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.

Qiongru Yu: Doctoral Student

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.


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.

Lizzie Hodgdon: Master's Student

Career Goals: I am currently pursuing my Master’s of Arts in Psychology at SDSU. I plan to continue my education through a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. Ultimately, I aim to work as a principal investigator on translational neuroimaging research and serve as a scientific advisor for evidence-based treatment programs for children and adolescents.

Research Interests: My primary research interests are examining transdiagnostic neural correlates of emotional and cognitive functioning in psychopathology. Specifically, I hope to contribute to the understanding of affective, neurodevelopmental, and obsessive-compulsive disorders in children and adolescents, with the goal of improving diagnosis and treatment for these individuals.

Lauren Bozzetto: Study Coordinator


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.
Cassidy Owen: Lab Manager

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.
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.
Marianna Smith: Research Assistant


Career Goals: I am pursuing a bachelors in Social Work and currently a senior at San Diego State University. I chose Social Work as my major because I have always wanted to make a positive impact on people. As a non-traditional student, I never imagined being where I am today. I intend to further my education by earning a masters in psychology.

Research Interests: I would like to learn about the brain and the effects of trauma. I find it extremely important to conduct studies in order to help young individuals and improve their quality of life. 
Valeria Cordeiro: Research Assistant 

Career Goals:I have always been amazed by how the brain works and how mysterious it can be. This is why I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and my career goals are to apply for a Masters degree in Clinical or Abnormal Psychology, so that later on I can pursue a PhD with an emphasis on psychopathology. 

Research Interests:My research interests lies in the discovery of the underlying reasons behind psychopathologies, specially those that arise in childhood and adolescence. Specifically,  I plan to study the status of mental abnormalities, their biological markers and how people manifest behaviors based on the different experiences they been through. 
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

Katie Strickland