Meet Our Researchers

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Kevin Cook

Headshot of TBS TL1 Scholar Kevin Cook, standing outside, smiling at the cameraKevin Cook is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at Georgetown University, where he works to characterize a specialized form of memory called schema memory in children with autism. Prior to his doctoral work he earned a BA in psychology from Skidmore College and a MA in clinical psychology from the University of Hartford. During those programs, as well as part of a research team at Yale School of Medicine, he worked to understand the intersection of fundamental cognitive processes such as learning, self-perception, and emotion regulation in a number of psychiatric disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and depression.

Describe your research interests and how you chose this area of research.

My research interests focus on understanding features of autism spectrum disorder through the lens of differences in learning and memory. In particular, I’m interested in how a memory system responsible for creating and using broad, generalizable knowledge which may be behaving differently in autistic children. Throughout my career I’ve been interested in characterizing differences in clinical populations through the lens of fundamental cognitive processes, and have been especially interested in the variability of experiences within the autistic individuals.

How does GHUCCTS help you to achieve your research goals and advance your career in clinical and translational research? How will the CTSA program help to advance knowledge and treatments for patients with the disease(s) you study?

My involvement with GHUCCTS has been a phenomenal resource in my professional and career development. The CTSA program at GHUCCTS has offered me the opportunity to develop and improve essential skills in grant writing, science communication, biostatistics, and team science. More importantly, it has provided a forum that brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines that I would not normally have had an opportunity to talk with on a regular basis. These interactions have provided a chance for me to interact with other researchers and develop perspectives on how problems are framed that differ from my own and new ways to approach them.

Why is it important to have both disciplinary and ethnic/cultural diversity in medical research? How does diversity contribute to your research? How does diversity enhance scientific discovery?

Both scientific and ethnic/cultural diversity is an essential part of biomedical research and is especially important in research pertaining to autism. Autism research represents such a diversity of experiences and expressions that it is essential to incorporate as many perspectives as possible to reach the best conclusions from our research. This diversity includes bringing together different disciplines in the ways that they approach questions to build more complex questions for more robust conclusions. Diversity also means bringing together researcher and patient perspectives that help represent the widest possible range of ethnic/cultural/gender experiences to work towards developing and answering questions beneficial to the population as a whole rather than for a select number.

How does clinical translational research benefit our communities, both directly and indirectly?

Translational research in the clinical sciences represents to most important step in the progression of biomedical research. Enough questions in clinical research have become so complex that it’s impossible for the best conclusions to be reach by lone researchers or individual disciplines. In order to ask and answer the toughest questions that will benefit communities its essential that we take a holistic approach to understanding people and problems. Translational research allows us to take scientists from a wide variety of disciplines to make sure our research meets the holistic needs of communities from the conceptualization of questions through the implementations of solutions.