University of Southern California
University of Southern California
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En Español ⟩


Amber M. Angell PhD, OTR/L

Amber M. Angell PhD, OTR/L ⟩(she/her)

Principal Investigator
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Amber Angell, director of the DREAmS Lab, worked clinically as a pediatric occupational therapist before earning a PhD in Occupational Science from the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Translational and Community Engaged Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She went on to become a K12 scholar in the Rehabilitation Research Career Development Program at the University of Florida, where she received training in health services research and obtained a graduate certificate in Implementation Science. Dr. Angell’s research focuses on health services disparities among people with on the autism spectrum, ultimately aiming for health equity for all. Her favorite occupations are reading, doing yoga, baking sourdough bread, and hiking with her son.

Marshae Franklin Headshot

Marshae Franklin, OTD, OTR/L(she/her)

PhD Student/Research Assistant
Marshae is honored to be a member of the DREAmS Lab team, with research interests centered around the lived experiences of neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals as they relate to mental health and health equity. In alignment with the lab’s mission, she is particularly interested in the impact of mental health conditions on occupational performance among Black autistic girls and women, which has been significantly understudied. As a clinician and a future occupational scientist, Marshae’s goal is to utilize community-based participatory research to amplify the voices of historically underrepresented and underserved populations in the literature to promote equitable access to diagnosis, quality health services, and wellbeing.

Camille Parchment Headshot

Camille Parchment, OTD (she/her)

PhD Student/Research Assistant
Camille’s research interests are healthcare implementation, occupational justice in healthcare and more specifically, improving access to mental health services for all, including underserved members of the mental health community. As a research assistant within the DREAmS lab, she supports research projects that aim to reduce disparities in autism diagnosis and services, particularly among autistic women and girls.

Ellie Taylor Headshot

Ellie Taylor, MSOT, OTR(she/her/any)

PhD Student/Research Assistant
As an autistic and ADHD scholar, Ellie is passionate about increasing neurodiverse representation and recognition of lived expertise in autism research. In addition to her work in the DREAmS lab, Ellie is privileged to be a member of the Autistic Researchers Committee at the International Society for Autism Research. Ellie is interested in assessing how the ableist marginalization endemically experienced by autistic populations intersects with sexism, transphobia, racism, and heterosexism. She hopes to eventually inform evidence-based clinical practice for autistic adults through the feedback and recommendations of diverse autistic communities and allies.


Joana Nana Serwaa Akrofi, MA(she/her)

OTD Resident
Joana Akrofi is a Ghanaian occupational therapist with an interest in pediatric populations with neurodevelopmental conditions. She is invested in promoting equity through her work to impact less privileged communities. Her research interests include autism, sensory integration and occupational justice.


Elaine Carreon, MA(she/her)

OTD Resident
Elaine’s previous work experience with autistic children and their families, her passion for learning from others, and her desire to understand the richness of the human experience led her to the DREAmS Lab. Her research and clinical interests include health equity for underserved populations, supporting the neurodiverse community, and pediatric mental health. Some of Elaine’s favorite occupations are drawing, video games, picnics, talking to her plants, and cuddling with her dog, Holly!

Jessica Rios

Jessica Rios(she/her/they/them)

Lived Experience Stakeholder
Jessica Rios is an autistic graduate who received their BA in Psychology, Minor in Writing Studies. During their gap year they will be obtaining additional AAs in Social Justice Studies and English Literature before continuing their studies in a graduate program. Their research interests center on autism, multiculturalism, intersectional identities, lived experiences of autistic people, and advocacy. They were drawn to the DREAmS Lab because of their research interests in health equity and social justice for neurominorities, racial/ethnic minorities, and sex/gender minorities; as well as being an autistic person and close personal relationships with other autistic people. Jessica’s favorite occupations are playing Japanese Roleplaying Games like Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts, anime like Sailor Moon, playing Magic the Gathering, reading and writing fiction novels, and spending time with her cat and fiancé.

Melanie Guzman

Melanie Guzman(she/her)

Lived Experience Stakeholder
Melanie Guzman is an undergraduate student at Cal State LA, where she will receive a BA in Psychology next spring. Her academic goal is to get her master’s degree in Counseling or Social Work. She aspires to work as a school counselor or a child therapist, and also to acquire a behavior analysis certification.

As a neurodivergent student, Melanie would like to learn more about other people’s experiences within the neurodiversity and autistic communities. She was drawn to the DREAmS Lab because she wishes to raise awareness about the different voices and perspectives within the neurodiversity community, and to reduce stigma that prevents autistic people from getting the help they need. Her research interests include child development, and the experiences of autistic women and people of color, two demographics that are understudied in autism research. Melanie’s favorite occupations are reading thriller novels, playing video games, doing yoga, teaching her two chihuahuas to do tricks, and spending time with her family and friends.


Jennifer Lopez(she/her)

Research Assistant
Jennifer Lopez is a graduate student at Keck School of Medicine at USC, where she is pursuing her Masters’s in Public Health. Jennifer was drawn to the DREAmS Lab because she wishes to learn more about the disparities, inequities, and challenges autistic individuals face.


Amarilis Bolanos(she/her)

Amarilis Bolanos is a master’s student in the public health program at USC Keck School of Medicine. She earned a BA in Psychology and Spanish from USC and is currently working at USC School for Early Childhood Education where she serves underrepresented, low-income families living in the community. She provides guidance and resources to families with children with autism, speech delays, and other disabilities. Due to her knowledge of the importance of early intervention and witnessing families’ struggles to access disability services for their children, her interest in autism research developed and led her to the DREAmS lab. Her research interests include health and racial disparities, healthcare equity, health advocacy, community health education, and social justice for underserved populations.


Brianda Hickey(she/her)

Brianda Hickey is a master’s student in Columbia University, Teachers College’s Bilingual Latinx Mental Health Counseling program with a concentration in Sexuality, Women, and Gender. Brianda’s previous research experience involves working at the Child Mind Institute as a Research Assistant completing neuroimaging and cognitive assessments with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Brianda hopes to continue supporting autistic children and adolescents within the Latinx community through her clinical practice and research endeavors. Brianda’s favorite occupations are reading, taking walks, and going to concerts. She also likes to explore NYC with her friends and family.

External Collaborators