instructor at Harvard Medical School.
Summer Boyd, PsyD
Summer is a licensed psychologist who plays a crucial role in various research initiatives at SARRC, including a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which is examining the progress and benefits of early intervention services. Her other responsibilities include leading the parent group for MINDful Time, assessment and diagnosis of children and adults on the autism spectrum as well as providing other psychological services as needed for various research studies. She is passionate about helping parents better understand their children, helping individuals to better understand themselves, and contributing to the research base regarding autism diagnosis and intervention. When not at SARRC, Summer enjoys spending time with her kids, exploring/hiking beautiful Arizona, billiards, yoga, tennis, and bowling.
Research Coordinator I
Sophia is responsible for coordinating multiple clinical research studies, most of which aim to investigate how medications and therapies can be used to improve symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder. Her responsibilities include communicating with participants and study staff, scheduling, recording data, recruitment, administering study tests when needed, and most importantly ensuring all aspects of the trial run smoothly. In her free time, you can find Sophia traveling, spending time with her friends and family, or scouring Arizona for the best coffee shop.
Bianca is a research associate at SARRC and is responsible for tasks such as data entry, study recruitment, and conducting various assessments with individuals who have autism, as well as typically developing individuals and those with other developmental disorders. She holds double degrees in Neuroscience (B.S.) and Psychology (B.S.) from Arizona State University and aspires to pursue a career in neuropsychology. Bianca has an interest in neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s disease and is eager to enhance her research skills to apply these findings to public health. In her free time, Bianca enjoys traditional and digital art, creative writing, discovering new artists on Spotify, and spending quality time with her friends, family, and her beloved dog.
Medical Research Technician
Korosh is the research medical technician at SARRC, where he undertakes various tasks, including phlebotomy, vital signs collection, and conducting ECGs and EEGs, in addition to data entry. He earned his B.S. in Biochemistry from ASU and hopes to pursue a career in medicine, specifically trauma surgery. His initial interest in autism was sparked when he coached high school wrestling and worked with individuals affected by the disorder. Korosh also works part time at an emergency department and thoroughly enjoys the fast-paced environment and excitement that comes with it. His hobbies encompass exercise, watching shows, playing air hockey, and spending quality time with friends and family.
Research Coordinator I
Hannah acts as coordinator for an NSF-funded study partnering with museums in The Valley to help create more inclusive learning environments for Autistic individuals. She also coordinates a clinical research study looking at eye-tracking technology as a tool for objectively measuring treatment progress. Her other responsibilities include conducting assessments and helping lead our Research Community Advisory Panel (ReCAP). Having grown up with an autistic sibling and worked with many families like her own, she believes in SARRC’s vision and the breadth of support and research they provide to families in the Valley. Some of her research interests include parent-implemented intervention, peer mentoring, and the development of more culturally sensitive services. On the weekends, Hannah enjoys exploring, hiking, and jogging around the area with her husband, Shogo.
Stephen James, Ph.D.
Research Data Manager
Stephen is responsible for the organization, consistency, and integrity of data collected, and the export, analysis, and summary of data for publications. Stephen’s research interests include sex/gender differences in ASD and improving early screening and access to early diagnosis among underserved populations. Outside of doing research, Stephen enjoys traveling and spending time with his wife and their two dogs.
Rebecca joined SARRC as a research intern assisting with data entry and has shifted to a research associate role responsible for study recruitment. Having experience in the healthcare field, she was drawn to SARRC to learn more about the benefits of early intervention, genetic factors of autism, and ways to increase access to services. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys Pilates, traveling, hiking with her dog, and experimenting with film photography.
Data Entry Specialist
Will is a Data Entry Specialist with over a decade of experience. His roles include entering assessments, management of physical folders, and creating reports through scoring programs. In his free time, Will enjoys drawing, watching movies, and eating pizza with his dog in central Phoenix.
