Latino Mental Health Research Trainees: Summer 2013

Jaclyn Arencibia, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Jaclyn ArencibiaI graduated with honors in Psychology and a minor in Hispanic Studies from Trinity College, Hartford, CT. In Spring 2013, I was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa, Pi Gamma Mu, and Psi Chi honor societies. Under the guidance of my advisor, Janet Chang, Ph.D., I completed a senior honors thesis on how culture differentially influences the life satisfaction of White Americans and Latinos. As a rising senior, I was selected to participate in the McNair/Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) at the University of Iowa, where I researched the neural correlates of smoking addiction among stroke patients, alongside my mentor Dan Tranel, Ph.D. Then, I was chosen to present my findings at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), which was held in San Jose, CA. Additionally, during the fall of my junior year, I was granted the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I studied Positive Psychology, and volunteered at a local private school, where I assisted in teaching English to students ages 8 to 16. My current research aim is to examine the interplay of culture and mental health, as part of the USC MHIRT 2013 cohort, in an effort to enhance cultural competency and sensitivity for Latinos residing in Mexico and the United States.  

Elisa DeVargas, B.A.
Graduate Trainee

Elisa de VargasI am a first year doctoral student in the counseling psychology program at the University of Oregon under the mentorship of Dr. Melissa Donovick. My research focuses on Latino mental health disparities with emphasis on prevention interventions. My research interests include prevention of substance use and health risk behaviors, as well as child and adolescent mental health among underrepresented groups. I received my BA in 2010 from New Mexico State University in psychology and foreign languages (Spanish), with a minor in counseling and educational psychology. Prior to beginning my doctoral studies, I spent two years working full-time as a research associate at the Mind Research Network in Albuquerque, NM. During this time, I worked on on a randomized control trial evaluating the efficacy of motivational enhancement therapies across ethnicities (Hispanic/Latino & Caucasian) among juvenile justice-involved adolescents (PI: Sarah Feldstein Ewing, PhD). Additionally, I gained experience conducting MET to decrease HIV/AIDS among incarcerated youth.

Laura Garcia-Cardona, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Laura Garcia-CardonaI was born in Bogotá, Colombia and moved to the United States at the age of 17. As an undergraduate at California State University, San Bernardino, my Psychology Honors thesis and McNair Scholars research examined the relationships between traumatic childhood experiences, cognitions, and mental health outcomes. I was also involved in other research projects related to children diagnosed with autism and their families, an empowerment intervention for at-risk minority youth, and the development and validation of Spanish versions of three widely used research questionnaires. During this time, I was a member of the Executive Board of a non-profit organization that assists Latinos in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties by instructing them on the identification, prevention, and treatment of psychological disorders. These activities inspired me to assist minority and underprivileged communities, as I seek to contribute to the development of inexpensive and culturally-sensitive intervention and prevention programs. To this end, I will be furthering my education this fall in the Clinical Science Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California. I believe the MHIRT will provide me with an invaluable opportunity to examine the interaction of culture, mental health, and brain development, as well as to continue my academic training and personal growth.

Lynda Lin, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Lynda LInI am a senior undergraduate student at the University of Chicago majoring in Psychology with a minor in Biology. I am very interested in studying the relationship between genes and behavior with a focus on issues regarding psychopathology and mental health. My long-term career goals include going to graduate school and pursuing a degree either in biological psychology or neuropsychology. During my time at the University of Chicago, I have been exploring what it is like to be a researcher by working in three different research laboratories: Dr. London’s neuroscience laboratory, Dr. Cloutier’s social neuroscience lab and Dr. Woodward’s infant learning and development lab. I am currently working on my honors thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah London studying the relationship between genes and behavior using the zebra finch as an animal model. Working in these different laboratories has given me both experience and ideas that are relevant to my research interests. In addition, I have gained an understanding of how to look at an issue from multiple perspectives, which I believe is something very important to consider when looking at issues regarding the efficacy of mental health treatments.  Building on this background, I hope to one day be able to investigate and address some of the various issues that have to do with mental illness. Having been raised in Latin America (Uruguay), this program also has personal meaning to me. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the MHIRT program and look forward to learning more about different methods and efficacy of mental health treatments this summer.

Adrienne Lynett, M.A.
Graduate Trainee

Adrienne LynettAs a doctoral student in the Applied Linguistics program at UCLA, my training has been in anthropological approaches to various language practices, including language acquisition, media and political discourses, literacy learning, and therapeutic interactions. In particular, I am interested in how interaction and social cognition shapes an individual's socialization into a community — whether a language community, workplace, classroom, or other social group. With regard to mental health, I am interested in exploring the interactions between mental conditions (such as stress or anxiety) and this kind of socialization. To this end, I have been working with a group of Spanish-speaking adult literacy students in Los Angeles, paying special attention to the role of acculturative stress and other challenges in their acquisition of literacy skills. In Puebla, I hope to have the opportunity to add a cross-cultural component to my investigation into literacy acquisition. Apart from my own project, in Puebla I will also be contributing to Dr. López's family socialization project — an unparalleled opportunity for me to learn more about the field of mental health, and more generally about the reciprocal interactions between the individual and his/her social world.

