Skip to main content

Principal Investigator

Dr. Clare Harrop is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill. She is a member of the UNC Autism Center and an Investigator at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She is affiliated with the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and faculty in the DHS Office of Research and Scholarship. Dr. Harrop received her BSc. in Psychology from Durham University, her MSc. in Reading, Language and Cognition from the University of York, and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychopathology from the University of Manchester. She completed postdoctoral training at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment and UNC Chapel Hill. In her spare time, Clare can be found spending time with her family, reading non-academic books, and trying to squeeze in a Peloton ride.

Email:  Twitter: clareharrop85  CV: ClareHarropCV


Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Tyler McFayden is a T32 Postdoctoral Fellow with UNC’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. She received her B.S. in Psychology and Education from Davidson College and her Ph.D. in Clinical and Developmental Psychology from Virginia Tech. Tyler’s research focuses on social communication and language in autistic youth; she works primarily on Dr. Harrop’s R01 studying sex and gender in autism. Outside of work, Tyler loves tending to her house plants, thrift shopping, and spending time with her son.  

Email: CV: TylerMcFaydenCV



Project Coordinators and Research Assistants

Amanda Neal is a post-baccalaureate research assistant with the Harrop Lab. Previously, she worked at Duke’s Early Experiences and the Developing Brain Lab as a Research Technician and attended the University of Tennessee – Knoxville where she graduated with a degree in Neuroscience. While at UTK, she worked as an undergraduate research assistant with the Infant Language and Perceptual Learning Lab. Amanda is interested in research focused on access to care for underserved populations with an emphasis on rural areas. Amanda spends her free time reading, hiking with her dog, and sewing.



Maia Karpinsky is a post-baccalaureate research coordinator in the Harrop Lab. Maia graduated in from Marquette University (May 2022, B.A. Psychology), where she worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Aging, Imaging and Memory Lab and the Improving Child and Family Interventions Lab. Following graduation, Maia worked as a research assistant in various neuroscience and psychology labs at the University of Minnesota and worked clinically as a residential mental health counselor for adolescents. Maia plans to pursue her PhD in Clinical Psychology and is interested in focusing on adolescent mental health, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and risk factors that may be unique to autistic populations. Outside of lab, Maia enjoys knitting, reading, drinking too much coffee, and going for walks with her dog, Isla.

Email: CV: MaiaKarpinskyCV


Kimberly Liles is a post-baccalaureate research assistant in the Harrop Lab. Kim graduated in May 2023 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Human Development and Family Science. During her final semester, she completed an internship at the Harrop Lab before transitioning to work in the lab over the summer. Kim plans on attending graduate school after gaining more experience in research related to neurodevelopmental disorders. Her current interests center around masking and the experiences of late-diagnosed autistic individuals, as well as the impact of sex and gender in relation to these. Outside of the lab, Kim enjoys reading fantasy and science fiction and listening to music.  



Sophie Bittner is a post-baccalaureate research assistant in the Harrop Lab. She graduated from Denison University in 2022 with a B.A. in Psychology. Sophie previously worked as a research assistant in the Cohen Lab at UNC studying network integration and executive functioning in children with ADHD using neuroimaging techniques. At the Harrop Lab, she researches social disconnection in older adults with autism. She plans to utilize her neuroimaging skills and research experience with older adults to pursue a graduate degree in Cognitive Psychology, with a focus on aging and memory. In her free time, Sophie enjoys hiking, yoga and reading.



PhD Students

Orla Putnam is a third-year doctoral student in the Speech and Hearing Sciences program at UNC and a current LEND trainee. Orla earned a BS in Human Development at the University of California San Diego, where she worked at the UCSD Autism Center studying sex differences using eye-tracking. Orla’s current studies focus on the experiences of autistic women and language use in autistic children. She is particularly interested in masking, communication, and neurodiversity. In her free time, Orla enjoys knitting, reading, and playing with her dog, Lacey.

Email:  Twitter: @OrlaPutnam CV: OrlaPutnamCV Website:


Alison (Sonny) Russell is a first-year doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program at UNC Chapel Hill. Sonny earned a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior at Vassar College and then spent 3 years post-bacc at Dr. Julia Parish-Morris’ Social Attention and Language Lab. Sonny primarily supports the Harrop Lab’s study focused on sex, gender, and camouflaging in autism. She is particularly interested in anti-ableism, supporting queer and gender-diverse autistic individuals, and equitable access to autism services across lifespan. In her free time, Sonny enjoys crocheting, wrestling yarn away from her cat Pigpen, and boxing.

Email: CV: AlisonRussellCV


Mags McAllister is a first-year doctoral student in the Speech and Hearing Sciences program at UNC and a Royster Fellow. Mags is a double Tarheel and earned her BA in Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC before working on a study of early detection and diagnosis at Duke’s Center for Autism and Brain Development. She also spent two years working on neuroimaging studies on cognition across the lifespan in Duke’s Neurology Department. Mags’ current studies focus is the personal and communicative functions of echolalia and repetitive behaviors for autistic individuals. Mags enjoys backpacking, kayaking, and playing with her water-phobic dog, Maya!



Master’s Students

Mary Kathryn Phelps is a first-year master’s student in the Speech and Hearing Sciences program at UNC. Mary Kathryn is from just outside of Memphis, Tennessee and received her B.A. in Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is particularly interested in working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other learning disabilities. In her free time, she enjoys exercising, cooking, going to coffee shops, and hanging out with friends.




Undergraduate Research Assistants


Jackson Peden is a Senior from Brentwood, Tennessee. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in both Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in Chemistry. After undergrad, he plans on attending medical school. In his free time, Jackson enjoys running, trying a new recipe, and reading a good thriller/historical fiction novel.






Cecelia Young is a Sophomore from Black Mountain, North Carolina. She is currently pursing a bachelors degree in human development and family science. Cecelia ultimately hopes to work as a therapist specializing in disordered eating. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, running, and cooking.





Tara Cooleen is a freshman from Winston Salem, NC pursuing a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Neuroscience. After graduating, she plans to apply to medical school to become an emergency medicine physician. In her free time, Tara enjoys hiking, spending time at the beach, reading, and babysitting.




Amelia Coates is a freshman from Boston, MA currently pursuing a B.S. in Neuroscience and a B.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies. She is the recipient of the Joseph E. and Grace Needham Pogue Scholarship, which honors students who work for the cause of greater diversity and understanding at UNC. After graduating, she hopes to become a Physician Assistant and work with underserved and underrepresented populations.




Sarah Cao is a freshman from Beijing, China pursuing a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Statistics and Analytics. She is interested in how gender differences influence neurodevelopmental disorders and plans to pursue graduate school after undergrad. In her free time, Sarah enjoys going to cafes, thrifting, and reading.





Katie Gowan is a junior from Charlotte, NC, pursuing her B.S. in Public Health, majoring in Nutrition on the Nutrition, Health, and Society track. Following graduation, she plans to attend school to become a pediatric occupational therapist. In her free time, Katie enjoys cooking/baking, spending time with friends, and being outside.


Lab Alum