EARLI Study Investigators

Southeast Pennsylvania
     Craig J. Newschaffer, PhD
     Susan E. Levy, MD
     Igor Burstyn, PhD
     Nora L. Lee, PhD              

Northeast Maryland
     M. Daniele Fallin, PhD
     Rebecca Landa, PhD, CCC-SLP

Northern California – Kaiser Permanente
     Lisa Croen, PhD

Northern California – UC Davis
     Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD
     Sally Ozonoff, PhD
     Cheryl Walker, MD
     Deborah Bennett, PhD

Johns Hopkins Biological Repository
     Homayoon Farzadegan, PhD

Data Coordinating Center
     Danh Nguyen, PhD


Deborah Bennett, PhD:  Dr. Bennett is an assistant professor in Environmental and Occupational Health in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis.  Dr. Bennett’s research focuses on the fate, transport, and exposure of chemicals in both the indoor and multimedia environments within the context of both environmental risk assessment and environmental epidemiology.  Her work utilizes both modeling and measurement techniques, bridging the gap between these two lines of inquiry.  Current research interests include exposure to pesticides from indoor uses, relating environmental measures to biological measures for flame retardants, exposures and resulting risks from hazardous air pollutants, supporting exposure assessments in autism studies, and quantifying intake fraction and exposures to agricultural workers. Dr. Bennett received the Early Career Award from the International Society of Exposure Assessment and was an EPA STAR Fellow.  She has served on an EPA Science Advisory Board committee as well as other EPA committees and was a US representative to OECD/UNEP Workshop on the use of Multimedia models.  She serves as the treasurer for the International Society for Exposure Assessment.   Dr. Bennett received her doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley, worked as a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and was a member of the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Igor Burstyn, PhD:  Dr. Burstyn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel University and holds adjunct appointments at the University of Alberta and Utrecht University.  He is trained in both environmental and occupational epidemiology and exposure assessment.  Dr. Burstyn received his PhD in Environmental and Occupational Health from Utrecht University in the Netherlands; his MSc in Occupational Hygiene and BSc in Microbiology are both from the University of British Columbia in Canada.  Dr. Burstyn’s research primarily focuses on the identification of sources and the health impacts of occupational and environmental exposures, with particular interest in the effect of environmental in utero exposures on the health of pregnant women and their children.  He is the lead investigator on a series of Canadian studies that examines the influence of perflourinated acids on maternal and child health.  Dr. Burstyn's methodological expertise lies in the area of measurement error and hierarchical data.  He is the principal investigator of the population-based record-linkage study of perinatal risk factors for autism spectrum disorders among children born in Alberta, Canada, and a co-investigator on EARLI, focusing primarily on questions of the role of parental environmental exposures to industrial chemicals.


Lisa Croen, PhD:  Dr. Croen is the PI of the EARLI Network San Francisco Bay Area study site at Kaiser Permanente and is a perinatal epidemiologist. Her research interests include the epidemiology of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, environmental exposures and gene/environment interaction, and adverse perinatal outcomes. Additionally, she is a PI on two large federally funded autism spectrum disorder studies. The first is the Study to Explore Early Development, a large, national case-control study focused on environmental and genetic risks for autism spectrum disorders, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The second is the Early Markers for Autism (EMA) Study, an investigation of prenatal and neonatal biologic markers for autism, funded by the National Institutes of Health. She is also Co-Investigator on the California ASD Twins Study (CATS), funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Croen’s research interests also include health service delivery for individuals with autism and, in collaboration with clinical colleagues, she directs the Kaiser Permanente site of the Autism Treatment Network and Autism Intervention Research program, funded by Autism Speaks and HRSA.

