University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Current PhD Students

Elizabeth Isralowitz MA BCBA

Faculty Mentor: Sharon Cermak EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Research Lab: Sensory Adapted Dental Environments Lab

Year of Entry: 2019

Elizabeth Isralowitz

Research Interests

As a PhD student, clinician, and educator I aspire to contribute to the growing body of research aimed at improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.  I am currently working in the SADE lab on a federally funded U01 grant.  The study’s main aim is to reduce the stress experienced by children with developmental disabilities during dental visits through environmental adaptations. My role in the lab includes setting up the adapted dental environment, conducting focus groups and interviews, and collecting and processing data, including coding electrodermal activity.

My primary research interests relate to intervention for young children with or at risk for developing ASD.  I hope to explore sensory features of young children with ASD and how these features impact parent-child interactions and later developing social-communication and self-regulation skills.  I am particularly fascinated by the transactional relationship between parent and child and how the adaptation of each contributes or inhibits the development of ASD symptoms and family quality of life.  I hope to contribute to research on the impact of early sensory differences on parent-child interactions, biobehavioral synchrony, and social-communication development.

Kaori (Lily) Ito

Faculty Mentor: Sook-Lei Liew PhD, OTR/L

Research Lab: Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Lab

Year of Entry: 2016

Kaori (Lily) Ito

Research Interests

Stroke is a neurological disorder that can leave an individual with lasting motor impairments. Among a wide range of factors that can influence stroke recovery, hemispheric dominance relative to the stroke — that is, whether a stroke is in a person’s dominant or non-dominant hemisphere — is likely to have a significant impact on function. For example, an individual whose stroke is in the dominant hemisphere may have difficulty performing daily activities that depend on the dominant hand, such as hand-writing and teeth-brushing.

At the Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Lab, I’m interested in understanding the effects of stroke laterality on neural plasticity and its implication on stroke recovery and rehabilitation. Through the use of functional MRI, I’m studying changes in brain activity and connectivity in motor-related networks following a stroke using various statistical modeling techniques, such as GLM-weighted correlation analyses and dynamic causal modeling.

Aditya Jayashankar

Faculty Mentor: Lisa Aziz-Zadeh PhD

Research Lab: A-Z Lab

Year of Entry: 2018

Aditya Jayashankar

Research Interests

I am a neuroscientist and PhD Student at the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. I work with Dr. Lisa Aziz-Zadeh in the A-Z Lab at the Brain and Creativity Institute. Our project revolves around the study of the contributions of the social and motor networks and their deficits in typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Development Coordination Disorder (Dyspraxia).

My research interests relate to the improvement of diagnostic specificity through the use of multi-modal neuroimaging techniques in conjunction with neuropsychological testing to better understand how social, sensorimotor and cognitive learning network deficits contribute to distinguishing between different ASD subtypes.

Miranda Rennie MS, OTR/L

Faculty Mentor: Sook-Lei Liew PhD, OTR/L

Research Lab: Neural Plasticity and Neurorehabilitation Lab

Year of Entry: 2019

Miranda Rennie

Research Interests

As an occupational therapist with clinical experience in adult neurologic rehabilitation, I am interested in exploring the neural mechanisms of stroke and identifying innovative ways to improve recovery for people experiencing stroke and other acquired brain injuries. In the NPNL, I currently support research projects investigating stress and other indicators of stroke recovery, as well as virtual reality as a modality for motor recovery.

Before beginning the PhD program at USC, I worked at The Ohio State University as an OT Neurologic Fellow through the AOTA Fellowship Program.

Sandy C. Takata OTD, OTR/L

Faculty Mentor: Shawn C. Roll PhD, OTR/L, RMSKS, FAOTA, FAIUM

Research Lab: Musculoskeletal Sonography and Occupational Performance Lab

Year of Entry: 2016

Sandy Takata

Research Interests

As a career scientist, I aspire to conduct translational research that informs interventions and strengthens the evidence-base for hand therapy practice. I am interested in exploring novel assessment and intervention methods that promote holistic treatment, as well as facilitate patient adherence and engagement in their own recovery to maximize occupational performance in daily life. My current work involves examining these concepts from both theoretical and applied perspectives. I am conducting a literature review on the concepts of adherence, as well as evaluating a set of qualitative data regarding the experience of patients who received mind-body interventions as part of their hand therapy. In addition to this work, I am actively involved in exploring the use of sonographic imaging as a technique for understanding musculoskeletal pathologies in the upper extremities. Specifically, I am supporting research in the lab that uses imaging to evaluate the impact of occupational performance on changes in the median nerve. As part of this study, we are also conducting a meta-analysis that will identify reference values for the typical size of the median nerve in healthy subjects using musculoskeletal sonography. As I move forward into my own independent work, I hope to apply these concepts (i.e., adherence/engagement, musculoskeletal sonography, occupational performance) in evaluating hand therapy assessment and rehabilitation techniques. My current focus is using these concepts to enhance patient recovery and return to meaningful occupations following tendon injury and repair.

David Turnbull

Faculty Mentor: Mary Lawlor ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Research Lab: Sensory Integration Engagement and Family Life (SIEFL)

Year of Entry: 2016

David Turnbull

Research Interests

My research interests are related to improving access to and quality of services for adolescents and adults on the autism spectrum. Specifically, I am interested in how autistic men and women use occupation to create, gain entry to, and maintain membership in communities. As a research assistant I have worked on continuing research projects seeking to understand the unique needs and challenges of families of young adults on the autism spectrum.

Buwen Yao

Faculty Mentor: Shawn C. Roll PhD, OTR/L, RMSKS, FAOTA, FAIUM

Research Lab: Musculoskeletal Sonography and Occupational Performance Lab

Year of Entry: 2018

Buwen Yao

Research Interests

My research interest lies in the study of musculoskeletal disorders. Specifically, I am interested in exploring the pathology and treatment of upper extremities as well as the impact of musculoskeletal disorders on workers’ daily lives. As a research assistant, I am currently investigating the use of sonographic imaging to assess carpal tunnel syndrome within the dental hygiene profession. I am also conducting a meta-analysis that will identify reference values for the typical size of the median nerve in healthy subjects using musculoskeletal sonography.

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