Clinical Research Staff

Missy Dixon, PhD, MS

Missy Dixon is the Program Director of UPIN at the University of Utah. She earned her PhD in Counseling Psychology and a MS degree in Professional Counseling from the University of Utah and her BS in psychology from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Her research interests include the neuropsychological and cognitive development and assessment of individuals with neuromuscular disorders. Missy was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship grant to research brain function and cognition in congenital myotonic dystrophy. She has worked in research at the University of Utah since 1997 in the Departments of Neurology and Human Genetics, and has coordinated a variety of research studies including the Utah Genetic Reference Project, International HapMap Project, HELP-CDM, myotonic dystrophy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy clinical trials, and investigator-initiated studies of OCD, trichotillomania, epilepsy, restless legs, Tourette Syndrome, and retina disease.  Away from work, Missy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, traveling, skiing, and spending time outdoors.

Karla Galvan

Karla Galvan was born and raised in Lima, Peru. She received her Bachelor’s in Accounting from Ricardo Palma University in 2000 and is currently pursuing her MBA at Western Governor’s University. She has been with the University of Utah for 8 years. Karla has provided administrative support to staff and faculty. She is now the Grants and Contracts officer for the UPIN Program. She enjoys dancing and spending time with her two boys.

Erin Ohrenberger DeSpain, MPA

Erin is the project coordinator for the UPIN group. She handles a variety of administrative tasks, ranging from purchasing lab supplies to coordinating travel for study participants. While Erin is not directly involved with any specific study, she feels connected to each one through her administrative support. Erin attended the University of Utah for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She loves Utah and enjoys hiking, running, and spending time with family and friends.

Tish Pendley

Kiera Berggren, SLP

Kiera Berggren was raised in Portland, Oregon and originally studied chemistry in undergraduate (Lewis and Clark College) and graduate days (Go Ducks!!!). After many years in labs doing basic science research, she switched fields to speech-language pathology, finally realizing her fascination with language and how we learn. Prior to joining UPIN, she worked with young children in early intervention therapy and with adults following acquired brain injuries in an outpatient rehab setting. She is currently involved in research in neuromuscular disorders with UPIN and in language and speech disorders at the VA in SLC. She is also part of the multidisciplinary team at the ALS clinic at the University of Utah. She moved to Utah in 2007 and considers this home as she loves to explore the beautiful spots of the intermountain west.

Becky Crockett

Becky Crockett was born in Seattle and raised in the beautiful Midwestern state of Indiana. Shortly after college, a thirst for adventure and open skies drew her to her current home state of Utah. She enjoys taking advantage of Utah’s legendary mountain trails by mountain biking, hiking and camping. She has two faithful companions, her dogs Juno and Ozzie, and two slightly less faithful companions, her children Zoe and Isaac.  Becky’s professional life has included a brief, 30-year stint in Family and Preventive Medicine, where she developed her research coordinator skills. Today, Becky continues to flex her research coordinator muscles (as well as her humor muscles!) for her coworkers at UPIN.

Liz Diaz

Liz Diaz is a Clinical Study Assistant and a junior at the University of Utah pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. She obtained a Medical Assistant Emphasis/Integrated Studies Associate of Science Degree from LDS Business College in 2012. She has worked as a Medical Assistant in the Neurology Department at The University of Utah Hospital and volunteered in the Emergency Department at Primary Children’s Hospital.

Deanna DiBella, PT, MPT

Deanna DiBella is a physical therapist in the Muscular Dystrophy and Neurology clinics. She sees both pediatric and adult individuals. Additionally, Deanna is part of the Utah Program for Inherited Neuromuscular Disorders (UPIN). As part of the UPIN team, she conducts research into the disease progression of neuromuscular diseases and is an evaluator for several clinical trials. Deanna has been a physical therapist since 1994 and has experience with pediatric, school based, home health, and in-patient physical therapy.

Melissa McIntyre, PT, DPT

Melissa McIntyre has spent much of her adult life here at the University of Utah. She received a Bachelors in Biology from the University of Utah in 2010. After which she spent a few years in a lab at the U doing research in basic science. Realizing she wanted to further her education she decided to peruse her Clinical Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Utah and returned to the University for employment as a Physical Therapist in 2016. Melissa’s education at the University of Utah, has provided her with clinical experience in outpatient neurology, amputee care, wound care, orthopedic, and acute care. Melissa’s time with the UPIN team is split between clinical care at the Clinical Neuroscience Center, and research with the Utah Program for Inherited Neuromuscular Diseases. Outside of the professional world Melissa enjoys anything that gets her outside and in the mountains…except for running…she does not enjoy running.

Tara Newcomb, MS, LCGC

Tara Newcomb ( is a licensed certified genetic counselor. She earned her Bachelors of Science from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Biochemistry in 2008 and her Masters of Science in Genetic Counseling from the University of Utah in 2010. She began working at the University of Utah in 2010. Tara is involved with clinical research as well as providing counseling for patients with neuromuscular conditions and assisting with coordination of genetic testing.

Brith Otterud

Mary Pautler, MPH

Mary Pautler, MPH is a PhD student in Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Utah and research associate with the UPIN group.  Her research interests include rehabilitative interventions, muscle adaptation and functional outcomes.  Her prior experience is in the management and coordination of clinical research.

Nicole Rausch, CNA, CCRC

Caren Trujillo, RN, MSN

Caren joined the University of Utah in 2013 as an orthopedic recovery room RN. Before that, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Barcelona. She has also recently completed her Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on Nursing and Health Care Education. Because of her RN background Caren enjoys patient contact, education and doing clinical procedures. Caren participates in both clinical trials as well as academic research and leads the coordination and organization of patient outreach activities in UPIN. Her personal research interests reside in evidence-based practice and care guideline efficacy and adherence. In her free time, Caren enjoys biking, dancing and hiking.


Elise Chan

Elise Chan is currently an undergrad at the University of Utah. She originally enrolled in the University of Utah as a nursing major after receiving her CNA license. However, she has realized that she enjoys the technical lab work behind the medical field and switched to a Medical Laboratories Sciences major. She hopes to obtain a PhD in Neuroscience one day and continue doing research. In her free time, she enjoys biking, cooking, and snowboarding.

Matthew Conder

Matthew Conder is currently a student at the University of Utah and has been a Research Assistant at the University of Utah School of Medicine in the Neurology department since 2014. Previously to working in the School of Medicine, Matthew worked as a Quality Control Team Lead (acting Lab Manager) and Lab Analyst for a nutraceutical manufacturing company. Matthew has also worked extensively in politics working as campaign manager for a U.S. Congressional House race and held other political positions. He served a mission for the LDS church in Paraguay where he learned Spanish. Matthew enjoys dancing and the outdoors and is a currently licensed EMT.

Logan Mathie

Logan Mathie is currently working on his pre-dental requisites and is working on obtaining his bachelor’s degree in business administration. He enjoys any and all sports, longboarding, wakeboarding and snowboarding. Logan is excited to be on the UPIN team and hopes to help make an impact.

Madeleine Rodriguez

Madeleine Rodriguez is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah from Boise, Idaho pursuing a major in nursing. Currently, she is a student research assistant for UPIN in the Neurology Department.  She is also a volunteer at the university hospital and at the Ronald McDonald House. She loves working with kids.

Summer Vazquez

Summer Vazquez is pursuing a degree in Social Work at the University of Utah and plans to attend medical school after graduation. She has enjoyed volunteering at the Maliheh Free Clinic since 2014 as the Diagnostic Mammogram Coordinator. Summer takes much delight in rock climbing, running and drawing.