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Mark Shen, PhD, a researcher at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, received the international honor for his work on biological indicators of autism in infants.

Mark Shen, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and researcher at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), has been awarded the 2018 Young Investigator of the Year Award from the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) – the largest international scientific organization of autism researchers.

This award is given annually to the early-career investigator (i.e., earned their doctoral degree within the past seven years) who published the best empirical research paper of the year.

Shen and several colleagues at the CIDD, including Heather Hazlett, PhD, Martin Styner, Phd, Meghan Swanson, PhD, and Joe Piven, MD, reported that infants who later developed autism had increased levels of extra-axial cerebrospinal fluid in the brain at six months of age, which preceded the onset of autism symptoms and predicted an autism diagnosis and the severity of symptoms at two years of age (Shen et al., 2017; Biological Psychiatry).

This research was also recognized by Autism Speaks as one of the “Top 10 Papers of Year” and was nominated by the NIH Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (NIH IACC) as a finalist for their annual list of “the most significant advances in autism research”.

Shen, who is an investigator of the UNC Autism Research Center, received this honor during the awards ceremony at the annual INSAR Conference held earlier this May in the Netherlands.