Meet The Team!

Dr. Jillian Lee Wiggins: Director

Phone: (619) 594-2188

Research Interests: We study brain activation patterns involved in typical and impaired socio-emotional development (for example, social interaction with other people, reading people’s emotions, reacting to people’s facial expressions). In particular, we are interested in understanding factors (e.g., genetics, social, family) that affect brain function in children and adolescents without disorders, in addition to youth with autism, depression, anxiety, and irritability symptoms. To accomplish this, we use functional MRI, functional connectivity, genetic, behavioral, and neuropsychological tools. Dr. Wiggins is happy to talk with any interested students about these research topics.

Maria Kryza-Lacombe: Doctoral Student


Career goals: As part of the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, I am currently working toward my PhD in clinical psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology, and a research focus in affective and developmental neuroscience. My long-term goal is to pursue independent research in a multidisciplinary academic setting.


Research interests: I am interested in the neural correlates of (mal)adaptive functioning, and the interplay of bio-psycho-social factors that support adaptive development and wellbeing (e.g., genetic, physiological, cognitive, socio-emotional, environmental influences). Specifically, I am interested in understanding how we can learn from research findings examining these factors in individuals with and without disorders, in order to better predict risk for maladaptive development, and to find ways to intervene before adulthood.

Karen T. G. Schwartz: Doctoral Student


Career goals: To obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology; to pursue an academic career focused on intervention development, dissemination, and implementation for youth suffering from anxiety and/or depression.

Research interests: I am interested in studying the risk and protective factors that impact the onset and maintenance of pediatric anxiety and depression. Within that domain, I am interested in the development of depression in anxious youth, specifically looking at culture, social environment, emotional development, and neurological factors as predictors of depression onset and as potential indicators of appropriate intervention. Additionally, I am interested in exploring neurological mechanisms of action in psychosocial interventions that may predict treatment response within this population of internalizing youth.

Michael Liuzzi: Master's Student


Career Goals: Currently, I am working toward my Master of Arts in Psychology. At this point, I
am planning to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology, and, long-term, pursuing a career in
research in an academic setting or working to provide psychological services to adolescents.

Research Interests: Generally, I am interested in the development of psychopathologies in
adolescents and young adults. Specifically, I am interested in the development of depression
and anxiety, and accompanying risk and neurological factors.

Katie Strickland: Lab Manager


Career Goals: I recently discovered that working with kids is what I want to do with my life. I want to help them succeed so I plan on pursuing a Master’s and then going on to practice Occupational Therapy or School Psychology.

Research Interests: I am most interested in studying mental disorders like anxiety and depression. They are extremely common and the signs for them can start developing early on in life, so I believe that conducting research to help us get a better understanding of them is very important.
Isaac Christian: Research Assistant


Career Goals: I am interested in furthering our understanding of reality. I believe that consciousness is the key to this understanding, and in studying the brain, we not only learn more about ourselves, but also the nature of reality. I am particularly interested in developing intelligent machines and exploring the potential for consciousness in these artificial agents. I’m planning to pursue a Graduate degree in computational neuroscience with the goal of attaining my PhD thereafter. 

Research Interests: I am particularly interested in the interaction of subcomponents of the brain that influence decision making, as well as the biopsychological aspects of empathy. I’d like to model these types of brain processes to promote a greater understanding of humanity while also translating them into computational systems.
Danielle Palumbo: Research Assistant


Career Goals: Providing help for others is what ultimately drew me to the field of psychology. However, the way the brain functions and its relation to behavior has always fascinated me, and has led me to want to pursue a career in neuropsychology.

Research Interests: I am interested in studying irritability, and how it plays into many different psychological disorders. I find it fascinating that irritability can manifest in many disorders such as depression and anxiety, yet it is not as commonly studied. I am interested in studying the effect irritability can have and how these studies could potentially give more information on treatments for psychological disorders.
Cassidy Owen: Research Assistant


Career Goals: After earning my BA in psychology at San Diego State University, I plan to continue my education by obtaining my Master’s degree. I would like to eventually open my own practice to counsel students with special abilities and help them work through struggles that no one should have to endure on their own.

Research Interests: I am incredibly interested in studying the development of children with severe mental or physical disabilities. In particular, I am fascinated with how these individuals differ in terms of emotional and social neurological development, and how we can use the knowledge we have gained from research to improve their lives.
Lilly Osuna: Research Assistant


Career Goals: I have always enjoyed working with children and adolescents. I am planning to further my education by pursuing a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology in order to practice a combination of therapy and research. I believe that providing support and services to the youth could positively impact their lives and the lives of others.

Research Interests: I am interested in the development of psychopathologies in children and adolescents, particularly socioemotional behaviors, and how they react to different stressors. Conducting research is extremely important in order to understand how to enhance treatments to improve the lives of the youth so they can reach their full potential.
Brianna Hernandez: Research Assistant


Career Goals: After I earn my BA in psychology from San Diego State University, I aspire to attend graduate school in pursuit of a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. I also want to specialize in pediatric neuropsychology in the hopes of helping children and adolescents with a variety of neurological disorders, mental disorders, and developmental and learning disabilities. I aim to make major positive impacts in the lives of children and adolescents who are seeking help.

Research Interests: I’m interested in learning more about developmental pathologies of different disorders and disabilities in children and adolescents and how they can best be treated. I’m also specifically interested in studying cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder, as I’ve grown up with siblings with these disabilities and want to be able to be an advocate for others with the same problems. With the help of functional neuroimaging, I hope to be able to research and uncover solutions to help in restoring the functioning of children who struggle in school, at home, or generally in their daily lives with different disorders and disabilities.

Masters Student Alumni

Cindy Kiefer

RA Alumni

Madison Gratalo 

Diego Velasquez

Geneva Toledo

Ysabella Panggat

Katrina Cole 

Sophie Bills 

Raechel Rodda 

Carly Farrington 

Sally Christine

Yonca Cam 

Katie Nynas 

Andy Villalba

Natalia Iturri

Dede Alsaigh

Jake Biglow