Meet the Team!

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Dr. Jillian Lee Wiggins

Director
Email: jillian.wiggins@sdsu.edu
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.

Doctoral Students

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Qiongru Yu

Doctoral Student
Email: qyu5775@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am working towards my PhD in clinical psychology in the SDSU/UCSD joint doctoral program with a focus on neuropsychology. I am planning to pursue a career in independent research in academic settings in the future.

Research Interests: I am interested in studying the neural correlates of child psychopathology using a combination of neuroimaging, genetics, and behavioral approach. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the neural underpinning of anxiety and mood disorders comorbidity in children and incorporating the research findings to develop effective and precise treatment for children with distinct symptom profiles.

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Johanna Walker

Doctoral Student
Email: JCWalker@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am working towards my PhD in clinical psychology in the SDSU/UCSD joint doctoral program with a focus on experimental psychopathology. I am planning to pursue a career in independent research in a multidisciplinary academic setting in the future.

Research Interests: I am interested in the neural correlates of cognitive biases and emotion dysregulation that influence the development and maintenance of psychopathology in youth. Specifically, I am interested in using multimodal assessments (e.g., neural, physiological, cognitive, socio-emotional) to examine how these mechanisms explain the manifestations of issues such as changes in attention, memory, and information processing, that contribute to the experience of internalizing disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Master’s Students

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Ruiyu Yang

Master’s Student
Email: ryang7428@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am currently working toward my Master of Arts in Psychology at SDSU and I aim to continue my study in a clinical psychology doctoral program and eventually, become a researcher in an academic setting or provide evidence-based psychological services to people in need.

Research Interests: I am interested in the underpinning relationship between neural pathways and different psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders. I plan to further my understanding using different neuroimaging tools. I would also like to incorporate cultural and social factors (e.g., sexual minority status, socioeconomic status, cultural differences) into the research of psychological pathology and conduct interdisciplinary research in this field.

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Marvin Yan

Master’s Student
Email: myan5421@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am currently a student in SDSU’s Psychology MA program. I plan to continue my studies in a clinical psychology PhD program, with the final goal of conducting research as a psychology professor.

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding the neural and cognitive underpinnings of psychiatric disorders. More specifically, I am interested in how we can use neuroimaging to better predict the onset of psychiatric disorders and the efficacy of different treatment options for an individual. Also, I would like to explore how we can use technology to improve and optimize treatments.

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Tasmia Alam

Master’s Student
Email: tasmiaalam@hotmail.com

Career Goals: I graduated with a B.A. in psychology from CSU, Channel Islands and will be starting the M.A. program for psychology at SDSU in the Fall of 2021. I hope to enroll into a Doctorate program in the developmental psychology field after that. Ultimately, I would like to work as an academic researcher in a research-based university.

Research Interests: I am most interested in studying neural development and differences within genders in the Asian-American adolescent community. Specifically, I would like to investigate whether the frontal lobe and hippocampal volume between sexes are drastically different in the Asian-American population, compared to the findings in previously studied demographical groups.

Lab Staff

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Lauren Bozzetto

Lab Manager
Email: lbozzetto@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I plan to study how the experience of trauma in childhood shifts brain development in a Ph.D. program in the future. Specifically, I am interested in how trauma diverges from the pathway of typical brain development and the impact this shift has on socioemotional development. Through translational research and clinical application, I will work towards developing treatment and support for children who have experienced trauma. I will use my knowledge to advocate for children at risk.

Research Interests: My research interests lie in the intersection of child development and neuropsychology. I plan to study how complex trauma affects typical and atypical brain development. Specifically, I will focus on studying how the experience of trauma impacts socioemotional development during childhood and adolescence.

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Nathan Kirk

Project Coordinator
Email: natekirk41@gmail.com

Career Goals: After receiving B.A.s in Psychology and Education & Social Transformation, I am working towards applying to a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. My goal is to gain experience as a researcher and clinician to develop trauma-informed treatments and provide clinical services to at-risk youth and their families. Ultimately, I hope to attain a position in an academic healthcare setting, where I can continue conducting research on early life trauma and providing clinical services to youth and families in need.

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding how early life stressors and trauma impact development and the onset of behavioral problems, as well as determining protective factors leading to increased resilience. Through my research, I hope to develop mental health interventions that will help inform my clinical services to improve outcomes for those experiencing early life adversity.

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Peyton Brock

Family Coordinator
Email: peytonb1@vt.edu

Career Goals: After gaining post-baccalaureate research experience here at SDSU, I plan to pursue a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. My ultimate goal is to conduct cutting-edge research in developmental psychopathology in a clinical or academic setting.

Research Interests: I seek to understand how interactions between interpersonal relationships, adverse life experiences, and neural underpinnings contribute to the development of mood and personality disorders in children and adolescents. I am also interested in how transdiagnostic approaches to psychopathology and dimensional models of diagnosis can improve research and clinical practice.

