Research Team

Annette Estes, Ph.D.

Director, UW Autism Center

Annette Estes, Ph.D., directs the University of Washington Autism Center (UWAC), an organization devoted to supporting autistic people and their families, caregivers and community through clinical services, research, and training. She holds the Susan and Richard Fade Endowed Chair, is a Research Professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, and an Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington. She is also a licensed psychologist in the state of Washington. Her research is carried out at the UW Autism Center and Center on Human Development and Disability.

Over the last decade, Dr. Estes has served as principal investigator on a series of clinical trials to determine the best ways to support young autistic children. These collaborative, multisite, studies have investigated innovations in naturalistic, developmental, behavioral intervention and ask the question, “how can we improve outcomes for very young autistic children.” In collaborations with scientists and clinicians at University of California, Davis, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Harvard, and University of California, Los Angeles, she has worked to expand the evidence regarding how to best support autistic children and their parents.

Dr. Estes has also been part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study Network (IBIS) for over 15 years.  She is the co-principal investigator of with Dr. Stephen Dager at the University of Washington. She directs the behavioral assessment core of the multi-site IBIS Network with clinical sites at University of North Carolina, Washington University, Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, and UW. The aim of the IBIS is to improve early recognition of infants at high likelihood of autism and identify brain mechanisms that may lead to new strategies to help children reach their full potential and live their best lives.

Dr. Estes was recently awarded a grant to study sleep in school-aged children at high likelihood of autism. She is especially interested in the role of the family in supporting positive outcomes for children with disabilities and improving the lives of autistic people.


Assistant Professor, Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, UW School of Medicine Dept of Pediatrics

Dr. MacDuffie’s research focuses on understanding the ethical and social impacts of advances in neuroscience on children and families affected by neurodevelopmental, neurological, and psychiatric conditions. She uses a combination of qualitative, quantitative, and conceptual methods with the overarching goal of embedding the perspectives of research participants and other impacted stakeholders into the practice and process of neuroscience research. She has been a part of the UWAC research team since joining as a post-doctoral fellow in 2017. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking in the beautiful Washington woods with her family and dog.

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Staff Picture

Director of Technical Services

Dr. Munson studies variability in the development of children with autism. His research contributes to the identification of the genetic basis of autism and to the development of more accurate prognoses and interventions. Currently, he is developing methods to analyze social skills and language comprehension in children with limited abilities to communicate. In these studies, he uses eye-tracking and other technologies to measure the responses of children to real-time 3-D graphics. Munson also uses various statistical methods to analyze patterns of development in children with autism.


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Tanya St. John, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Tanya St. John is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Washington Autism Center.

She completed her doctoral work at Seattle Pacific University, predoctoral internship at City of Hope National Medical Center, and post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Washington Autism Center.

Dr. St. John has devoted her career to understanding autism across the lifespan, with a particular emphasis on toddlers and young children.

Dr. St. John has served as project manager and diagnostic clinician on various NIH-funded studies including the Infant Brain Imaging Study and is an independent ADOS trainer.

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Martha Cagley

Research Coordinator

Martha Cagley is the Research Coordinator for the IBIS Sleep Study. She comes to the Autism Center from the University of Washington School of Nursing, where she was a team member in the Northwest Research Group on Aging (NWRGA). She was involved in research studies looking at Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, as well as sleep problems in relation to osteoarthritis pain in older adults. Martha was also involved in “Sleepsmart”, a study working with children experiencing arthritis pain and sleep problems.

Martha was the exercise professional in the NWRGA and is interested in how regular physical exercise can decrease pain, improve sleep and cognitive function. She has been a professional exercise class instructor for over forty years.

Ms. Cagley is very happy to be working with the Autism Center. She has a thirty-six year old son on the spectrum, with whom she lives. Since his birth, she has been interested in research regarding Autism, so working with the IBIS Sleep Study feels like two of her greatest interests have come together.

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Lacy Cheers, MPH

Lab Manager/Research Coordinator

Lacy Cheers is a lab manager and research coordinator for the Infant Brain Imaging Study and a variety of other research projects at UWAC. She also manages the Psych 499 and research volunteer program.

Prior to joining the research team she worked in various roles providing direct support to children and adolescence in behavioral health. Her interest in project and data management lead her to the research team where she supports the day-to-day operations. She received her Master of Public Health from Eastern Washington University in 2023 and aims to leverage her experience and enthusiasm for community well-being by contributing to impactful projects.

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Mallory Leff

Research Study Assistant

Mallory Leff is a Research Study Assistant for the Infant Brain Imaging Study for Early Prediction of Autism Spectrum Disorder and study of Down Syndrome Infant Development. She works directly with families through recruitment, enrollment, and scheduling visits for collecting behavioral assessments, EEG and MRI scans.

Mallory received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis. She has plans to continue her education through medical school in the coming years, and she would like to pursue a career in pediatrics.

Outside of the office, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and walking the family dogs. She likes to be active and enjoys hiking and playing lacrosse and volleyball.

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Fritz Reitz, Ph.D.

Research Engineer

Dr. Frederick “Fritz” Reitz is a Research Engineer/Scientist serving as Technical Services Manager for the UW Autism Center (UWAC).

With a background in electrical engineering, protein biochemistry, and research instrumentation development and prototyping, Fritz provides systems, software, and instrumentation as needed in support of UWAC research as well as seeing to the day-to-day technical needs of the center.

Fritz is glad to contribute to UWAC’s noble mission of providing and furthering autism care.

In his spare time, he tests his wife’s patience by filling the house with half-finished projects, including trebuchets, unusual bicycles, and unnecessarily complicated electronics.

See all publications

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  • Ashley Penney, Ph.D., Behavior & Education Consultant, Research Scientist
  • Emma Strobaugh, Research Study Assistant
  • Will McCloud, Ed.S.
  • Kat Monlux, Ph.D., BCBA, LBA
  • Lupita Santillan, Ph.D.
  • Cale Smart was a practicum student for the 2022-2023 school year.
  • Alexxia Woods was a practicum student for the 2022-2023 school year.
  • Xiaoyu Li was a research volunteer during summer 2023.
  • Taryn Carlson was a undergraduate research assistant for the 2022-2023 school year.
  • Esther Li was an undergraduate research assistant for the 2022-2023 school year.

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