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Meet the team

WANDA was started by Dr Alexandra Lautarescu, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at King's College London.


WANDA is a co-produced research project, which means that researchers and lived experience experts work together as full and equal members of the team, to reach a collective goal. Our team is formed of 15 members, who are either researchers with lived experience, or community lived experience experts. Some of their profiles are below, while others have chosen to remain anonymous. 

Diversity and Inclusivity Statement: One or more members of the WANDA team self-identifies as one or more of the following: an underrepresented ethnic minority in their field of research or within their geographical location, a gender minority in their field of research, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a person with lived experience of pregnancy, neurodivergence, depression, and/or anxiety.

Dr Alexandra Lautarescu (she/her)

I am a postdoctoral research associate at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience at King's College London. My research interests are perinatal mental health and early child development. I am particularly interested in better understanding anxiety and depression, which I have lived experience of. 

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Síofra Heraty (she/her)


I am an assistant psychologist with the Irish Health Service Executive. I am also a neurodivergent early career researcher with an interest in participatory research methods, ethical autism research, and positive outcomes for neurodivergent people.

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Dr Julie Sigurdardottir 

I am a postdoctoral researcher in developmental neuroscience at King‘s College London. My research interests include studying effects of antenatal exposures on neurodevelopment and early predispositions to neurodevelopmental conditions. My experience from having my three little ones motivates me to further research in this area.

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Dr Tessel Bazelmans (she/her)

I am a post-doctoral researcher at King’s College London, studying the early development of neurodevelopmental conditions. I am also a mum to two daughters. I am excited to be involved in the WANDA project to be able to contribute to perinatal mental health research with both my research expertise and my own experiences.


Dr Amber Ruigrok 

I am a Lecturer in Psychology at Manchester University. My research interests include sex and gender variability in mental and reproductive health and I am passionate about science communication, community collaborations, and inclusion and diversity. I am therefore very excited to be part of the WANDA team from a scientific as well as personal perspective as a mama of two and through my lived experience of mental health difficulties.

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Eliza Eaton (she/her)

I am the Autism Community Engagement Coordinator for AIMS-2-TRIALS, supporting representatives from the autism community around Europe in their work with the consortium. Along with being a mother of two neurodivergent children, I am autistic and ADHD, and have been open about my diagnoses since being diagnosed in adulthood. I am working with WANDA to help people better understand how neurodivergent people experience pregnancy differently and how it impacts their mental health during and after pregnancy.

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Dr Alex Lau-Zhu (he/they)

I am a clinical psychologist and research tutor at the Oxford Institute of Clinical Psychology and Research. My clinical interests are trauma, anxiety, and autism.

My research focuses on treatment innovation for mental health using cognitive science, with a special interest in emotional memories and mental imagery.

Dr Debbie Smith (she/her)

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I am a Senior Lecturer and Health Psychologist at the The University of Manchester. My research interests are psychological support in pregnancy and maternity care experiences. I also have personal experience of complications in pregnancy and preterm birth. 

Xinru Wang (she/her)


I am a lead tutor at an autism school in London, having graduated from MSc Mental Health Studies at King's College London. My research interests lie in early childhood development and neurodevelopmental conditions. Within WANDA, I will focus specifically on the mental health of fathers and partners during the perinatal period.

Past team members

We would like to thank our past team members for their valuable contributions to our study.


Shivali Mahtani (she/her)

I am a third year BSc Psychology student at King’s College London. My research interests include anxiety, depression, animal models in clinical research, and forensic psychology.

Shivali was involved in WANDA as a summer placement student (June-Sept 2023)

Viktorie Rehakova (she/her)

I am a second year BSc Psychology student at King’s College London from Czech Republic. I am personally and academically very excited to be part of WANDA and being able to work on such a project. My academic focus this year is mainly neurobiological, including conditions of anxiety and depression.

Viktorie was involved in WANDA as an autumn placement student (Sept-Dec 2023) 

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