Padmaja Lakamsani, BS; CCRC
Senior Clinical Research Coordinator
Padmaja received her bachelor’s degree in science from Andhra University, India. She has experience in phase II-IV clinical trials for ADHD, Fragile X, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her responsibilities include coordinating studies in compliance with study protocol, local/federal laws and regulations, and overseeing the work of research coordinators. Padmaja loves her job and believes it is giving her the opportunity to help improve lives of individuals with ASD and their families. Padmaja is also a member of DEI committee at SARRC. She speaks English, Telugu and Hindi languages. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, watching movies, and cooking.
Angelina is a research associate at SARRC and is responsible for study recruitment, data entry, and administering assessments. Angelina graduated from Arizona State University and is looking to pursue further education in neuropsychology. Her research interests focus on traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. When she is not at SARRC, she works as a research assistant in the Phoenix VA traumatic brain injury clinic and in the ASU emotion, culture, and psychophysiology lab. In her free time, Angelina enjoys pilates, baking, attending sporting events, and spending time with friends and family.
Research Training Manager
Amanda is the primary psychometrist for SARRC’S research team. She administers a variety of diagnostic assessments for research studies and other SARRC-wide programs, and trains other staff to administer these tools. She has experience working with infants as young as six-months old, toddlers, and young children, but teens and adults are her favorite population. After spending many sessions as the PEERS Teen Instructor, Amanda is currently the Parent Group Leader for the PEERS program. In her free time, she can be found creating in her studio, reading, spending time with her menagerie of cats, rockhounding, and cooking.
Research Coordinator I
Zakiyyah acts as the primary coordinator to the IRIS study researching the effects of medications specifically targeting communication and repetitive behaviors in children and adolescents with ASD. She also coordinates the MEASURE study looking at eye-tracking technology as a tool for objectively measuring treatment progress. When she is not working on her own studies, she assists her fellow coordinators with any work they need an extra hand with. In her free time, Zakiyyah enjoys breakdancing with the local breaking community in Arizona, when she is not dancing, she is hanging out with her friends and enjoying the Arizona weather.
Senior Research Coordinator
Melissa is responsible for coordinating a research study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which is examining the progress and benefits of early intervention. She also administers psychometric assessments and assists with recruitment for clinical trials. Melissa’s other roles outside of research include supervision of Recruitment Core, RA’s and Interns, as well as co-leading the Teen Group of the MINDful TIME Study. In her free time, she can be found reading, doing yoga, or spending time with family and friends.
Research Coordinator I
Muavé DéQuon Sanders coordinates the SPARK research study that aims to advance research to better understand the causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and develop better treatments and supports for those with ASD via surveys and saliva samples. He is responsible for identifying, recruiting, and coordinating study participants, gaining knowledge of study protocols, managing research procedures, engaging in community outreach, and maintaining clear communication with various stakeholders, while also handling biomaterials, traveling to client locations, preparing regulatory documents, and undertaking other necessary tasks. Muavé was born in Greenville, Mississippi on August 5, 1997, embarked on a remarkable journey that combines military service and academic excellence. He serves as an officer in the Medical Service Corps. He earned numerous accolades in the Army, including four Army Achievement Medals, and co-authored a medical paper. Beyond his military service, Muavé’s professional path includes roles as a Hall Director, Campus Recreational Coordinator, and roles in research and health. A devoted family man and passionate about exercise, singing, and helping others, he aspires to become a surgeon and continue his service to the military. Muavé’s unwavering commitment to personal success, despite facing challenges in Mississippi, is a testament to his resilience and faith that nothing can stand against him.
Research Coordinator I
As a clinical trial coordinator at SARRC, Riley has various roles that include conducting trial visits, data entry, and administration of assessments. Riley oversees a clinical trial that is focused on irritability associated with ASD as well as a clinical trial focused on Major Depressive Disorder in adolescents. Riley graduated from Northern Arizona University and has a background in Research that allows her to contribute to her role here at SARRC. She has a passion for developmental biology and working with SARRC has allowed her to further her knowledge of ASD. On a day off you can find Riley in the gym or cooking her favorite meals.
