Meet the Trainees
Graduate Student Long-Term Trainees
Hayley McAvoy, B.A. (she/hers), is a second-year PhD student in the School Psychology program at UCR, focusing on research involving students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Hayley earned her B.A. in Psychology at UCLA with minors in Applied Developmental Psychology and Disability Studies. Prior to UCR, she worked with children with ASD in a variety of settings: as a therapist at Kids Connect (an intensive early intervention program at UCLA), as an in-home therapist, as a behavior technician, as a therapist for a Speech and Language clinic, and, most recently as a paraeducator in an inclusive elementary school. She spent the past summer working at a Summer Treatment Program at the University of Washington for kids with autism and ADHD. Her research interests revolve around education/training for teachers, paraprofessionals, and parents of students with ASD. In her career, she wishes to continue to pursue these research interests while working as a clinician.
Fun fact: Hayley loves trivia, though she’s not too great at it. During the initial 2020 quarantine, she hosted weekly trivia for her friends via zoom.
Samira Singleton is a first-year MPH student in the Health Policy and Management department at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She is currently a UC-LEND trainee focusing on graduate-level training on establishing and improving the health of infants, children, and adolescents who have or are diagnosed with or are at risk of developing autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopment disabilities. Samira and her UC-LEND team members are conducting a capstone which will lead to a panel regarding the importance to increase the priority of neurodiversity coursework at FSPH and focus on additional available courses.
Aside from relevant school research, Samira is currently serving as the Vice-Chair of the Communications Board and the Chair of the Operations Committee at UCLA. She strives to be a leader and representative for her fellow undergraduate and graduate students at UCLA. She enjoys working alongside her fellow board members and constructing a powerful media production at UCLA.
Melissa Klaib (she/hers) is a PhD student in the School Psychology program at UC Riverside. Her research interests include student-teacher relationships for students with neurodevelopmental disabilities (ADHD in particular), as well as academic and behavioral interventions to support the success and learning of students in schools. Currently, her plan is to become a practicing school psychologist, though she doesn't know if the field of academia and research will snatch her up. Most of her experiences revolve around volunteering in elementary classrooms, helping with the implementation of reading or math interventions, and administering psychological assessments under the supervision of her practicum advisor.
One fun fact about her is that she is slowly working toward her childhood goal of speaking 5 languages fluently someday (good foundation of all the basics so far, but need more practice to be fluent!)
Valerie Nguyen (she/hers) is a first-year graduate student pursuing a Masters of Public Health, Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Prior to this, she worked in the non-profit field for affordable housing and global health. Valerie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with minors in Asian Humanities and Global Health at UCLA. She is interested in health policy research to improve health outcomes for marginalized groups nationally and abroad. In her spare time, Valerie enjoys reading, hiking, and visiting the ocean.
Tricia Choy (she/hers) is a third-year School Psychology doctoral student at University of California, Riverside. Her research interest focuses on examining underlying neural correlates related to social skills and empathy development and how the family unit impacts socialization in autistic youth. So far in her graduate career, she has examinedthe impact of an evidence-based social skills intervention, PEERS, on the broader family functioning and worked on an IES-funded project to improve student-teacher relationships within the general education classroom. She hopes to become a licensed psychologist who specializes in providing multi-disciplinary care to autistic youth and their families.
A fun fact is she has a total of 26 first cousins (who doesn't love a big family!).
Natalie Libster (she/hers) is a graduate student in Human Development & Psychology at UCLA. Her research interests focus on the social relationships and experiences of autistic girls and women.
When moving to Los Angeles from Philly, she packed everything she owned into her car and took a 2-week cross-country road trip.
