Home Meet Our Team

Linda Brzustowicz, M.D.

Principal Investigator and Chair, Department of Genetics

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My research group applies the techniques of molecular and statistical genetics to approach clinically relevant problems in neuroscience, with the ultimate goal of understanding gene function in both the pathologic and normal states.  We are currently studying schizophrenia, autism, and specific language impairment. Work directly conducted by my group includes development of phenotype definitions, subject recruitment and assessment, genotyping and statistical analysis for linkage and association studies, comparative genomic analysis, and gene expression studies.  Other areas of particular interest include the role of microRNAs in the control of gene expression in the human brain and enhancements to moderately high throughput genotyping technologies.

Judy Flax, Ph.D.

Co-Investigator and Associate Research Professor

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Judy Flax is an associate research professor in the Brzustowicz Lab in the Department of Human Genetics and a Senior Research Scientist the Infancy Studies Laboratory at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience (CMBN) of Rutgers University. Over the past 17 years her primary research interests have spanned the areas of normal speech and language acquisition and the behavioral and genetic bases of autism and language-based learning disabilities (SLI and dyslexia). While at CMBN she has also studied the integration of behavioral, functional and structural brain development in infants and young children and the assessment of children who are non-verbal with severe motor and cognitive impairments. As a licensed speech pathologist and learning consultant, she has over 30 years of clinical experience in special education, language-based learning disabilities, and autism. Before joining Rutgers University, she held positions at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montclair State University, and worked in several clinical settings in New Jersey, New York, and Florida.

Christopher W. Bartlett, Ph.D.

Co Investigator and  Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

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My laboratory seeks to identify genetic factors for language impairments. As animal models of language development are of limited utility, we examine DNA from families segregating specific language impairment or autism as part of two separate but interacting projects. These projects are heavily interdisciplinary, utilizing a wide range of molecular and computational methods developed in-house and though close collaborations with experts in statistics and computer science. We hope that use of genetics will allow for identification of at-risk children to promote early intervention. More information can be found here: http://mathmed.org/#Christopher_Bartlett

Steve Buyske, Ph.D.

Associate Research Professor and Co-Investigator

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Steve Buyske received his undergraduate education at Deep Springs and Haverford Colleges and his graduate education at Brown and Rutgers Universities. He thinks of himself as a statistical handyman, with a particular interest in statistical genetics and in the genetics of autism.

Tara Anne Matthews, M.D.

Developmental Pediatrican

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Tara Anne Matthews, M.D., joined the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study led by Dr. Linda Brustowicz in the Department of Genetics, Rutgers University in 2013 as a clinician, taking histories and performing physicals. A life-long New Jersey resident, Tara is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, and St. George's University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. She completed her Pediatric Residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and trained in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School/Children's Specialized Hospital. She has over 20 years of experience working with young children in a variety of social, educational and clinical settings, and has a special interest in Autism and Asperger's Disorder.

Barbie Zimmerman-Bier, M.D.


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Barbie Zimmerman-Bier, M.D., is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who is actively engaged in the diagnosis and treatment of children with a wide variety of neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr. Barbie Zimmerman-Bier is the Chief of the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital at Saint Peter's University Hospital and adjunct clinical professor in the Department of Genetics at Rutgers University . Her research efforts have focused on improving the understanding and treatment of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders including autism, ADHD and fetal alcohol syndrome. Dr. Zimmerman-Bier is also the mother of four children; one of which is an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Marco Azaro, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Professor

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Marco obtained his Ph.D in Biology from Brown University in 2002 under the supervision of Arthur Landy. His thesis research focused on the mechanisms of site-specific recombination used by lambda bacteriophage during host integration. From 2002 to 2005 he a worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Honghua Li at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey where he developed software to generate multiplex PCR primers and to analyze microarray data. He joined Linda Brzustowicz's laboratory in 2005 as a Postdoctoral Fellow and is currently employed as Assistant Research Professor. He contributes bioinformatics programming support to the ARCC and CNSP projects, designs primer and probe panels for the laboratory's Luminex-based genotyping platform, and participates in data curation and harmonization for NJLAGS.

Abby Hare, Ph.D.


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Abby received her Ph.D. from the Molecular Biosciences Graduate Program in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics program at Rutgers in July, 2013. While at Rutgers she worked on the NJLAGS project as well as an associated project of motor-speech disorders in autism (ARCC). She continues to consult and collaborate on the analysis of data acquired from both projects.


Brenda Patel, Ed.M.

Clinical Coordinator

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Brenda is the current Clinical Coordinator for the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study (NJLAGS) and is actively involved in all aspects of this project. Brenda received a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Rutgers University in May of 2012. During her undergraduate career, Brenda was involved in the Civic Engagement and Service Education Partnerships Program where she served as a teacher's assistant in a pre-school classroom in New Brunswick, NJ. In addition, Brenda was a fieldworker at the Douglas Developmental Disabilities Center in which she applied various Applied Behavior Analysis skills in a secondary level classroom. Brenda also served as research assistant in the Educational Psychology Department at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University from 2010 to 2012 working on a research project that involved interpreting middle school students' class work and assignments on understanding aquatic ecosystems. Currently, Brenda is a certified New Jersey State School Counselor grades Pre-K to 12 and received her Masters of Education Degree from Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education in May of 2014.

