Jon Spiers Chief Executive
Jon joined Autistica in 2015, after several years as a consultant advising senior leaders in charities, pharmaceutical firms and biotech. He specialised in devising and delivering innovative policy, public affairs and media campaigns in areas including lung cancer, leukaemia, genomics, HIV, meningitis, infectious diseases and ADHD.
He worked for almost a decade at Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research funder, working his way up from a graduate trainee to Head of Public Affairs and Campaigning. Jon and his team recruited over 400,000 campaigners and successfully lobbied for policies including national cancer plans for the four UK nations, increased investment in cancer screening and putting tobacco out of sight in shops. His very first campaign was the introduction of smokefree legislation in England and Wales, a policy hailed as “the biggest step forward in public health for fifty years”.
He graduated in Linguistics from Cambridge University, followed by a year as RAG President, raising over £100,000 for a range of local and national charities.
Dr Simon Wallace Research Director
Simon studied psychology at the University of London before completing his PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry. He has been involved in autism research since 1996 and for much of his career worked as a psychologist on the International Molecular Genetics Study of Autism Consortium (IMGSAC), a project that aimed to identify the genes for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Simon’s PhD research focussed on how adults with ASD perceive and identify faces, engage in eye contact and recognise facial expressions. This research led to Simon being awarded an Autism Speaks’ post-doctoral fellowship to study the brain basis of differences in the way children with ASD process faces compared to children without ASD. During the last few years of his research Simon worked at the University of Oxford on a number of neuroimaging and technology projects, in particular the use of virtual reality in educating children with autism.
In late 2008, Simon took up a post as Autism Speaks’ European Director of Scientific Development and over the last three years he has worked across Europe as part of the organisation’s Global Autism Public Health initiative.
Simon will be moving on from Autistica in late 2015.
James Cusack Research Director
James Cusack joined Autistica in September, and will be working alongside previous Research Director Simon Wallace until he steps down in October 2015. James joins the charity from the University of Aberdeen where he gained broad experience working within the field of autism, holding specific expertise in autism research. He undertook a PhD at the University of Aberdeen where he studied how people with autism detect the actions of others. In his post-doctoral studies he led the development of an automated measure of facial imitation which is being used in the study of autism, mood disorders and schizophrenia.
James has sat on a number of advisory panels discussing the role of research in autism, and was vocal in the production of the report; A Future Made Together and the publication; Educational Provision and Outcomes for People on the Autism Spectrum. He was part of a core stakeholder group which successfully campaigned for Scotland’s first ever autism strategy. James has also been a member of Autistica’s own Science Review Panel since January 2014. From a young age James has also worked directly with families affected by autism, as well as having experience in clinical, educational and social care settings.
He was attracted to the position because of Autistica’s strong, community-driven research strategy and is pleased to be joining at such an exciting time for the charity and autism research in general.
Rebecca Sterry Communications Manager
Rebecca completed a degree in English Language and Literature where she undertook units on media relations and the language of marketing. She went on to work for a direct marketing company before joining the charity sector at the National Migraine Centre where she worked for 4 years in various roles, later becoming their Communications and Operations Manager. She volunteers for a charity local to her – The Hackney Pirates, supporting young people with after-school literacy support.
Rebecca was keen to join Autistica with her interest and experience gained working for a small national health charity. Both of her parents work in special educational needs so she has grown up being very aware of the fascinating complexities of autism and the need for more research and awareness. She joined the team in their new role of Communications Manager in December 2014.
Yasmine Davies Fundraising Manager
Yasmine’s career has always focused on the Charity Sector. Prior to Autistica she worked at the Woodland Trust, an Environmental Charity, where she took on a variety of different roles spanning Individual Donor Management and more widely, Corporate Partnerships where she covered both Account Management and Business Development roles.
Yasmine joined Autistica to use her skills with an organisation that focuses more on people. She brings to Autistica a great deal of experience in Relationship Management and Development and will use these skills to develop the Corporate Fundraising Strategy and manage Autistica’s events programme. Yasmine joined Autistica in January 2013.
Aimee Rebbeck Fundraising Manager
After studying History at Cambridge University, Aimée returned home to Northern Ireland in 2010 where she worked for four years at a local children’s cancer charity. Starting off as a Fundraising Administration Assistant, Aimée soon began working with trusts and foundations to maximise income for the charity. She has been successful in securing funds for major capital appeals, as well as core costs.
Aimée moved to London in September 2014 and began working for Autistica as Trust Fundraising Manager. She is excited to be working for a medical research charity for the first time and is looking forward to developing her knowledge of the trusts and foundations sector in the UK and internationally.
Emma McGuigan Fundraising Manager
Emma started her career teaching dance and drama to children and young people, particularly those with special educational needs as she had a personal interest in disability as her sister has a rare genetic disorder. Due to injury she left teaching and started fundraising for the same charity eight years ago, and has stayed in fundraising ever since. Emma has worked at large national charities and small local charities mainly within the disability sector, securing funds from a variety of sources including, Trusts, Major Donors and Companies. She has been responsible for devising fundraising strategies to maximise income and to date has raised over £2m in funding for a wide range of projects. Emma has been a member of the Institute of Fundraising since 2009 after completing the Certificate in Fundraising Management in 2009.
Charlotte Bignell Community Fundraiser
Charlotte studied for an undergraduate degree in History and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham. During this time, she volunteered with several charities, which included international NGO work and volunteering for the student listening service, Nightline. Since graduating from university, Charlotte’s career has been based in the Charity Sector. She completed placements with two different non-profit organisations, focusing on Trust and Foundations fundraising at the Refugee Council and Corporate, Community and Events fundraising at ICAN, a children’s communication charity. Prior to Autistica, Charlotte worked at the National Autistic Society in the Branches team and also as an Outreach Support Worker where her interest and knowledge of autism grew. Outside of work, she trained as a listening volunteer and joined the Samaritans in 2013. Charlotte joined Autistica in September 2014.
Paula Taylor Finance & Administration Manager
Paula joined Autistica in the summer of 2015 bringing with her a wealth of experience in bookkeeping and background in sales and customer service within publishing and the travel industry. She is a trained Accounting Technician and is currently completing an AAT level 4 qualification. She was keen to move into the charity sector having acted as Bookkeeper for an LGBT Switchboard in her hometown of Brighton and as Treasurer for the sexual violence charity Survivors Network. As an active runner and cyclist, Paula has also fundraised for charities in numerous charity challenge events including the London Marathon.
Autistica appealed to Paula due to a personal connection, and she is pleased to support the team to fund research that helps people with autism throughout their lifespan.