The Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research will host its 5th annual Autism Research Symposium on Friday, Sept. 20, in Falls Church, Virginia, with presentations by Virginia Tech researchers and a keynote talk by Halley Hovey-Murray, founder and director of the Richmond-based nonprofit One in 68 Foundation and winner of Miss Commonwealth 2019.

As in years past, the symposium is designed to bring together scientists, professionals, educators, students, and health care providers in the field of autism, and individuals with autism and/or their family members for a day of presentations and discussion. This groundbreaking symposium will feature autism research from biomedical and imaging, technology, education and clinical translational fields.

The event will be headed by Angela Scarpa, center director and a professor with the Department of Psychology, part of the College of Science. “We have been working towards better ways to improve our understanding of autism, from the molecular to the family and community levels, and recognizing the need for improved ways to access services,” she said. 

It starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park and is free, with breakfast and lunch included. The event, as in years’ past, is being sponsored by Jerry Hulick, owner and a senior special care planner with The Washington Group Special Care Planning Team and a 1973 political science alumnus of Virginia Tech. Hulick is also a longtime member of the College of Science Dean’s Roundtable Advisory Board and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Dean's Roundtable.

Presenting researchers include Sarah Clinton and Michelle Olsen, both associate professors with the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience, part of the College of Science; Denis Gracanin, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science; Tom Williams, an associate professor in the School of Education, part of the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences (CLAHS); Deanna Swain and Emma Condy, recent doctoral graduates in the Department of Psychology; and Masumeh Farchtchi, a graduate student with the Department of Human Development and Family Science in CLAHS. 

Also presenting research will be Lauren-Lee Askew, a VTCAR community affiliate, and Andrea Burchfield Mascitelli, a professor of psychology from George Mason University. 

According to her website, Hovey-Murray is on the autism spectrum and is a graduate of the William & Mary Law School, a disability advocate, speaker and author. In Richmond, Virginia she runs Gordian Partners LLC, an independent consulting and strategy firm that assists corporations to cultivate inclusive cultures, operations and policies, and works in public policy challenges. Her nonprofit work is dedicated to helping youth with autism transition to the work force.

Participants will also be able to tour the Virginia Tech Mobile Autism Clinic (MAC). A converted used RV, the MAC has been bringing services of the clinic to communities across Southwest Virginia, and this past spring won on the 2019 Innovative Rural Award from the Virginia State Office of Rural Health. 

Seating is limited for the event and RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Those interested in attending the event should contact Carey Alford of Washington Group Special Care at 703-865-6502 or by email

Attendees impacted or with a family member impacted by autism spectrum disorder may request information regarding special needs and physical, visual, and/or hearing impairment can contact Alford. 

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