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Our Staff

Daniel Lightfoot, Ph.D. - Director of the Autism Tissue Program

Autism Speaks recruited Dr. Lightfoot from beacuse of his extensive experience in academic research, industry and clinical care.  As the director of the ATP, Daniel is responsible for ensuring its success.  Part of his role ATP Director is overseeing the research, operations and planning of the brain tissue resource, anticipating needs in the scientific community and adapting the ATP to these needs.  He is also responsible for expanding and improving the ATP’s resources and funding, as well as insuring the inclusion of families in this program.

Daniel received his doctoral education in Cell & Molecular Biology from the world famous Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, the home of the Nobel Prize, and has held a postdoctoral appointment at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).  His research efforts have focused on developmental biology, embryology and stem cells in both animal and human models.  Daniel has been a contributor to the human genome project, conducted DNA sequence analysis at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research and has conducted years of research at a biotech company working towards a gene-to-drug approach to pharmacogenetics.  Coupled with his scientific efforts, Daniel has spent years in the clinical field, showing a keen interest in applying science to improve patient care.  Currently, Daniel is also a scientific industry advisor for two independent consulting firms.


Jane Pickett, Ph.D. – Director of Brain Resources and Data

Dr. Pickett has been a pinnacle and founding member of the ATP, with an unparalleled experience in the field of autism tissue research and brain banking.  Among her duties, Jane stewards the ATP’s vast tissue resources and accumulated data through the ATP Portal, manages the ATP’s large tissue grant portfolio, oversees the TAB and is the direct contact for our supported scientists.

Jane has over 10 years experience serving as coordinator of the Developmental Disability services in Oregon where she participated on the Early Intervention Team, developed and monitored state funded programs for all age groups, provided crisis management for families and facilitated parent support groups.  Clinically, she has been a community coordinator for services to the chronically mentally ill and held the post of Associate Professor and Director of the Department of Counseling and Testing at the Oregon Institute of Technology where she taught biopsychology, assisted students with disabilities who required physical and academic accommodations and coordinated the Institute’s first Technology Fair in 1993 - encouraging mechanical engineering and computer science students to address the varied technological needs of disabled persons.  Her research background includes published studies in molecular and behavioral genetics, neuropeptide biosynthesis, cellular and developmental processes and the role of stress, gender and hormones.  Jane also holds a staff position at the Harvard Brain and Tissue Research Center (HBTRC).


Carolyn Komich Hare, M.S., ADI-R and ADOS Certified – Clinical Coordinator

A critical member of the ATP staff is Carolyn Komich Hare, MS, our Clinical Counselor, who has more than a decade of experience meeting with donor families and providing compassionate bereavement support.  As the ATP Clinical Counselor, Carolyn is the family’s first and primary contact with the ATP, orchestrating the initial efforts with our tissue repository at the Harvard Brain and Tissue Resource center (HBTRC) and personally guiding a family through the process of donation.  Carolyn conducts a personnel interview with the family and acquires, upon consent, the donor’s medical records in an effort to learn more about this unique individual – a critical aspect of this program.

In her own words, “ I feel honored to meet the families who have made this special contribution”,  and has said she finds serving as the ATP Clinical Coordinator complimentary to her work as Founder and Director of AHEADD (Achieving in Higher Education with Autism/Developmental Disabilities).  AHEADD was developed (in cooperation with Equal Opportunity Services of Carnegie Mellon University) to assist students with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome in higher education and was established for the purpose of bridging the gap between public school services and the traditional college accommodations structure.  Because of her increadible efforts and dedication to the program, AHEADD was highlighted in the Chronicles of Higher Education in 2004 and was named as an “Outstanding Program”.


Ellen Xiu M.S. – Data Coordinator

As the Data Coordinator for the ATP, Ellen Xiu, MS maintains and manages the extensive ATP Portal data repository.  As part of her role, Ellen imports clinical data, medical charts and scientific research data into the ATP Portal from our supported researchers and donors worldwide, maintains the integrity of the ATP portal through extensive data accuracy reviews, organizes broad data sets for improved data representation, and tracks research projects to produce comprehensive data analysis of projects.  Ellen works closely with the Harvard Brain and Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC) and ATP supported scientists worldwide, to provide accurate and devloping information regarding tissue acquisitions, distributions and tracking.

Ellen Xiu holds a Masters Degree in Bioinformatics from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.   She has a strong background in biological data management, having previously worked with scientific teams investigating imported nutritional formulas and vaccines.  Ellen is a first generation American, having immigrated to the United States from China as a young adult.