Meet new faculty member Jessica Bradshaw

Focuses on early identification and intervention for autism

Name: Jessica Bradshaw

Degree: Ph.D., University of California Santa Barbara, clinical counseling and school psychology

Current position: Assistant professor, psychology, College of Arts and Sciences

What brought you to South Carolina? I was doing a post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University when Jane Roberts [a psychology professor at the University of South Carolina who conducts extensive research on Fragile X syndrome and related topics] gave a talk at the Marcus Autism Center. That’s where I first found out the psychology department at USC was searching for a new faculty member with a focus on autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities. I’m a big advocate for public education and so I was drawn to this being a public university. There’s also a ton of really high-quality research being conducted here. I wasn’t sure how it would be to live in a smaller town in the South, but it’s a really nice atmosphere in Columbia, and we’ve had fun exploring.

Tell us about your background. I’m originally from southern California, and growing up I think I was surrounded by those with special needs. When I was in high school, I remember watching "House of Cards," a silly movie with Tommy Lee Jones that was completely scientifically inaccurate, but it got me interested in autism and social disability. In college, I worked in cognitive science and autism research labs, and after college I worked at Yale University’s Child Study Center as a research assistant and lab manager. I was interested in autism as a developmental phenomenon but also interested in helping families.

What’s your current area of research? I’m interested in early identification and intervention in autism, particularly in better understanding how attention center and motor systems are interrelated in infancy and how they promote the development of social communication.

What are your goals? I’d like to make USC the place the community thinks of when they need diagnostic and intervention services related to autism, especially in infants and toddlers. I’m not so interested in the binary aspects of what predicts autism but rather in developing a better understanding of how we can use early infant motor and attention development data to create new, effective interventions in infancy.

What are you most looking forward to about being at Carolina? I’m looking forward to building my research and connecting with the local community. I’m also keen on mentorship and training — I’m passionate about training undergraduates and graduate students who are interested in infant and child development and in autism. I’m passionate about developing their independence so they can pursue their own research from start to finish.

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about