The Office of Human Subjects Protections is pleased to announce that Sarah Foster, a member of The Social Cognition and Interaction in Autism Lab, has been selected as the recipient of the Spring 2024 HIVE Award!

Sarah holds a BS in Psychology from Salem State University and an MA in Human Development and Child Studies from Tufts University. When trying to determine her next steps, Sarah was drawn to The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) because of Dr. Noah Sasson’s lab, The Social Cognition and Interaction in Autism Lab, as she was interested in its focus on reducing bias between autistic and non-autistic individuals. Additionally, she wanted to find a research program that aligned with her values and interest in supporting autistic people through a social-ecologic lens. She is currently a PhD student at UTD focusing on perceptions of autism formed by social partners and serves as a lead Research Assistant in the lab.

Sarah has worked with Dr. Sasson and his lab for two years and maintains study records to confirm that all protocols are carefully followed to ensure the protection of human subjects. She enjoys the preparation stages and interacting with participants during study procedures. Sarah is also passionate about ensuring that participants feel valued and comfortable during their time in the lab. Dr. Sasson shared that Sarah is detail-oriented and takes great care and responsibility in her role as a researcher: “Sarah makes sure that all of our research participants feel valued and respected when participating in our studies. She also is incredibly conscientious maintaining and protecting our data, keeping up with our many protocol renewals and modifications, and training others in the lab to conduct research carefully and ethically.”

During data collection procedures in The Social Cognition and Interaction in Autism Lab, most participants will complete questionnaires and emotion / behavioral tasks. Data from autistic and non-autistic participants will be compared to understand how these contribute to social interactions. The lab has also completed a stigma training program to eliminate biases surrounding autistic individuals and hopes further education and research can aid in reducing biases.

When asked about the future, Sarah indicated that she hopes to remain an advocate and continue research to foster inclusivity for autistic individuals. Sarah’s dedication to conducting ethical human subjects research was apparent as she described one of the most important things she has learned so far: “Treating participants with respect and dignity is essential, and it will help build an accurate assessment of another person’s experiences. This is especially important when working with autistic people since we are often misunderstood. Listening to autistic voices paints a better picture of the individual.”

The Office of Human Subjects Protections is proud to include Sarah as a member of the HIVE!