Graduate Students

Wilfrid Laurier University

Zehra Sasal, MSc

Zehra is completing her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Jeffery Jones and Dr. Nichole Scheerer. Zehra is passionate about understanding autism, making her an asset to the Cognisant Lab. Zehra loves reading, animals and caffeine. She spends her free time buying more books she won’t have time to read.

Research interests: social communication, role of eye gaze in social communication, repetitive (stimming) behaviours and self and gender identity in individuals with autism.

Kiera Leon, BA

Kiera is a M.Sc. student in Dr. Nichole Scheerer’s lab at Laurier in Cognitive Neuroscience, specializing in the sensory experiences of autistic individuals. Kiera has worked with autistic individuals as a Behaviour Therapist since 2020, and she finds the most joy in seeing individuals reach their goals and succeed in all they are capable of. Kiera’s future goals include pursuing a PhD centered around developing a new therapeutic method for autism spectrum disorder.

Research interests: autism spectrum disorder, sensory sensitivity, differential sensory experiences, mental illness, trauma informed practice, behavioural therapy, childcare, equality and integration for people with disabilities, and cognition.

Silas Manning, BAS

Silas will be starting his master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience with Dr. Nichole Scheerer in September 2023.

A graduate of the University of Guelph's Arts and Sciences program, he focused his degree on Psychology and Neuroscience, working with both mice and humans to study learning, memory, and the impact of social context. As a member of a large family and a former summer camp counselor, he has held a lifelong interest in the diverse and often unique ways that adults and children develop and experience life. When he isn't working on science, his free time is spent scratching his art itch. In the future, he hopes to continue his research and education and direct his skills and talent towards improving the lives of others.

Simon Fraser University

Troy Boucher, MA

Troy is the Senior Research Assistant in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Lab at Simon Fraser University. He is also a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program under the supervision of Dr. Grace Iarocci. Troy's research interests include special interests and social development, health and wellness in people with neurodevelopmental disabilities, autistic experiences and inclusion, decolonizing research and clinical practice, and social attention and perceptual learning. Troy's thesis research is being conducted in collaboration with the Cognisant Lab. His MA thesis, Investigating the Manifestation and Subjective Experience of Restricted Interests in Autistic and Non-Autistic Youth: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, investigated the factors that motivate and sustain a child's engagement with very intense interests in autistic and non-autistic youth.

University of Western Ontario

Alyssa Janes, BSc

Alyssa is completing a MCISc/PhD in Speech-Language Pathology and Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Western Ontario in collaboration with Dr. Nichole Scheerer at the Cognisant Lab. She previously completed her HBSc in Life Sciences with a minor in Linguistics at McMaster University and MSc in Health and Rehabilitation Science (Speech and Language Science) at Western. For her doctoral thesis, Alyssa is using EEG to explore the relationship between neurological response to sound and language proficiency in children aged 1-5 years.

Jessica Holmes, BSc

Jessica is completing a MCISc/PhD in Speech-Language Pathology and Health & Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Western Ontario under the co-supervision of Drs. Janis Oram Cardy and David Purcell, and in collaboration with Cognisant Lab. She completed her HBSc in Chemistry with a Minor in Linguistics at the University of Ottawa. For her doctoral thesis, Jessica is studying the relationship between auditory feedback and the development of speech motor control in children.