OARC Staff Biographies
Susan Daniels, Ph.D.
Dr. Daniels is the Acting National Autism Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) at the National Institute of Mental Health. The role of National Autism Coordinator was created by Congress to facilitate coordination and implementation of autism activities across federal departments and agencies. This work is accomplished in part through the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Autism, a work group of federal agencies whose missions include autism- and disability-related programs, of which Dr. Daniels serves as the Chair. Dr Daniels is also the Executive Secretary of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), a federal advisory committee created by Congress to coordinate federal activities and provide advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues related to autism. In her role with the ONAC and IACC, Dr. Daniels oversees the strategic planning, policy, communications, and operations for the committee. Prior to working at NIMH, Dr. Daniels worked in policy and program management related to neurodegenerative diseases and infectious diseases at two other NIH institutes, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Before coming to NIH, Dr. Daniels was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow and consultant at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She received her Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Brandeis University, where she conducted research on the function of the sensory nervous system.
Oni Celestin, Ph.D.
Science Policy Analyst
Dr. Celestin is a Science Policy Analyst in the OARC, where she supports the IACC by performing analyses, reporting, and strategic planning. Prior to joining OARC, Dr. Celestin was a Science Associate and AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation, working in grant administration, science communication, and science policy. Dr. Celestin completed postdoctoral training in lipid transport and metabolism at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and she received her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Chicago, studying the development of the brain. She also received a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Katrina Ferrara, Ph.D.
Science Policy Analyst
Dr. Ferrara is a Science Policy Analyst at the OARC, where she performs research and analysis in support of the IACC’s strategic planning and reporting. Prior to joining OARC, Dr. Ferrara was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Brain Plasticity and Recovery at Georgetown University, studying brain and cognitive development using functional magnetic resonance imaging. She was also a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the Board on Children, Youth, and Families at the National Academy of Sciences. She received a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Psychology and English from Williams College.
Steven Isaacson, B.A.
Mr. Isaacson is a Policy Analyst supporting the Acting National Autism Coordinator. Prior to joining NIMH, Mr. Isaacson was an Employment Training Specialist with Kennedy Krieger Institute, and a Men’s Group Instructor at the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism engaging with autistic adults and transition-aged youth to build social, communication, and employment readiness skills. Mr. Isaacson is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He received the Award for Excellence in Autism Studies in the Post-Baccalaureate program at Towson University. He also received a B.A. in Political Science and the Joe de Rivera Peace Prize from Clark University in Worcester, MA.
Tianlu Ma, Ph.D.
Science Policy Analyst
Dr. Ma is a Science Policy Analyst at OARC and supports the IACC through research, analysis, and reporting. Before joining OARC, Dr. Ma was a Science Policy Fellow at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, where she supported the Office of Public Affairs in promoting evidence-based science policy and advocating for biomedical research funding. Dr. Ma received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she studied how changes in physiology regulate female reproduction. Dr. Ma also holds a B.S. in Biochemistry and B.A. in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin.
Rebecca Martin, M.P.H.
Public Health Analyst
Ms. Martin is a Public Health Analyst at OARC and focuses on outreach activities, including enhancing web content, social media use, and increasing engagement with the autism community. Ms. Martin received her M.P.H. in Health Behavior and Health Education, with a special focus on Health Communication, from the University of Michigan. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Maryland.
Angelice Mitrakas, B.A.
Mrs. Mitrakas is the Management Analyst, providing management and administrative support for the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Before joining OARC, Mrs. Mitrakas worked as the Operations Coordinator for the Extramural Administrative Service Branch (EASB) at the National Institute of Mental Health. There she worked as the liaison between management, program directors, and administrative officers with regards to program administrations. She also worked at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where she was a Support Assistant providing executive level administrative support where she was able to utilize her skills in entrepreneurship and small business management. Mrs. Mitrakas received her Bachelors in Linguistics and Translation from Wilson College.
Luis Valdez-Lopez, M.P.H.
Health Science Policy Analyst
Mr. Valdez is a Health Science Policy Analyst supporting the Acting National Autism Coordinator. Prior to joining NIH, Mr. Valdez worked for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)’s Maternal and Child Health technical assistance team and UCEDD Resource Center, providing technical assistance to the network of 52 Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) programs and 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs). Mr. Valdez also recently completed a fellowship with the Vermont LEND Program as a Public Health Fellow. Mr. Valdez holds a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Master's of Public Health with a concentration in Global Health from the George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Jeffrey Wiegand, B.S.
Web Development and Digital Outreach Manager
Mr. Wiegand serves as the Web Development and Digital Outreach Manager at OARC, in support of the IACC. His responsibilities include web design, frontend development, backend and database development, 508 compliance, and content management. Mr. Wiegand also oversees digital communications and social media strategy. Before joining OARC, Mr. Wiegand worked for a media company, serving in various roles including Quality Assurance Manager, Project Manager, and Senior Web Developer. Mr. Wiegand has a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Computer Science from University of Maryland University College, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication from Frostburg State University.