Sherri Wilson, MSW

Clinical Coordinator


Sherri is a Clinical Coordinator for the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study (NJLAGS). She received her B.A. from Rutgers University in 2010. From 2011-2013 she taught students with autism at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center before leaving to pursue her Master of Social Work Degree full-time at Rutgers University, which she then obtained in 2015. As a full-time student Sherri had the opportunity to complete an interdisciplinary traineeship at The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities in addition to an internship at Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center providing therapy to individuals with autism. 

Christine Gwin, B.A.

Clinical Coordinator

Christine is a Clinical Coordinator for the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study (NJLAGS). She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Genetics from Rutgers University in 2014. As a student at Rutgers, Christine worked on research projects involving DNA repair pathway selection and genome stability. She plans to continue her graduate education in human genetics and ultimately wants to pursue a PhD.

Brittany Greene, B.A.

Project Manager

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Brittany Greene is an analyst and data management specialist for the NJLAGS project. She has a degree in Genetics from Rutgers University. During her undergraduate career, Brittany did computational research in Dr. Brzustowicz lab, where she became proficient in python and data management, and worked closely with the NJLAGS team. She has worked in project management at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics in Siena, Italy. Currently she is pursuing a Professional Science Masters Degree at Rutgers, and has returned to Dr. Brzustowicz lab where her skills in cross-functional project managment and data management are being fully utilized.



Zena Fermano, M.A.

Consultant and Evaluator

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Zena was the Clinical Research Coordinator for the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study (NJLAGS) until August of 2012. She continues to work on the project as a consultant and evaluator. Zena received a B.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University where she did a year-long placement in Dr. Maggie Shiffrar's Visual Cognition Lab where she investigated the perception of human motion by individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In 2012, she received an M.A. from Kean University in the Department of Communication Disorders and Deafness. As well as her work with NJLAGS, she works for the Westfield, NJ Board of Education as a Speech Language Pathologist.

Cynthia Roesler, M.S., Speech-Language Pathologist

Consultant and Evaluator

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Cindy is a consultant and evaluator for the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study (Linda Brzustowicz, PI, Department of Genetics, Rutgers University). She has been administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) since 2006 for the project as well as the standardized language and learning assessments that are part of the behavioral testing battery. Cindy is a Senior Research Speech-Language Pathologist in the Infancy Studies Lab at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience on the Rutgers Newark Campus. She is the Research Coordinator for a study that is focused on developing protocol to improve efficiency of information processing in infants in order to enhance cognitive and language outcomes over time. Cindy received her B.S. and M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology from Loyola College, Baltimore, Maryland. She has over 25 years of clinical experience in pediatric communication disorders. She holds a NJ state license to practice speech-language pathology, the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence and NJ school certification as a speech-language specialist. Prior to joining Rutgers University, Cindy held positions in a hospital pediatric outpatient clinic, NJ and MD public schools and a private center for children with cerebral palsy. 


Julie Morgan-Byrne, R.N.

Consultant and Evaluator


Julie is a consultant and evaluator for the New Jersey Language and Autism Genetics Study led by Dr. Linda Brustowicz in the Department of Genetics, Rutgers University. She completed ADOS training in 2006 and has since performed upwards of 50 plus ADOS examinations as well as behavioral testing for the Department of Genetics in their ongoing/autism study and for the Department of Psychology in their autism/ visual analysis of human action research. She joined the Infancy Studies Laboratory at the Center of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers in 2004 and is currently actively involved in the recruitment and evaluation of children in control families and families with a history language, reading and processing difficulties. These studies involve converging methodologies (behavioral measures, MRI and electrophysiology) to measure infant information processing and early cognitive and language development. Julie is a Licensed Registered Nurse since July 1978. Hailing from Minnesota where she received her education and training at the University of Minnesota and Bethel College. Julie has extensive experience (thirty plus years) in a variety of clinical settings from high-risk preterm labor to special care nursery and 35 years in hospital based parent education programs.

Karen Law, B.A.

Laboratory/Technical Assistant

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Karen Law graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Psychology and Genetics and completed her senior thesis working on the NJLAGS. Currently, she is happy to continue her involvement in the project as a laboratory/technical assistant. Karen has also been lucky to train at the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, Disability Rights New Jersey, the Yale Child Study Center, and the Midland School. Karen is currently working towards her Master's Degree in the Rutgers Graduate School of Education and hopes to become a special education teacher in the future.

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and Autism Genetics Study
145 Bevier Road
Piscataway, NJ 08854

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