Laura Hewitson, PhD
Laura Hewitson, PhD is the Director of Research for The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern. Dr. Hewitson graduated with honors in Biology from the University of Essex, UK in 1990, and then earned her PhD in Biological Sciences at the University of York, UK. She relocated to the US in 1994 to pursue post-doctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a Staff Scientist at Oregon Health Sciences University from 1997-2001, held the position of Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences from 2002-2009; and held an Adjunct faculty position there from 2009-2010. She has also been appointed as an Affiliate Scientist at the Washington National Primate Research Center since 2009. Her research has focused on developing animal models in order to better understand the genetic and environmental influences that lead to infertility and/or adverse pregnancy outcomes. She has published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers, invited reviews, and book chapters during her fifteen-year career as a researcher, and has presented her work at many national and international conferences.
In 2002 Dr. Hewitson spearheaded a research program at the University of Pittsburgh to develop a non-human primate model for studying the cumulative effects of thimerosal-containing vaccines on infant development. This work has been presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR). In 2008 she joined Johnson Center for Child Health and Development in Austin, TX as a Staff Scientist in order to further develop these studies. She is one of the Principle Investigators on a five-year multi-disciplinary research study at the University of Washington that is investigating the safety of the pediatric vaccine schedule using a non-human primate model.
As the Research Director at Johnson Center for Child Health and Development, Dr. Hewitson oversees a diverse research portfolio for children with autism focusing on nutrition, mitochondrial dysfunction and the development of biomarkers as both diagnostic tools and as possible therapeutic targets.
Tony Phelan joined the research team in November of 2012 after moving to Austin by way of Houston, TX. Tony is a veteran of the U.S. armed forces where he worked as an Emergency Room Medic and EMT. Since his time in the service he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science from Texas State University - San Marcos and has worked in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical fields. He also worked as a phlebotomist and as the manager of an elderly assisted living community.
Tony is currently completing his final year of schooling to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing through The University of Texas at Arlington’s Academic Partnership Program. Upon graduation he intends to pursue his Master’s Degree in Psychiatric Nursing. As the Research Assistant, Tony facilitates clinical research studies at the Johnson Center, working to involve our patients in manageable and meaningful ways. In his spare time, Tony enjoys volunteering with the Houston based Benevolent Missions International and is an avid health and fitness enthusiast competing in adventure racing, triathlons and the sport of Crossfit.
Michael Rotko graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, where he completed both a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. After working as an undergraduate research assistant in a Psychopharmacology lab at UT Austin, Michael joined the research team at The Johnson Center in the spring of 2013. With more than four years of experience elucidating disease mechanisms and curative technologies, he is enjoying the transition into clinical research, where he will have the opportunity to personally work with families in order to improve patients’ lives at an individual level. He is committed to a career in health care, and plans to attend medical school in the Fall of 2014. As a research assistant at The Johnson Center, Michael facilitates clinical studies, working to serve our community in effective and meaningful ways. Specifically, he is involved in our ongoing study aimed at identifying biomarkers in blood and urine samples from children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic profiling that may be useful for targeting therapeutic interventions. This development of biomarker profiles may form a diagnostic tool, which may improve the clinical well-being of affected children and increase our knowledge of this disorder.