University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

People

Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Grace Baranek PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA >

Associate Dean, Chair, and Mrs. T.H. Chan Professor of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Dr. Grace Baranek’s research focuses on the identification of behavioral and neurophysiological risk markers in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental disorders, primarily in the domains of sensory reactivity and regulation, motor functions, and social communication. Trained as both an occupational therapist and developmental psychologist, she is an internationally renowned expert on the clinical characterization of sensory features in children with ASD and on the impact of these heterogeneous presentations on child and family outcomes using mixed methods research.  Dr. Baranek has developed numerous assessment tools, including the First Year(s) Inventory and the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire. As a Principal Investigator (PI) of the Parents and Infants Engaged (PIE) project funded by NICHD, she is developing novel intervention to promote caregivers’ awareness and responsiveness to their infant’s sensory reactivity and prelinguistic communication in everyday life. During her career, Dr. Baranek has served as the PI or Co-PI of multiple extramural grants funded by federal agencies and private foundations and is the author of more than 90 peer-reviewed papers. She has been a member of working groups of the National Academy of Science and the National Institutes of Health to establish guidelines for evidence-based practices and served as a technical expert for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Committee on comparative effectiveness of interventions targeting sensory challenges in children with ASD. As the director of the new Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research (insp!re) Laboratory, she leads a dynamic multidisciplinary team of investigators, students, and postdoctoral fellows, all of whom are dedicated to promoting optimal engagement and development for young children with neurodevelopmental differences. Dr. Baranek also serves on the executive committee of the Program for Early Autism Research, Leadership, and Service (PEARLS), a multisite, interdisciplinary network of researchers committed to earlier identification and interventions for young children at-risk for ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

Dr. Baranek’s favorite occupations: She enjoys yoga (by herself!) and cooking and hiking with her son and husband in her spare time.

John Sideris PhD

John Sideris PhD >

Professor of Research
Director of Instrument Development and Psychometric/Statistical Analysis

Dr. Sideris is a quantitative psychologist and psychometrician. He has served as the data analyst on many projects ranging from investigations of children with developmental delays — particularly with regard to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related syndromes — to studies of early childcare programs. His studies of children with delays have focused primarily on children and adolescents with ASD, Down syndrome, and FXS. Much of this research has centered on their sensory features, social engagement, language, neural processes, and developmental trajectories. In early childcare, his work has focused on the measurement of childcare quality generally and as it relates to children with disabilities. Dr. Sideris has particular expertise in longitudinal modeling (e.g., change over time in children with developmental delays) and in latent variable models (e.g. factor analysis of existing and new measures).

Dr. Sideris’s favorite occupation: He is a great lover of comedy and can frequently be found shaking with laughter at one of LA’s great comedy theaters.

Allison Phillips OTD, OTR/L

Allison Phillips OTD, OTR/L >

Assistant Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy
Dr. Allison Phillips received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from USC, her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University, and her Doctor of Occupational Therapy from USC. Within the Chan division, she works primarily in the Innovations in Neurodevelopmental Sensory Processing Research (insp!re) laboratory. As the lab’s Clinical Assessment Training Coordinator, she trains doctoral and master’s level students and administers early autism screening tools and assessments. Her research interests include early risk signs for autism and early autism screening with high-risk infants and understudied populations abroad. In addition to her role in the insp!re lab, she assists the academic fieldwork team with out of area and out of state level II fieldwork outreach.

Emily Sopkin OTD, OTR/L

Emily Sopkin OTD, OTR/L >

Assistant Professor of Clinical Occupational Therapy
Emily Sopkin received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and both her Master of Arts and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy degrees from the University of Southern California. She also completed the USC Chan Sensory Integration Continuing Education Certificate Program in 2017. Dr. Sopkin studied community programming for individuals with autism during her doctoral residency with USC Chan’s autism initiative, and continues to consult with local museums on ways of expanding their access and inclusivity efforts. Additional interests include the role of creative and performing arts in occupational therapy practice. Currently, Dr. Sopkin is facilitating the development, implementation and monitoring of the USC Chan 2019-2023 Strategic Plan.

Emma Yu

Emma Yu

Data Management Coordinator
Xian (Emma) Yu is the data management coordinator in the insp!re lab. She has more than 8 years’ experience in data management in health care and medical research. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences, worked as a research coordinator at Mount Sinai Medicine Center, and then worked as a technician at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Emma later pursued a master’s degree in Statistics from CUNY. Before joining USC Chan, she was a data manager at City of Hope. Emma is an expert in various data analysis tools, including SAS, R, SPSS, Tableau and Python. Her primary responsibilities in the insp!re lab include database design, set up, and maintenance; statistical analysis; and model building.

Emma’s favorite occupation: Emma enjoys traveling when she has the opportunity.

Emily Campi MA, OTR/L

Emily Campi MA, OTR/L >

PhD Student in Occupational Science
Emily has a BS in biology and psychology from Santa Clara University and clinical and research experience working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Prior to joining the insp!re lab, Emily worked as a research assistant to Dr. Cathy Lord, where she received training in joint attention, symbolic play, emotion, and regulation-enhanced milieu teaching (JASP-EMT); discrete trial training (DTT); administration and coding of the Brief Observation of Social Communication Change (BOSCC); and clinical training in the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2). She is especially interested in parent-mediated intervention and the caregiver experience, and she plans to pursue a career in academia.

