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05-21-2014

Clarkson University Researcher to Speak at Autism Conference in NYC

Clarkson University Research Assistant Professor Alisa G. Woods of the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science will discuss her work at the ICare4Autism International Autism Conference set for June 30-July 2 in New York City.

Alisa G. WoodsWoods is one of 29 presenters for the event, which is open to the public and families as well as treatment providers and researchers.

“I'm trying to act as a bridge between psychology and biochemistry,” Woods explains. “I work in a field called proteomics. We look for biomarkers in neurodevelopmental disorders. It's an exciting new frontier. We’d like to link biomarkers to behavior.”

She works with a lot of people, including her husband, Clarkson Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biomolecular Science Costel C. Darie. They use his lab to analyze blood and saliva of children with autism. Woods also is a counselor and neuropsychology researcher at SUNY Plattsburgh's Center for Neurobehavioral Health, which is one of the sites where the researchers collect samples.

Approximately 1 in 50 children are diagnosed with autism, according to current statistics. Autism is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive behavior.

“The Icare4autism conference is about science and treatments, education, quality-of-life issues,” she notes. “It's not a quick fix, but there are very good educational and behavioral treatment for kids. Advocacy is essential.”

Researchers have their work cut out for them to determine a cause for autism. At the same time, government funding for research is the worst Woods has seen.

“It's brought a lot of programs to complete halt. We are focused on advancing this research, though. We want to give people some answers,” she says. “I don't think there's one single cause for autism. There's likely a genetic-environmental link in a lot of cases.”

She looks forward to the conference and encourages interested people to attend. For more information or to register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-icare4autism-international-autism-conference-registration-10555077521. Add the promo code "speaker" to get 20 percent off the fee.

What's next for Woods? She wants to write a comprehensive autism handbook.

She and Darie recently published a textbook, Advancements of Mass Spectrometry in Biomedical Research, http://www.springer.com/chemistry/analytical+chemistry/book/978-3-319-06067-5. It includes a chapter on how mass spectrometry can be used to study autism.

In addition, Woods, Darie, Clarkson Ph.D. student Armand G. Ngounou Wetie, and some colleagues published a paper about a pilot proteomic study of protein markers in autism spectrum disorder, available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/elps.201300370/abstract. She’s also published a recent paper with Dr. Jeanne Ryan of SUNY Plattsburgh about mental health counseling for people with autism available at http://www.capmh.com/content/7/1/32.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/awoods2.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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