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 Study Coordinator 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.

Rachel Daniel

Bryan Gardner, BS, MSN, RN

Bryan was born on the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota and raised in Santa Cruz, California. He has a BS in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz; a BS and MSN in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania; and a BS in Animal and Dairy Science from Utah State University where he was in the last cohort of the Dairy Herdsman program. He moved to Salt Lake City in 2009 and has worked at LDS Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital, Intermountain Medical Center, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He has lived and worked on a kibbutz in Israel for a year, taught English in Taiwan, and studied folk culture in Macedonia and Bulgaria. He grew up with dogs, but now is beholden to three domestic short hair cats. He enjoys road trips, foreign films and travel, historical mysteries, artisan cheese, fermented food, and silent retreats. At UPIN, he coordinates both natural history studies and clinical trials in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) and Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD), and is the project manager for the TREAT-CDM study. He enjoys meeting and working with our UPIN study participants and their families.

Bryant Gordon

Brittney Autumn Holmberg, AS, CST

Brittney likes to tell people she was born at the University of Utah Hospital and never left. She started here in 1994 and left in 2002 only to find her way back in 2011. Brittney spent 17 years as a Surgical Technician in Labor and Delivery with a focus in women’s health and high risk OB. In 2011, she found a passion for research which has brought her to UPIN today. She is currently working towards her CCRP certification, with a focus in research compliance. In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her family, dance competitively, and volunteer at the Homeless Youth Resource Center. She also loves to quilt and bake. Brittney also believes that a bio is never complete until someone says Go Pack Go!

Teresa Janecki

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.

Kathleen O'Connor, MS, CCRP

Originally from Canada, Kathleen came to the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute in 2008. She has been fortunate in traveling the US, exploring different cities while working in academic biomedical research. Her interests in clinical trial quality assurance, management systems, research education, and patient-centered research, are applicable to rapidly emerging issues within our group and the biomedical research industry as a whole.

Brith Otterud


Layla Amador

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.

Anna Hatzipolakis

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.