Emily’s favorite occupation: She grew up helping her mom in the kitchen, and she now absolutely loves to try new recipes for meals and dessert!

Elizabeth Choi MS, CCC-SLP

Elizabeth Choi MS, CCC-SLP >

PhD Student in Occupational Science
Elizabeth is a licensed speech and language pathologist. Her main research interests relate to infant and toddler development and growth. She is particularly interested in the role and trajectory of communication within infants’ and caregivers’ engagement in occupations such as the co-occupation of feeding. She also seeks to explore how caregiver-infant bonding dynamics, especially in terms of caregiver response to infant cues and infant solicitations, can impact infants’ social and communicative development. Elizabeth’s career interests include bridging the knowledge gap between occupational science and speech, language, and hearing sciences with neonatal/infant therapies and practice. Additionally, she is interested in contributing to research involving best methods for evaluation of swallowing in breastfeeding infants and in developing noninvasive measures of swallowing function specifically for the breastfeeding population.

Elizabeth’s favorite occupation: She enjoys playing the lyre — she loves being able to play a piece smoothly after a lot of practice!

Brittany Koenke

Brittany Koenke

OTD Resident
Brittany Koenke is an OTD resident in the Insp!re Lab. She received her Bachelor of Science degree and Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy with a minor in Neuroscience from USC. She works as an occupational therapist at Momentum Pediatric Therapy Network while completing her OTD. She has experience working with children in the clinic, school, early intervention, and social skills settings. She is certified in the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) and earned an advanced practice certification from the California Board of Occupational Therapy in Swallowing Assessment, Evaluation, or Intervention. Her research interests include early Autism Spectrum Disorder detection and addressing disparities in early detection for underserved populations.

Brittany’s favorite occupations: She enjoys doing yoga, going to the beach, and spending time with her dog.

Liz Phelps

Liz Phelps

OTD Resident
Liz is an OTD resident in the insp!re lab and the project coordinator for the Sensory Processing and Autism Network. She earned a BA in Child Development from Tufts University and recently graduated from USC with a MA in Occupational Therapy. In the time between her degrees, Liz put her undergraduate degree to excellent use as a nanny. While nannying for a child with sensory processing challenges, she discovered the field of OT and fell in love with the problem solving that is innate to the profession. Liz has a passion for advocacy and plans to be active OT professional organizations to support policy changes throughout her career.

Liz’s favorite occupations: Board games with family and friends, walking her dogs while listening to a great podcast, swimming, Pilates, and sewing—currently making masks!

Ruisheng Yun

Ruisheng Yun

OTD Resident
Ruisheng is an OTD resident in the insp!re lab. She got her bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation from Shanghai University of TCM and recently graduated from Peking University HSC-USC program with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Ruisheng has completed full-time fieldwork related to children with various developmental disorders. She also had a great interest in research related to early assessment and early intervention for children with ASD.

Ruisheng’s favorite occupations: Baking, shopping, swimming, and playing board games with her friends.

Kayla Brown

Kayla Brown

Research Assistant
Kayla is a master’s student in the occupational therapy program and a research assistant in the insp!re lab. She has a BS in health promotion and disease prevention and a double minor in occupation science and the dynamics of early childhood from USC. During her undergraduate experience, she gained 4 years of experience in early childhood education as a Head Start preschool aide and 2 years of research experience. Kayla’s professional interests lie in early intervention for children with ASD and feeding therapy.

Kayla’s favorite occupations: engaging in crafts, cooking, exploring new restaurants, hiking, walking her dog, and playing board games with her friends and family.

Vanessa Chan

Vanessa Chan

Research Assistant
Vanessa is a master’s student in occupational therapy and a research assistant in the Insp!re lab. She has a BS in Occupational Therapy from Tung Wah College in Hong Kong. During 4-year undergraduate study, she completed her fieldwork in a special school for children with physical disabilities and developmental disorders, and had a great interest in working in the pediatric field as a future career. Before joining the lab, Vanessa worked as a registered occupational therapist in a special child care center for children with ASD and developmental delay in Hong Kong. She is passionate about both clinical practice and research on early intervention for children with ASD and Sensory Integration as her professional development.

Vanessa’s favorite occupations: spending time with family and friends, exploring good places to watch the sunset

Stephen Morrison

Stephen Morrison

Research Assistant
Stephen is a master’s student in occupational therapy and a research assistant in the insp!re lab. He has a BS in human development & family studies and a minor in music from Colorado State University. While at Colorado State University, he spent time researching autism spectrum disorder and effective ways to provide autism screening and services to children and families with limited access to these necessary services. Stephen is interested in learning more about early intervention for children with ASD and how to effectively serve this population in clinical practice.

Stephen’s favorite occupations: Some of his favorite occupations include playing music with his band, hiking, exploring new coffee shops, going to sporting events and concerts, playing with his dogs, and spending time with his family and friends.

Chloe Rey-Talley

Research Assistant
Chloe is a master’s student in the occupational therapy program and a research assistant in the insp!re lab. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pennsylvania State University. Before joining the lab, Chloe worked as a therapy aide in inpatient acute care and outpatient rehabilitation at Keck Hospital of USC. Chloe also has over six years of experience working as a full-time caregiver for children ages 0-10. Her professional interests include early intervention and pediatric mental health.

Chloe’s favorite occupations: She loves being outdoors, exercising, swimming, playing with dogs, and spending time with her friends and family.