Jennifer Culhane, PhD, MPHDr. Jennifer F. Culhane is an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Drexel University College of Medicine. In addition to her work at Drexel University College of Medicine, she also holds a research position at the University of Pennsylvania in the Population Study Center and recently joined the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)/Penn faculty where she is the Principal Investigator of the CHOP National Children’s Study (NCS) Center. Dr. Culhane’s research interests include the interaction of stress, infection, and pregnancy outcomes. She has been the principal investigator for multiple research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examining the causes of preterm birth and the associated racial and ethic disparities. Her research has been widely published in such journals as the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Journal of Public Health and Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology

M. Daniele Fallin, PhDDr. Fallin is the PI for the Maryland EARLI site at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She is an experienced genetic epidemiologist who heads the Genetic Epidemiology division of the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins. She has expertise in complex statistical genetics methods as well as in overseeing and directing fieldwork for epidemiologic and genetic studies of neuropsychiatric conditions including autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. She is also the Maryland PI for the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED), a multi-site case-cohort study to identify genetic and environmental risk factors for autism, funded by the CDC. In addition to these two large autism studies, Dr. Fallin oversees the Genetic Epidemiology aspects of the JHU Center for Excellence in Genome Sciences (CEGS) focused on Epigenetics of Common Disease. The CEGS is investigating the epigenetic mechanisms of autism and schizophrenia and the interactions of genes and environment with epigenetics.

Homayoon Farzadegan, PhD:  Dr. Farzadegan will direct the EARLI Network Central Lab and Biologic Repository located at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Core Lab and Central Repository (CLCR). Dr. Farzadegan, a Professor of Epidemiology and director of the CLCR facility since its inception, is an academic epidemiologist as well as a bench scientist and has experience collaborating on numerous large-scale epidemiologic studies.                          

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD:  Dr. Hertz-Picciotto is the director of the EARLI Network Sacramento Valley Field Site and is a Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine. She has published widely on environmental exposures such as lead, arsenic, pesticides, PCBs, PBDEs, and air pollution and their effects on pregnancy and early childhood respiratory health and neurodevelopment, including autism and cognitive deficits.  She is also an expert on theory and methods for epidemiologic research. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto directs the CHARGE – Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment – Study, the MARBLES – Markers of Autism Risk in Babies-Learning Early Signs – Study and has conducted large international cohort studies on pregnancy outcomes, childhood morbidity, immune markers, and neurodevelopment in polluted areas of Mexico, Chile, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.  Dr. Hertz-Picciotto has served on scientific advisory panels at the state, national and international level. She is currently Chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Deputy Director of the UC Davis Center for Children's Environmental Health, and Director of the Northern California Collaborative for the National Children’s Study. She has taught epidemiology on four continents.

Rebecca Landa, PhD, CCC-SLPSibling and proband clinical assessments are conducted at Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI) Center for ASD and Related Disorders (CARD) under Clinical Director Dr. Landa, who established the Center in 1997. Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and KKI CARD currently collaborate on the Centers for Disease Control ASD and Development Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network surveillance project, the enriched-risk pregnancy cohort pilot study, and a CADDRE pilot study exploring novel autism spectrum disorder circulating biomarkers. In its nine-year history, CARD has led or participated in at least 10 different clinical research studies of autism with Dr. Landa’s focus being research on infant siblings of children with an autism spectrum disorder. CARD clinicians will be familiar with virtually all the assessments planned for use in developmental follow-up of siblings in the EARLI network. 

Nora L. Lee, PhD:  As an EARLI co-investigator, Dr. Lee manages Network activities as well as study activities at the Southeast Pennsylvania Research site. She is a perinatal epidemiologist with experience in both U.S. and international research focusing on maternal health, prenatal environmental exposures, and birth outcomes. She has shared her expertise in various capacities, including being a member of the Philadelphia Department of Health’s Maternal Mortality Review and a contributing author of the 2006 Surgeon General’s Report on The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. Dr. Lee received her doctorate in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is an Assistant Research Professor at Drexel University School of Public Health.

Susan E. Levy, MD:  Dr. Levy is a leading clinical researcher in autism spectrum disorders and a co-Principal Investigator on the Philadelphia site of the national Study to Explore Early Development (SEED).  She is a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Children with Disabilities and the Autism Expert Panel for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  Dr. Levy contributed to the recent clinical report about autism diagnosis and management as well as the Autism Toolkit.  She was a member of the Consensus Panel sponsored by the Child Neurology Society for Screening and Diagnosis of ASD. Dr. Levy is a member of the newly established Center for Autism Research (CAR), a consortium of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania researchers who focus on the developmental, neurobiological, and genetic mechanisms of the autism spectrum disorders.  The Center for Autism Research is tightly integrated with the Regional Autism Center, directed by Dr. Levy.  The Regional Autism Center provides comprehensive, coordinated, family-centered clinical care for children suspected of having an autism spectrum disorder.  The Center for Autism Research is the site for clinical evaluations for the SEED study and will be the site for clinical evaluations for EARLI, under Dr. Levy’s direction. 