Research Assistants

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Ana Urena

Research Assistant

Email: anaurenarosario@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am currently working towards my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Family and Child Psychology. My goal is to obtain advanced research and clinical expertise and collaborate in the development of mental health support services for children in diverse communities and work alongside families as well as professional institutions. Ultimately, I would like to use my knowledge and clinical expertise to further contribute to the awareness of child psychopathology by working on public policy.

Research Interests: Among the applied clinical areas I would like to focus on are depression and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. I am particularly interested in the areas of prevention of trauma and the development of evidence-based treatment while addressing biological, cultural, and social differences and stressors.

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Valeria Cordeiro

Research Assistant

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Lexi Reneau

Research Assistant
Email: lexireneau00@icloud.com

Career Goals: I plan to one day pursue graduate school and focus on preventative work for children and adolescents, while focusing on their well being. I hope to use this knowledge in a career working within the criminal justice system to help and support my community.

Research Interests: I am very interested in behavioral, developmental, and neuropsychology and, hopefully, will get to continue to pursue these interests within a master’s or doctoral program in the future. I’m very interested in one’s childhood development and how this development, alongside one’s mind, might go on to influence their behavior, ability to interact with others, and future success.

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Kassidy Tolbert

Research Assistant
Email: kasstolb@gmail.com

Career Goals: Once I earn my undergraduate degree in Psychology at SDSU, I plan to pursue a Master’s or Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. My long-term goal is to earn licensure and open my own private practice as a Child/Adolescent Psychologist specializing in mood, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Research Interests: I am interested in working with children and adolescents with mood, anxiety, and eating disorders. I hope to learn about the inner workings of the brain in relation to each of these disorders and what the best steps to treatment are based on these findings.

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Sydney Sheldon

Research Assistant
Email: ssheldon7622@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I plan to attend graduate school and down the line become a therapist for all ages suffering with depression and anxiety. It is very difficult, especially today, for those in need to receive the treatment they require. I want to be a part of the solution in getting people adequate care.

Research Interests: I am very interested in how anxiety and depression work within the brain and ways to advance treatment. I love that many aspects of what I am interested in are represented in the TEND Lab. Working towards progressing treatment for severe irritability, autism, depression, and anxiety is extremely important and I am very excited to be a part of it.

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Conner Swineford

Computational Research Assistant
Email: conner.swineford@gmail.com

Career Goals: I am currently working towards my Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. Once I graduate, I plan to pursue my masters and use my computational skills to pursue research in mental disorders.

Research Interests: I am interested in understanding the mental illnesses that affect developing minds. I would like to understand how they originate, persist, and potentially can be mitigated.

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Erin Peterson

Research Assistant
Email: erin.olivia.peterson@gmail.com

Career Goals: Already having earned my B.S. in Psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I hope to one day pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and be a professor, researcher, and have my own practice working with children with ASD and other developmental conditions.

Research Interests: I am interested in the socio-emotional development of children with neuro-developmental conditions and the neural underpinnings of how they process and express emotions and socialize with others. I hope to better understand these neural processes using fMRI to improve diagnosis and treatment for these individuals.

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Celeste Estrada

Research Assistant
Email: cestrada.cse1@gmail.com

Career Goals: As a first-generation Latina college student, I strive to inspire and pave the way for future generations to come. Therefore, I plan to apply to graduate school by the end of Fall 2021 in Developmental Psychology to one day become a clinical psychologist and support the mental wellness of underrepresented groups. I also strive to someday teach behavioral science in a multicultural and higher learning institution like SDSU.

Research Interests: As an aspiring educator, I am heavily vested in understanding psychopathology and mental health. Specifically, the individual growth of the socio-emotional functioning in children and adolescents with neuro-developmental challenges. A key interest I would like to know more about is how those experiences impede on their cognitive development and learning. Further, I would love to understand the neural underpinnings of these disorders through functional MRI, functional connectivity and other neuroimaging tools.

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Casey Boyd

Research Assistant
Email: cboyd482@gmail.com

Career Goals: I am currently working towards my B.S. in Psychology with a specialization in Clinical Psychology at UCSD. I plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology where I strive to one day conduct research and practice clinically with SDSU, UCSD, and the Veterans Affairs association. As a Veteran, I am looking to work with the San Diego Veteran community and research issues regarding trauma, behavior, and suicide prevention.

Research Interests: Learning and discovering how anxiety, irritability, and depression can be detected and affect people throughout life stages ties into my desire to learn about issues that affect the Veteran community. I also have an interest in behavior, injuries to the brain and nervous system, and child development. I am currently focusing on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Applied Behavior Analysis, gratitude, and emotionality.

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Hailey Adney

Research Assistant
Email: haileyadney@gmail.com

Career Goals: I am currently working towards a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on child/family development. My next goal is to attend graduate school for my Master’s degree. My ultimate goal is to work with children in a setting that supports their holistic healthy development.

Research Interests: I am drawn to the connection between neuroscience and behavior, particularly as it relates to atypical development. I feel that utilizing both neuroscientific and behavioral information provides an integrative approach that is necessary to properly provide care for suffering individuals. Additionally, I am fascinated by emotions—both their cognitive and physiological basis—and how they interact with social functioning in a way that influences—and is influenced by—atypical development.