Elissa Monteiro (she/hers) is currently a third-year School Psychology PhD student at the University of California, Riverside. Her research broadly focuses on refining assessment of executive functioning and evaluating novel interventions for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. Through her hands-on work in the school system, particularly in special education, she began to understand the practical challenges involving implementation of evidence-based intervention and reliable neuropsychological assessment in schools, especially when it comes to assessment of ADHD and related symptomology. Her practical work with students has inspired the formulation of several research questions around how best to support the development of executive function skills that tend to predict behavioral, socioemotional, and academic challenges experienced by students. She is also particularly interested in using the foundations of implementation science to design training programs for parents and teachers to construct their own toolboxes to support the children around them. She also enjoys spending time appreciating nature and cuddling with her cat.
Nina Mandracchia (she/hers), MA is a fourth year doctoral candidate in School Psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Her research interests include effective educator training and the creation/promotion of effective and usable educational resources to help bridge the research to practice gap. She has served in K-12 schools for the past four years in fieldwork positions that include experience in assessment, intervention, consultation, systems-level services, and more. She has also TA'd and served as the instructor of record for one undergraduate and several graduate level courses including Multiple Regression, Experimental Design, Social Emotional Learning in the Schools, and Educational Psychology. She aspires to strike a balance between her passions for practice and academia, working in both K-12 and university level settings throughout her career.
A fun fact about her is that she has a border collie mix named Astro with heterochromia (one blue and one brown eye!)
Katie Feistel (she/hers) is a 3rd year Public Policy PhD fellow at Pardee RAND Graduate School and assistant policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Her primary research interests are disability policy and the policy areas surrounding the integration of special needs populations into community-based living with a focus on children. She is passionate about long term caregiving, health care access, collaboration, and adaptive technology. Prior to joining Pardee RAND, she was a senior project engineer at The Aerospace Corporation where she held multiple positions providing systems engineering and architecture support for national security space and launch vehicle systems. She has a M.S. in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Southern California and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin. In her free time, she loves exploring national parks with her family and being outside as much as possible.
Purnima Mudnal Bharath is a third year PhD student in the Department of Health Policy and Management at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Purnima’s research focuses on improving care coordination and quality of care for patients particularly children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to improve healthcare access and health outcomes. She is also interested in research to enhance and support the primary care medical home model by improving team dynamics and leveraging telehealth capabilities to improve family centered care and care coordination. Besides working as a graduate student researcher at UCLA’s Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, Purnima has been a teaching assistant for graduate level coursework including Health Services Organization and Management Theory. She has an M.A. in Journalism from USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She enjoys spending time visiting museums and camping with her family.
Practitioner Track Trainees
Katie Dahlerbruch (she/hers) is an occupational therapist who currently works at a pediatric outpatient clinic in Redondo Beach. She is passionate about interdisciplinary care for individuals with disabilities and their families and is driven to advocate for equal access to quality services through her research and continued education. Her research interests include the intersection of occupational therapy and neurodevelopment disabilities, quality of life, family-centered care, and bioethics. As a sister to an adult with a disability, she hopes to use her personal experiences, in addition to her professional training, to impact healthcare systems and bring awareness to the lived experiences of individuals with disabilities across the lifespan.
When she has the opportunity, she loves to travel to new cities and countries; she has trekked through Nepal during leech season, which was incredible, minus the bugs!
Olivia McGee (she/hers) is a Speech-Language Pathologist working at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. She received her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Penn State University and went on to receive a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from NYU. Following this, Olivia moved to California to complete her Clinical Fellowship at EBS Children’s Institute Los Angeles. Olivia currently works in a pediatric outpatient rehabilitation setting, however, she has experience in the clinic, home health, and inpatient rehabilitation settings as well. Olivia is interested in the early identification of developmental disabilities in the birth to three population. In the future, she hopes to be a clinical supervisor for graduate students.
A fun fact about Olivia is that she studied in Spain for 5 months!
Sunny (she/hers) recently completed her MSW at Columbia University with a focus toward working with underserved communities. She is interested in conducting cross-cultural research on differences of CPTSD symptoms within minority communities. She looks forward to earning her LCSW, working with patients, and learning new therapeutic interventions. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, cooking, painting, reading, and learning new languages.