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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Psychology

Psychology Matters

Alumni Matters

alumni By Ester Hamo
DU Psychology BS Alumn, Class of 2017




I was fortunate to pursue Stress, Early Experience, and Development (SEED) research as an undergraduate at the University of Denver through the Child Health and Development Lab. Through this work, I explored the psychological and physiological effects of stress on young children at higher risk with the goal of improving clinical interventions as well as understanding the underlying biological mechanisms implicated in dysregulated stress reactivity. This work reinforced the importance of understanding development across the lifespan through a psychobiological approach, developing early interventions, advocating for clinical populations, and addressing public health issues that can have myriad negative outcomes for children and their families.

This area of research, and the skills I learned under Dr. Sarah Watamura's mentorship, have guided me in my current role as a Sara S. Sparrow Fellow in Clinical Neuroscience at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center. I presently work in Dr. James McPartland's lab utilizing neuroimaging and neurobehavioral techniques, such as EEG and eye-tracking, to investigate biological markers for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors with wide-ranging associated symptomology. The most common tools used to evaluate clinical status and treatment response rely on subjective clinician-administered assessments and parent report. Objective, sensitive, and cost-effective biological markers for ASD are essential to improve early diagnosis and treatment onset, quantitatively measure treatment response, and stratify within the heterogeneous population for individualized treatment across the spectrum.

While I am now studying neurological mechanisms throughout development in the context of ASD, my previous work remains relevant as I continue to consider the impact of early developmental experiences, stressful life events for affected children and adults and their families, and accessible empirically-based interventions for populations at higher risk. My research experiences at DU and thereafter have fueled a passion for asking and answering questions that may translate to accessible interventions for children and their families.