Chahrour Lab

Interrogating the genome to better understand the mechanisms causing autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders and inform innovative therapies Start Here
Research and Mission
Our overall interest is to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders. We focus on identifying disease genes, understanding how they lead to neuronal dysfunction, and mapping the impacted pathways to inform the development of targeted therapies.
Gene discovery in
autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

We apply whole exome and genome sequencing and other approaches like forward genetics to identify pathogenic variants that underlie ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders

Mechanisms of rare neurodevelopmental disorders

We leverage animal models to dissect the pathways in which genes normally function, and characterize the molecular mechanisms leading to the phenotypes exhibited in these conditions

Informing discovery
of innovative therapies

Our work informs the discovery of diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets for people living with neurodevelopmental disorders

Lab Members

Maria Chahrour, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Maria obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology from the American University of Beirut prior to attending the University of North Texas for an M.S. in Forensic Genetics and Baylor College of Medicine for a Ph.D. in Molecular and Human Genetics. She later joined Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital as a postdoctoral fellow and worked there as an instructor in the Division of Genetics and Genomics. Maria currently resides with her husband and two sons in Dallas.

Dr. Chahrour on ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Twitter.
Kiran Kaur, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist

Kiran obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Blackburn College, master’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Kentucky, and Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Southern Methodist University. In graduate school, Kiran studied calmodulin binding proteins in the Tryapnosoma bruei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness. She was the coordinator and the instructor for the biotechnology program at El Centro College. In the Chahrour lab, she manages all lab aspects and supports the ongoing research programs.

Nancy Parmalee, Ph.D.
Computational Biologist

Nancy earned her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine where she started her research career in Drosophila genetics and cell signaling. She went on to obtain her Ph.D. from Columbia University in the department of Genetics and Development where she studied angiogenesis and human genetics. She did her postdoctoral training at Columbia University working on the genetics of Parkinson’s disease and then moved to Albert Einstein College of Medicine where she investigated heavy metals as an environmental risk factor for Parkinson’s disease using mouse and worm models. Nancy moved from New York City to Dallas to join the lab as a computational biologist. In her free time, Nancy is a sailor, swimmer, and long-distance runner.

Emiri Hirokawa-Ahmed
Research Assistant II

Emiri obtained her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Hunter College (CUNY). After finishing her degree, she joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and spent a decade working in cancer research. She then moved from NYC to Dallas with her family to join Dr. Chahrour’s lab. Outside the lab, she enjoys spending her time with her two little kids and husband.

Oguz Tuncay, M.S.
Graduate Student (Neuroscience)

Oguz received his B.S. in Molecular Biology and Genetics and M.S. in Neuroscience from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. During his master’s he worked on identifying novel variants associated with essential tremor in consanguineous families. Oguz joined the lab as a Neuroscience graduate student. He’s currently working on the identification and characterization of novel ASD variants using WGS and WES data from familial cohorts, forward genetics, and mouse models. Outside of lab, Oguz likes baking cookies and watching figure skating, artistic gymnastics, and RuPaul’s Drag Race. He is a proud Ravenclaw.

Lauretta El-Hayek, M.S.
Graduate Student (Genetics, Development, and Disease)

Lauretta obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology and master’s degree in Molecular Biology from the Lebanese American University. During her graduate studies as a master’s student, Lauretta’s work focused on understanding the mechanisms by which physical exercise mediates positive effects on the brain, leading to better learning and memory. She also worked on trying to use metabolites produced during exercise to promote resilience to stress or act as antidepressants. Lauretta is currently focused on studying mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorder. Lauretta enjoys playing the violin, reading Sherlock Holmes detective stories, and is obsessed with avocados!

Shayal Vashisth
Graduate Student (Neuroscience)

Shayal received her B.S. in Neuroscience from Duke University, where she primarily researched the effects of gradual ovarian decline on the cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease. She also studied the potential therapeutic effects of physical exercise in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, she is focused on the mechanisms underlying autism spectrum disorder. When she’s not in lab, Shayal enjoys Taekwondo, exploring new recipes, and trying to pet every dog on Katy Trail.

Join Us

We are always looking for enthusiastic graduate students, postdocs, and technicians. To apply, please email Dr. Chahrour a CV, cover letter briefly describing previous research experience, and contact information for three references.

Lab Alumni

Join Our Studies

Our lab studies the genetics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We hope that by finding the genes responsible for ASD, we can better understand the processes that are disrupted in ASD as well as how these genes function in normal brain development.

Adults and children with ASD, and their family members, are invited to participate in our research. We are able to enroll interested individuals and families from around the world. Please contact us for more details on participation:

Call us at 214-648-7389
Email us at: AutismGenetics[at]utsouthwestern[dot]edu

Study brochures:
Autism Spectrum Disorder Study (English)
Estudio del trastorno del espectro autista (Español)

Autism Society of America
Autism Speaks

The links to other websites on this page and their content are not meant to replace consultation with a healthcare provider and do not represent expressed endorsement of their organizations or the accuracy of their subject matter.
Chahrour Lab

McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
6000 Harry Hines Boulevard
Simmons Biomedical Research Building
Dallas, TX 75390-8591

Phone: 214-648-7389 (lab)
214-648-1600 (admin)
214-648-6523 (office)

Email: maria[dot]chahrour[at]utsouthwestern[dot]edu