The Lab Members

Maria Y. Hernandez, PhD, LCSW

Maria HernandezCurrently a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Provost’s Program for Faculty Diversity in Informatics & Digital Knowledge and is housed in the Department of Psychology’s Culture and Mental Health Lab. She holds a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Social Welfare and a master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Dr. Hernandez has continuously studied mental health disparities and culturally competent treatment for underserved groups. Her research interests allowed her to participate in the Council of Social Work Education’s Minority Fellowship Program funded by SAMHSA. During her postdoctoral studies at USC, she will work with Dr. Lopez in the Reducing the Duration of Untreated Psychosis Through Community Education study and also plans to research how consumer health informatics can increase mental health literacy among patients with serious mental illnesses.

Eduardo Jones, M.A.
Graduate Student

Eddie Jones

I'm currently a fourth year graduate student in the clinical science Ph.D. program at USC. I attended the University of Washington and graduated with a Bachelor in Science in 2006. My research interests include psychological interventions with a focus on how culture is accounted for in therapy. Recently, I have become intrigued by transtheoretical models of therapy, common or nonspecific therapy factors, and evidence-based relationship elements. I also have an avid interest in mindfulness-based therapies, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Jean Kim, M.A.
Graduate Student

Jean Kim

I am a fourth year graduate student in the clinical science Ph.D. program at USC. I graduated from the University of Michigan in May 2010 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Spanish. I am interested in culture and Psychopathology, specifically Major Depression. I am also interested in stigma and help-seeking. My Master's project focused on the expression of depression among Asian and European Americans.

Laura Garcia Cardona, B.A.
Graduate Student 

Laura Garcia CardonaI am an entering Clinical Science PhD candidate and am currently investigating the role of culture and family functioning in the course of schizophrenia. I hope that this type of research can elucidate and inform future intervention and prevention programs that are inexpensive and culturally-sensitive. I would especially like to assist minority and underprivileged communities throughout my career.  I am originally from Colombia, and I enjoy watching movies, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering at church.

Jeff Newell, B.A.
Graduate Student

Jeff NewellThe crux of my research interest can be summed up with one question: If one has a mental illness, must they be seen by a mental health professional to get better?  Within the premise I am specifically interested in how technology might be used to supplement mental health treatment and education. In my personal life I enjoy hiking, texting, and watching Youtube clips.


Sylvanna M. Vargas, B.A.
Graduate Student

Sylvanna VargasI am a first year clinical science PhD student. I arrived to USC after a few years of working in research, most recently at the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/ Columbia University Medical Center, the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, and the Culture and Emotions Lab at Georgetown University. During this time, I also gained some clinical experience as an undergraduate intern at Maison Levinschi, part of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, where I worked primarily with persons diagnosed with schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses. I completed my bachelors at McGill University, with a degree in psychology and literature. I am interested in cultural perceptions of mental illness, particularly how this affects help-seeking behaviors. My previous work has focused on adherence to antidepressant treatment among Latinos, as well as the relationship between cultural values and explanatory frameworks of mental health. On a more personal note, I am of Nicaraguan background (although born in Honduras). I grew up moving around, and have lived in various countries including Costa Rica, Indonesia, and Spain. I greatly enjoy traveling and trying new foods.

Yesenia Mejia, B.A.
Project Assistant

Yesenia Mejia

I am the project assistant for the Reducing the Duration of Untreated Psychosis through Community Education project, which is an educational campaign with the goal of increasing psychosis literacy and early treatment among Spanish-speaking Latinos in the San Fernando area, Los Angeles County.  I graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, with an emphasis in clinical psychology. Through my research endeavors I have worked on developing culturally competent group therapy for Spanish-speaking Latino gay men with HIV and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and conducted research for improving treatment and assessments for children with Autism.  In the summer of 2012 I had the privilege of participating in the Latino Mental Health Research Training Program and worked to educate communities with limited resources about mental health in Puebla, Mexico.  I am particularly interested in researching culture and the role it plays in mental health, including examining cultural factors that may lead to psychopathology and finding culturally competent treatment interventions.  I strive to increase public awareness of mental health topics, reduce mental health disparities, and improve quality of life within underserved and minority populations throughout my career. 

Monina B. Letargo, B.A.
Administrative Assistant

Monina Letargo

I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts from the University of Santo Tomas and then took major courses in Master’s in Business Administration from Ateneo de Manila University. Over the course of my professional work which focused on business, office and operations management in varied types of industries, I developed the interest in evolving organizations, planning and execution. Like many others, I migrated to the U.S. to pave the way for my three children. I am pleased to work with Dr. Lopez in the Administration in support of his three research and training projects. In all stages of the project cycle, I see to it that the logistics are in place while keeping compliance with the University and project sponsor policies.

Jose Calderon
Work Study

Jose CalderonI am currently an undergraduate student at USC pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Health Care Studies.  Prior to enrolling at USC, I was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where I served on active duty for four years.  Within my time there I completed two deployments, including a tour in Afghanistan in support of "Operation Enduring Freedom".  At the completion of my undergraduate studies I intend on applying to medical school and ultimately specializing in the field of psychiatry.  My personal and professional experiences have tailored my interest in improving the quality of care for people suffering with severe mental disorders, specifically those with schizophrenia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  When I am not studying or working, I enjoy being physically active and spending time with my loved ones.

