Postdoctoral Trainees

Danielle (Dani) Smith, PhD,

received their B.A. in Neuroscience from Scripps College, and their education specialist teaching credential and M.A. in Education from Claremont Graduate University. After teaching high school for seven years, they returned to graduate school to study developmental social psychology, focusing their research on adolescent social identity, peer relations, school context, and wellbeing. They received their Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA, and are currently a postdoctoral researcher working with Dr. Chavira and Dr. Craske, funded by NIMH. Their current research is on mindfulness and mental health in adolescence. More broadly, in addition to a strong focus on teaching, they are interested in development and evaluation of school- and community-based prevention and intervention programs targeting social and emotional wellbeing, and in particular in the impact of such programs on youth with marginalized identities.

Doctoral Trainees

Carolyn Ponting
received her B.A. in psychology with a minor in Spanish literature from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating, she was selected to participate in the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program in Puebla, Mexico where she was fortunate to study individuals with schizophrenia using a narrative approach. She then worked as a research coordinator at UCLA’s Semel Institute to study early markers of autism in genetically high risk infants. Carolyn is currently a 6th year who will complete her internship at the UCSF Clinical Psychology Training Program (CPTP). She is interested in the mental health outcomes of Spanish speaking girls and women living with persistent contextual stressors, and the heath-related consequences of discrimination. In particular, she is interested in the acceptability and effectiveness of interventions for depression and anxiety in Latinas during pregnancy.​​

Giovanni Ramos
received his B.A.s in Psychology from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and Florida International University. He is currently a fifth-year graduate student and the purpose of his research is to reduce the mental health disparities that affect people of color, with an emphasis on Latinx mental health. His research program focuses on two interconnected areas: 1) examining innovative methods to deliver mental health care, such as digital interventions, brief treatments, and paraprofessional-led programs; and 2) theoretically-informed but data-driven approaches to the provision of culturally robust evidence-based treatments. In his free time, he enjoys training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, watching documentaries, and going out with friends.

Gia Chodzen
Gia Chodzen received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor Women’s and Gender Studies from Depaul University in Chicago, IL. Gia is currently a fourth-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology program at UCLA and is co-advised by Dr. Denise Chavira and Dr. Lauren Ng. Gia’s research focuses on examining malleable factors that may improve psychological treatment outcomes among LGBTQ+ individuals and racial minorities. She is particularly interested in examining intersectional minority identity in the context of increasing the efficacy of trauma-focused interventions. 

Liz Bocanegra
received her B.A. in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Art from the University of Miami. After graduating, she was selected to participate in the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program (MHIRT) in Mexico City where she studied the incidence and prevalence of depression in Mexican youth. She then worked as the Patient Care Manager for the Center for Anxiety, an independent specialty clinic in New York City, where she gained experience with CBT and DBT treatment approaches for mental health. She is currently a third-year graduate student in the CALMA Lab with interests in anxiety and depression in the Latinx community and how we can develop new ways to deliver treatment to low-income individuals.

Crystal Venegas
Crystal received her B.A. in psychology and child and adolescent developmental science and her M.A. in clinical psychology from California State University, Northridge. She is currently a second-year Clinical Psychology PhD student. Her program of research broadly examines risk and resilience in racial and ethnic minorities, especially in Latinx communities. Specifically, her research examines how sociocultural factors (e.g., familism, racial discrimination, acculturative stress, structural/perceived barriers) influence psychosocial outcomes (e.g., depression, anxiety, academic achievement) and mental health literacy, stigma, access/utilization of services, and treatment efficacy/engagement. Within her area, she also aims to examine differences based on population type (e.g., nativity status, race/ethnicity, gender, urban/rural) and use her research to guide mental health policy and inform and examine the efficacy of culturally responsive evidence-based interventions and service delivery models aimed at promoting well-being.

Maha Al-Suwadi
Maha received her B.A. in Economics Cum Laude from Harvard College. After graduating, she worked as a Lab Manager and Diversity Coordinator for Dr. Nock at Harvard, contributing to research on suicide prevention. She is currently a first-year student and her research interests center on how to help those experiencing systemic disadvantage achieve wellness, which includes an understanding of supportive factors (coping practices) and inhibiting factors (structural harm). Maha’s research interests aim to advance health equity by conducting impactful research on wellness among minoritized and underserved communities, which directly serves and benefits communities through research and has important implications for health policy.