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Nia Alexis

Research Assistant
Email: walkernia16@gmail.com

Career Goals: I received my B.S. in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience and now plan to pursue a PhD in Social Neuroscience. I have a deep passion for literature and academia and so I am excited to one day combine the two. My lifelong goal is to write neuroscientific literature for the general public specializing in human interactions and interpersonal relationships.

Research Interests: Ever since I was in High School, I was drawn to the human mind and its inner workings. This curiosity was later honed into one of interpersonal relationships and why we as people do the things we do; namely, what drives us to behave in different or similar ways? Most uniquely, I strive to learn why we fall in love and how the emotion of “love” or infatuations are coded in the brain. Working with behavioral issues such as irritability, anxiety, and depression through a neuroscientific lens in the TEND Lab especially excites me as I feel it is a huge leap in the right direction!

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Nicola Schmelzer

Research Assistant
Email: nicolamia96@gmail.com

Career Goals: I am currently working towards a Bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on behavioral neuroscience. I plan to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. As someone with ADHD, I would ultimately one day like to contribute to research as well as treatment for neurodivergent people and their families.

Research Interests: My interests mainly lie in ADHD and spectrum disorders.  I believe that better treatment is in the future by developing a more thorough understanding of cognitive processes, neuroscience and behaviors.  In addition, I would like to have a better understanding of different therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and explore the relationship to neurologically driven behavioral deviance.

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Elizabeth Bereznak

Research Assistant
Email: ebereznak3466@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am currently in my senior year at SDSU, studying Psychology and Counseling & Social Change. After graduation, I plan to work in a school setting and pursue an EdS. in School Psychology. As a School Psychologist, I hope to provide all students with the necessary resources and support to achieve academic success.

Research Interests: I am interested in developmental research in children, specifically those with psychological disorders and learning disabilities. I hope to better understand how psychological disorders and learning disabilities affect childrens’ brains. With a deeper understanding of this matter, I strive to develop effective and supportive learning strategies to implement into the school system to support students in these situations.

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Samar Gilani

Research Assistant
Email: samargilanii@gmail.com

Career Goals: After earning a bachelor’s in psychology and minor in public health I plan on pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology, and further continuing my education with a fellowship in neuropsychology. I hope to one day work as a clinical neuropsychologist treating adolescents with mental health and brain disorders.

Research Interests: I am interested in the physiological causes and development of addictive, anxiety, and bipolar disorders in both adolescents and adults. I hope to incorporate research regarding the onset of addictions seen in adolescents through a public health lens in order to initiate public policies based on neuropsychological evidence of addiction.

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Sara Thornbrough

Research Assistant
Email: sthornbrough2323@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: I am currently in the process of getting my Bachelor’s degree in psychology at SDSU. I plan on attending grad school to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. Overall, I look forward to continuing research and having a career working with children.

Research Interests: I am very intrigued in development psychology and neuropsychology. I have always had a job either coaching children in sports or doing behavior therapy with them, which is where my passion for developmental research has come from. I hope to learn more about children’s developing brains and how in the future I can continue in this field of research. 

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Jayvee Soriano

Research Assistant
Email: jsor2876@gmail.com

Career Goals: I am currently working towards my B.A. in Psychology at SDSU. My future goals involve pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, where I then plan on becoming a practicing clinician. One day, I hope to offer a helping hand to those with psychological problems and facilitate their growth as a person.

Research Interests: I have always been interested in the study of psychological disorders, particularly anxiety and mood disorders. With every individual that is involved with mental illness being unique in how they experience and express their symptoms, I hope to identify psychological processes or regions that underlie anxiety and mood disorders in order to develop more effective treatment approaches.

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Sabrena Tuy

Research Assistant
Email: brebre1200@gmaill.com

Career Goals: After receiving my BA in Psychology, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Neuropsychology. I would eventually like to open a private practice as a Clinical Neuropsychologist where I can provide individual and group therapeutic services, as well as conduct psychological and neuropsychological assessments. I would love to continue research related to Autism and Neuropsychology as well to see if there are ways to improve treatments specific to the individual and their specific diagnoses.

Research Interests: I am specifically interested in researching the anatomical differences of functioning and social influences in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. My goal is that through the research I produce, I would like to be able to better develop or specify treatments options for neuroatypical and neurotypical individuals based on their brain functioning.

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Tina Madani

Research Assistant
Email: tmadani9243@sdsu.edu

Career Goals: Once I earn my Psychology with an emphasis in Neuroscience Bachelor’s degree at SDSU, I plan to pursue a Master’s or degree in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience or a Doctorate degree in Clinical Neuropsychology. In the future, I plan to conduct research on professional NFL players in order to optimize safety protocols for young athletes.

Research Interests: I am very interested in cognitive, behavioral, and neuropsychology. My area of interest resides in understanding cognition and behavior in children as they experience brain damage through full-contact sports.