Lauren Mellor-Crummey
Undergraduate Trainee

Lauren Mellor-CrummeyI am a rising senior at Yale University majoring in the neuroscience. I have worked as a research assistant in Yale’s Department of Psychiatry for the past two years on a research project investigating the effect of intimate partner violence on adherence to HIV treatment and utilization of health services. I also conducted my own research project in the summer of 2012 in rural Ecuador on the impact of gender roles on HIV knowledge, testing, and risk. After college, I aim to pursue a career in medicine and international public health, working with underserved and minority populations. With my interest in mutual impact of mental and physical health on each other, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Latino Mental Health Research Training Program to help address disparities in mental health in the Latino population and improve mental health services provided through the primary healthcare system in Mexico City. 

Carolyn Ponting, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Carolyn PontingI graduated from the University of California, Berkeley as a psychology major and a Spanish literature minor. I first became interested in research under the mentorship of Dr. Maria Luisa Zúñiga as a research assistant in her study Complementary & Alternative Care Behavior in HIV+ Latinos in the US-Mexico Border Region. The role of stigma and patient-provider relationships as they related to mental health in underserved communities became a primary area of interest for me. After spending six months studying psychology and Spanish at the University of Barcelona in Spain, I returned to Berkeley and began working with Dr. Qing Zhou in her study on Mexican-American and Chinese-American preschool aged children attending Head Start. The pilot study looks at how language and bilingual development play a role in emotional development. I was able to work on the pilot study from its beginning stages translating documents, participating in recruitment and facilitate assessment trainings as well as carrying out interviews with Mexican mothers and their children once we had a participant pool. My research interests relate to the role of stigma in seeking and adhering to psychological intervention. Specifically, I am interested in finding efficacious and culturally sensitive treatments for Latina women suffering from PTSD as a result of domestic violence or familial abuse. In the long run, I hope to conduct research from a community based model whose findings will intersect with issues in public health.

Daniela Recabarren, M.S.Ed.
Graduate Trainee

Daniela RecabarrenI am a third-year graduate student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. My prior work has focused in understanding the experiences women who identify as racial/ethnic minorities diagnosed with cancer have had with their medical institutions. Some of my research interests lie in mental health, and adjustment of Latino patients with serious physical health problems, as well as reducing health disparities among minority groups. My hope in the future is to promote equity among Latinos seeking mental health and physical health services, and make an impact at a systemic level. I have gotten the chance to be part of a volunteer organization named Allies of Knoxville Immigrant Neighbors which advocates for documented and undocumented immigrants in East Tennessee, and works on educating the public and destigmatizing this population. After graduating I hope to work in an academic setting where I can engage with students and the community in learning multicultural perspectives and reducing mental health and physical health disparities.

Mindy Steinberg, M.A.
Graduate Trainee

MIndy SteinbergI am currently a third-year doctoral student in the department of Anthropology under the mentorship of Dr. Thomas Weisner at UCLA.  I received my B.A. in Ethnic Studies and Spanish Language & Literature from UC Berkeley in 2006, and my M.A. in Latin American Studies from UCLA in 2009.  For the past four years I have been part of a mixed methods and longitudinal study that looks at how familism (values that emphasize family assistance, obligation, cohesion, respect, and extended networks of family support) is experienced by Mexican-origin youth in Los Angeles, including its meaning, behavioral scripts, and consequences.  For my dissertation research, I am looking at connections between gratitude and familism and the implications of contextual factors, such as legal status, for youth’s long-term academic and behavioral outcomes.  I am very grateful and excited for the opportunity to participate in the MHIRT program this summer and to work with and learn from Dr. Steven López and other trainees about mental health disparities among Latinos.

Frank Sosa, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Frank SosaI completed a degree in Psychology at Reed College. My broad research interest includes applied social science. I have focused my research in psychology and sociology. In psychology, I helped implement a behaviorally based treatment for Cocaine addiction at the Substance Abuse Treatment Center in Vermont University. In sociology, I help analyze data for a multi-method study on HIV risk behaviors at the Center on Health, Risk and Society in American University. I have also been involved in basic science research. My senior thesis at Reed College aimed to assess whether pigeons, like humans, behave irrationally in economic situations. This study was undertaken to assess the evolutionary origins of the irrational economic behavior. The study provided the basic methodological framework for future studies comparing economic behavior across species. I also worked with the learning and adaptive behavior lab at Reed College on behavioral research ranging from cooperation to creativity. I have a long and deeply motivated passion for combining basic and applied social science to help people; working with the researchers in the present project is an invaluable step in that direction for me.  

Angel Vasquez, M.S.
Graduate Trainee

Angel VasquezI am a fourth-year doctoral student in the Clinical-Community Psychology program offered jointly by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Anchorage. I received my B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Spanish, with a minor in Biological Anthropology in 2009 from the University of New Mexico. In Albuquerque I worked on several community research projects that fueled my passion for advocacy and social justice in marginalized and underserved communities. In Alaska, I have worked with indigenous peoples to develop a better understanding of the rural to urban migration and the relationship to mental health and wellbeing. My current research interests center on the assessment and treatment of substance use disorders with ethnic minorities and examination of cultural processes as they relate to addiction. Additionally, I am interested in examining health disparities that exist in rural communities, including barriers to treatment and access to effective treatment. In my spare time I enjoy volunteering in the Fairbanks community and in recent years have served as Secretary on the board of Latinos Unidos del Norte (LUDN) as well as campus advisor for the Latin American Student Organization (LASO). After graduation I hope to find a postdoc that focuses on addiction research where I can use my clinical skills at the community level to develop prevention and intervention programs addressing ethnic minority mental health disparities.

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