Ariana Garcia
Work Study

Ariana GarciaI am a senior who is majoring in psychology at USC. I look forward to continue my graduate studies in clinical psychology and eventually earn a PhD. My research interests include studying factors that influence the onset of mental disorders in Latino adults. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and my fiancé.


Tarek Roshdy
Research Volunteer

TarekI am an undergraduate student majoring in Economics. I’m interested in human behavior and in particular what can be done to predict and understand it. I think that the first step to solving societal issues is to approach them from an inter-disciplinary point of view. I’m also interested in Philosophy and hope to go onto graduate studies.  In my free time I enjoy reading and listening to music.

Sharon Su
Research Volunteer

Sharon SuI am a junior at the USC Department of Psychology. I’m interested in the psychological aspect of people’s eating behaviors and patterns. Specifically, what are the environmental and biological factors that trigger people to develop eating disorders? Also, I’m interested in the idea of intuitive/mindful eating and how it helps people develop a healthy relationship with food.

Alexx Murphy
Research Volunteer

Alexx Murphy

I am a sophomore student majoring in Computational Neuroscience. I am primarily interested in applying my knowledge of neuroscience and the brain’s structure and function to improving computers, and applying modern technology to psychological and psychiatric problems. I am especially interested in interactive media, as well as connecting the human brain to computers, both metaphorically and literally.

Francesca Conterno
Research Volunteer

Francesca ConternoI am a sophomore student studying Cognitive Science. I am currently interested in the brain and how it processes information, as well as in decision-making processes. More specifically, I am interested in what factors go into the decision making process. Though this is what currently intrigues me most, I am intrigued by and open to many more areas of research.


Cindy Ziyi Zhuang
Research Volunteer

Cindy ZiyiI am a sophomore at the Department of Psychology. I have a special interest in clinical psychology, especially topics related to psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as anxiety and depression, specific phobias, and gender identity disorder. I’m also interested in cross cultural studies regarding the acquisition and processing of language.


Betsayda Aceituno
Research Volunteer

BetsyadaI'm a senior undergrad student majoring in Psychology. My interests range from cultural perceptions of psychotic disorders in Latin America to neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer's. Upon the completion of my degree, I intend to go to grad school and pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology.  In my free time I like to read 20th century British Literature, ride my mountain bike, and spend time with my friends.

Elisa Eva Hernandez
Research Volunteer

Elisa HernandezMy name is Elisa Eva Hernandez and I am a senior at the University of Southern California. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in American Studies and Ethnicity. I am a first-generation Latina college student and hope to continue my education to graduate school in a clinical psychology program. My research interests include childhood adversity, family dynamics and interactions, and psychophysiology and stress. My hobbies include baking, arts and crafts, and spending time with my family.

Maxine de Luna
Research Volunteer

Mxine de LunaI am an undergraduate psychology major finishing my senior year and look forward to earning my PhD in Clinical Psychology. By volunteering for the USC Family Studies Project and the USC Culture and Mental Health Lab, I have gained experience in qualitative, quantitative, & open coding methodologies of dyadic and triadic family discussions. Also, I have gained experience screening/scheduling eligible participants, checking data, & transcribing video discussions. My research interests include cultural processes, family conflict, psychopathology, adolescence, relationships, & emotional expression/regulation. I love to travel & am a big "foodie"! I love watching the Food Network & spending time with family/friends.

 Audrey Grossen
Research Volunteer

Audrey GrossenI am a sophomore Cognitive Science major and Spanish minor.  This is my first semester working in a social science laboratory and I am eager to be assisting with research within the psychology department.  I am interested in getting my PhD and pursuing a career in either developmental or clinical psychology.  I enjoy the beach, indie/alternative music, playing soccer, and watching 80’s movies in my free time.

 Jung Yeon Lim
Research Volunteer

JungI am a senior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Psychology. My major research interests include culture, gender and global society, especially in terms of the Pacific Rim region. Upon the completion of my undergraduate degree at USC, I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I personally enjoy reading fantasy novels, trying new food, and spending quality time with my family and friends.

 Christine Lee
Research Volunteer

Christine LeeI am a senior majoring in Psychology. I hope to further my education by pursuing a PhD in developmental psychology. My research interests are studying how family conflict affects cognitive and social development in childhood and adolescence, into young adulthood. I would also like to study the effect various parenting styles have on children, as well as developing methods to mediate the more adverse effects of bad parenting.

 Trevor Hackett
Research Volunteer

TrevorI'm a sophomore studying Cognitive Science. I’m mainly interested in getting my foot in the door of psychology research.  But, clinical research that involves treatment and therapy for individuals with a wide range of issues is something that I’m really fascinated in and I could see it being a potential path for me.


Christina Ramsey
Research Volunteer

Christina RamseyMy studies and experiences as an aspiring Biomedical Engineer at USC have exposed me to a wide variety of topics that have stimulated my desire to pursue more specialized research post Graduation. I am very interested in the physical health of individuals such that I want to develop that understanding and apply it to cancer research in a later stage in my career. Additionally, I am also interested in researching mental health, specifically the science behind depression and how it contributes to the decay of physical health.

  • Dr. Steven R. Lopez, Ph.D.
  • University of Southern California
  • Dornsife College, Psychology Department
  • 3620 McClintock Avenue, SGM 501
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061