Richard B. Tayrien, DO, FACOI, FAMIA
Dr. Tayrien is board certified in internal medicine, practicing acute and critical care medicine at Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix. Developing midcareer interests and training in medical informatics Dr. Tayrien served as Chief Health Information Officer for Dignity Healthcare and HCA Healthcare where he led the digital transformation of over 170 US hospitals. Dr. Tayrien’s experience in applied information theory, terminology management and systems specification for heath information informs and supports related interests in bioinformatics and neuroscience. He joins the SARRC research team enthused to contribute to the understanding of mechanisms and potential solutions for ASD patients and supporting community. Dr. Tayrien and wife, Cecilia, live in the greater Phoenix area where they raised their four children. They enjoy many outdoor activities, water sports, travel and photography. Cecilia, a former elementary teacher, has invested much of the past 3 years better understanding ASD, nutritional interventions and available resources. They are both active members of the SARRC grandparents’ group.
Research Coordinator I
Amy is responsible for coordinating the MINDful TIME research study that looks to assess the therapeutic potential of app-delivered mindfulness meditation in adults with ASD and to increase access to evidence-based resources. She also coordinates the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2) Training that aims to appropriately teach professionals to identify the elements of behavior necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Her other responsibilities include study recruitment, administering psychometric assessments, and working within SARRC’s DEI committee to advance initiatives that promote inclusivity. Having a sibling on the autism spectrum has drawn her towards wanting to be part of the work to advance understanding of autism. When she’s not working, you can find her listening to podcasts, hiking, or playing with her dog.
Sarah is a research associate at SARRC and is responsible for study recruitment, learning, administering assessments, and assisting in data entry. Sarah graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Biomedical Science and is looking to pursue further education in genetics. In her free time, she likes to experiment with different types of tea and make her own tea blends.
Diagnostic Services Staff
Diagnostic Network Manager
Jessica oversees the programming and recruitment of network partners and collaborates with community stakeholders for the Arizona Autism Early Diagnostic Network (AAEDN). The AAEDN is comprised of pediatricians and psychologists committed to helping families who have concerns about their child’s development and shortening the time gap between an initial autism screening by a pediatrician and a formal autism diagnosis evaluation. In her free time, Jessica can be found staying active at the gym, hiking, playing golf, exploring new restaurants, and planning her next travel adventure.
Diagnostic Program Assistant
Nancy assists with program enrollment screening as well as coordination of services for SARRC’s amazing team of Licensed Clinical Psychologists. Nancy loves working at SARRC because she’s able to support SARRC’s clients and families through the process of obtaining their formal diagnosis – the ticket to life-altering services. When out of the office you can find Nancy quilting, reading, and hiding from the sun while cooking with her five children.
Research Interns and Volunteers
Bella joined SARRC as a research intern and is responsible for data collection and technical assistance in the MINDful Time Program. Bella is a current undergraduate student at Arizona State University, majoring in Psychology (B.S.) and Family and Human Development (B.S.) with a certificate in Disability Studies. Some of Bella’s current research interests include discovering how evidence-based skills within intervention programs affect child and adolescent development. She is also interested in learning how disability and other social disparities affect child development. In the future, Bella hopes to continue doing research within these fields. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, trying out local coffee shops, and hanging out with her dog, Blaine.
Nikolas (Niko) is a research intern at SARRC and helps with data collection and entry for a variety of ongoing studies. He graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and two minor certificates in Business and Psychology and is working towards pursuing a career in medicine. Now that he has gained first-hand experience helping people with autism and working in a clinical setting, he wants to further learn about current tools and interventions, how to make them more accessible, and ensure the public is kept up-to-date on current autism research. In his free time, Niko likes to cook, travel, and spend time with friends and family.
Makayla is a research intern at SARRC, where she assists with data entry and collection for various studies. She is currently pursuing a degree in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy at Texas Woman’s University, and she expects to graduate in the spring of 2024. With her growing experience in autism research, Makayla intends to further her academic pursuits by studying experimental psychology in graduate school. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, cooking, and spending quality time with her friends.