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Geraldine Dawson Ph.D.

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Geraldine Dawson Ph.D.


Geraldine Dawson became Autism Speaks’ first chief science officer in January of 2008. Dawson serves as the scientific leader of Autism Speaks, working with the scientific community, stakeholders, and science staff to shape, expand and communicate the foundation’s scientific vision and strategy. Dawson is also Research Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to joining Autism Speaks, Dawson was Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Washington (UW) and Founding Director of the UW Autism Center, which has been designated an NIH Center of Excellence since 1996. While at the University, Dawson led a multi-disciplinary autism research program focusing on genetics, neuroimaging, diagnosis, and treatment. Dawson’s own research has been in the areas of early detection and treatment of autism, early patterns of brain dysfunction (electrophysiology), and more recently, development of endophenotypes for autism genetic studies. Dawson received continuous NIH funding for her research from 1980 until 2008 when she left UW to join Autism Speaks. Dawson’s scientific achievements include discovering that autism symptoms could be recognized during infancy, defining the earliest manifestations of autism, pioneering the use of event-related brain potentials to study early brain dysfunction in autism, development of behavioral and electrophysiological endophenotypes in genetic studies of autism, and development and evaluation of the Early Start Denver Model, an intervention for infants and toddlers with autism. Dawson has published over 180 scientific articles and chapters and co-edited or authored a number of books about autism spectrum disorder and brain development, including Autism Spectrum Disorders; Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain; and A Parent’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. She has received over 50 grants supporting her research, including 17 research grants from NIH. From 2000-07, Dawson founded and directed University of Washington Autism Center’s multi-disciplinary clinical services program, which is the largest of its kind in the northwestern United States. A strong advocate for families, Dawson has testified before the U.S. Senate on behalf of individuals with autism and played a key role on the Washington State Autism Task Force. Dawson earned a Ph.D. in developmental and child clinical psychology from the University of Washington. After graduate school, she studied as a postdoctoral fellow at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA and, a year later, accepted a position as Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 1985, she returned to the University of Washington as a faculty member, where she continued her research on autism and practiced as a clinical psychologist specializing in autism until she accepted her current position at Autism Speaks.

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