Craig J. Newschaffer, PhD:  Dr. Newschaffer is Principal Investigator (PI) of both the EARLI Network and the Southeast Pennsylvania Research Site. Dr. Newschaffer, an experienced autism epidemiologist, was founding director of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology (CADDE) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health before becoming the Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Drexel University School of Public Health in September of 2006. He holds an Adjunct Professor appointment at Johns Hopkins University, sits on the Science Advisory Board of Autism Speaks, and is a member of the editorial board of Autism Research and the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Danh Nguyen, PhD:  Dr. Nguyen is an associate professor at the University of California, Davis and is the statistics leader for the UC Davis NeuroTherapeutics Research Institute. He is also the director of the Statistics Core for the UC Davis Center for Children's Environmental Health. He received his doctoral degree in statistics from UC Davis in 2000 and has since focused his research interests on fragile X syndrome, fragile X premutation, bioinformatics, molecular cancer classification, microarray gene expression data, partial least squares, dimension reduction, statistical applications in molecular biology, and environmental epidemiology. Dr. Nguyen is the director of the Data Coordinating Center for the EARLI study.

Sally Ozonoff, PhD:  Dr. Ozonoff is an Endowed Professor and the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California – Davis. Her current research focuses on very young children with autism. She is studying the onset of autism in a prospective investigation that follows high-risk infants from birth through age 3. She is also studying risk factors, both biological and behavioral, for autistic regression. Dr. Ozonoff has written over a hundred peer-reviewed publications and chapters on these topics, as well as three books (A Parents’ Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism, Guilford Press, 2002; Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Research Review for Practitioners, American Psychiatric Press, 2003; Assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Guilford Press, 2008). Her work has been showcased on the television news show 60 Minutes, as well as in many local and national newspapers. Dr. Ozonoff serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Autism and Developmental  Disorders, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Autism Research.

Jennifer Pinto-Martin, PhD, MPHDr. Pinto-Martin is a perinatal epidemiologist based at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and is the Philadelphia site Co-Principal Investigator of the national Study to Explore Early Development (SEED).  She is a member of the Center for Autism Research, a Children’s Hospital/ University of Pennsylvania consortium of autism researchers, and currently serves as Secretary for the International Society for Autism Research. Dr. Pinto-Martin has been involved in a longitudinal cohort study of the etiology and long-term consequences of neonatal brain injury since 1984. This study, the Neonatal Brain Hemorrhage (NBH) Study, has had nearly 20 years of continuous NIH funding to assemble and follow this cohort of over 1,000 low birth weight infants. Dr. Pinto-Martin is currently the Principal Investigator on an R01 from NIMH to assess the presence of Autism Spectrum Disorders among the NBH cohort. In addition, she is a Co-Investigator on a NIH/Fogarty grant to assess the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in India.  Her experience with recruitment, enrollment, and longitudinal follow up of a cohort of children is extremely valuable in establishing the early pregnancy cohort for the EARLI Network. 

Cheryl Walker, MD:  Dr. Walker is an Obstetrician / Gynecologist by training and Co-Principal Investigator for the EARLI Network Sacramento Valley Field Site. She received her medical degree from UCSF, and remained at that institution for her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and fellowship in Reproductive Infectious Diseases and Immunology. She worked on STD / HIV epidemiology and prevention in Uganda for three years before returning to a series of faculty positions leading to her current one at the University of California at Davis. She has published in the field of reproductive tract infections, and served as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and on scientific advisory panels at the state, national and international level. She is a co-investigator on several large epidemiologic projects including the CHARGE – Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment - Study, the MARBLES – Markers of Autism Risk in Babies-Learning Early Signs - Study, and the Northern California Collaborative for the National Children’s Study. Her research focuses on the identification and prevention of adverse outcomes in pregnancy, including autism.