Erin Bojanek, PhD, BS (’14), is an instructor in the Frederick J. and Marion A. Schindler Cognitive Neurophysiology Lab. She was an undergraduate in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at the University of Rochester and received her doctorate in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Kansas. Her research focuses on understanding the underlying mechanisms of sensory processing differences in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“In my current study, I am looking at how autistic kids process and complete visual information. And this ties into the idea of local-global processing,” said Bojanek. “How do individuals with autism complete pictures when they are given incomplete information? Are people with autism focused more on the individual segments? For example, do they see the trees but not the forest? If that is the case, how can they put that information together to identify a complete picture and what does their brain look like while they are completing this task? Then we can figure out how this differs from visual perception in neurotypical kids.”
Bojanek chose Rochester, in part, because of her positive experience during undergrad, but mostly because she can work at an academic medical center that is also an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (IDDRC). “It is important to be somewhere where my clinical work and research can integrate. My research in the CNL lab allows me to learn new techniques and ask different questions. I had no experience with EEG before working in this lab with John Foxe, PhD, and Edward Freedman, PhD. And clinically, I am pursuing my clinical psychology license and gaining expertise in autism diagnostic assessments.” Laura Silverman, PhD, and Heather Adams, PhD, are Bojanek’s clinical supervisors and are integral to her learning how her clinical skills inform her research.
Bojanek has always been interested in working with kids; her mom was a special education teacher. But it would be the mentorship of Tris Smith, PhD, a pioneer in autism research, during her undergraduate training at the University that solidified her pursuit to study autism. “His [Smith] work was so impactful. He was an awesome mentor to me and so many people.” Bojanek plans to continue a mostly research-focused career while maintaining a clinical component.