Principal Investigator


Raul Gonzalez, Ph.D.

Phone:   305-348-4921
Dr.Gonzalez’ CV


Dr. Gonzalez is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Immunology at Florida International University (FIU) and Director of the Substance Use and HIV Neuropsychology Lab. He is a faculty member of the Department of Psychology Clinical Science and Cognitive Neuroscience Programs and the Center for Children and Families.

Dr. Gonzalez graduated with his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the San Diego State University / University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program, where he specialized in Clinical Neuropsychology. He has approximately 17 years of experience conducting research on neurocognitive contributors and consequences of substance use and addiction among individuals with and without HIV. Most of his research efforts have been supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse / National Institutes of Health.

Through his research, Dr. Gonzalez aims to identify neurocognitive differences that may place individuals at risk for substance use disorders or that emerge from their use, in order to better understand their impact and inform interventions designed to reduce drug addiction and the risky behaviors that may contribute to the spread of HIV. He is currently the Principal Investigator of several large studies in this area, including (as FIU site PI) the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study: a landmark project that brings together scientists and clinicians from across the United States with a broad range of knowledge and expertise to enroll 10,000+ healthy children and follow them from age 9-10 into early adulthood in order to better understand biological and environmental contributors to weight, growth, sleep quality, injury, mental health and substance use, and other life experiences such as academic success, sports and other physical activity.

Dr. Gonzalez is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Florida and the State of Illinois, with substantial experience conducting neuropsychological evaluations in English and Spanish.



Project Coordinators

Dayana Paula, M.P.H.

Phone:   305-348-6638
Ms. Paula is the Project Coordinator for the Choices and ABCD projects. She has a Master of Public Health from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As the Choices Coordinator, Ms. Paula maintains effective working relationships with schools, recruits adolescents for the study, and coordinates all aspects of the research. She came to FIU with years of experience in the areas of adolescent risky health behaviors and assisting in managing a large scale study in Ecuador.


Brenda Daryl Lerner, Psy.D., R.N.

Phone:    305-456-2967
Dr. Lerner is the Project Coordinator for the Mind Matters Project. She is a licensed psychologist and registered nurse and has conducted HIV prevention research since 1999 with over fourteen years of clinical experience administering cognitive behavioral HIV prevention interventions as well as experience in coordinating and implementing research projects. Dr. Lerner has conducted prevention activities and recruitment among severely mentally ill adults at various community centers for grants that both involved alcohol, drugs, and HIV involvement and has had direct patient contact with adolescents with psychiatric disorders and drug abuse. She maintains excellent relations with community resources and has a great deal of experience coordinating research and research-clinical interface aspects of all the studies she has worked on and it is her goal to continue to do so.


Graduate Students

J. Megan Ross, B.S. in Psychology

Megan’s research interests are adolescent engagement in both HIV-risk behavior and substance use and in addition how neurocognitive factors and externalizing disorders are involved in risk behavior. Determining how to measure these behaviors, moderators and mediators, predictors and outcomes of these behaviors are also of interest. In the future, she hopes to develop interventions targeting the reduction of risk behaviors in adolescents.



Jacqueline Duperrouzel, B.S. in Psychology

Jacqueline is a doctoral student in both the Clinical Science PhD Program & Cognitive Neuroscience Program. Her current research interests focus on studying the effects of cannabis in different age groups and susceptible populations, such as individuals with HIV. She is also interested in the integration of neuroimaging techniques, specifically fMRI, in understanding substance use disorders from a physiological, developmental, and neurological perspective.



Ileana Pacheco-Colon, B.S. in Psychology

Ileana is a doctoral student in the Clinical Science and Cognitive Neuroscience programs. She is interested in the effects of cannabis use on adolescent brain development and function. Her goal is to combine neuroimaging methods such as MRI with psychological assessment to distinguish between antecedent risk factors and consequences of cannabis use and addiction. These findings could help us develop more effective interventions to prevent addiction while also informing today’s policy debates regarding cannabis legalization.



Natasha Aurobindo, B.A. in International Area Study

Natasha Aurobindo is a graduate student in the Professional Counseling Psychology program at Florida International University.
Before entering graduate school, she worked as an elementary school teacher in Texas.
Natasha is interested in mood disorders, substance use disorders, suicide prevention, and wants to become a certified sex therapist.



Kayla Caine, B.A. in Psychology

My name is Kayla and I am a graduate student in the Professional Counseling Psychology Masters program at FIU. I recently graduated from The University of Alabama with B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Addiction and Recovery. I have worked as a mental health worker at a children’s facility and my interests include risky sexual behaviors, drug addiction, forming and maintaining relationships and dissociation in young adults.


Research Assistants

Denisse Acosta, B.A. in Psychology

Denisse is the Participant Recruiter for the ABCD project. She is an FIU alumna and a graduate student of the School Psychology program at FIU. Her interests lie primarily in the social sciences with a special focus in psychology and education. Denisse enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures.
Phone:   305-348-1720


Cary Alvarez, B.A. in Psychology

Cary Alvarez
Cary works for the ABCD Project. Her research interests pertain to the effects of acculturation on the development of Hispanic youth. Previously to joining the SUHN lab she taught pre-k through 8th grade. Most recently she worked for the Department of Defense, within their Child Development Centers in Germany. Spending most of her time in special needs classrooms. Her future academic endeavors include the completion of a Ph.D. and continued research efforts.
Phone:   305-348-0477


Jessica Arguello, B.S. in Social Work

Jessica Arguello is an FIU alumni currently working with Mind Matters as a Research Assistant. Her interest lies within inspiring others to reach their full potential. She has dedicated three years focusing in the needs of the homeless population. She is a Social Worker empowering her community one individual at a time.
Phone:   305-456-0452


Amanda Costales, M.S. in Early Childhood Education

Amanda is the Lead Research Assistant for the ABCD Project. She graduated with a BA in Psychology from the University of Miami, and a master’s degree in Early Education from FIU. Her studies focused on perceptual, cognitive, and social development in infants and young children. Since 2011, Amanda has worked in developmental research conducting motor, cognitive, and language assessments with children in different age groups. She enjoys traveling, especially to Canada where she worked in a recreational summer camp for 5 years.
Phone:   305-348-1720


Ingrid Gonzalez, B.A. in Psychology & Minor in Biology and Chemistry

Ingrid works for the Choices Project. Originally interested in psychiatry but was immediately hooked on research when she enrolled as an undergraduate in a developmental psychobiology lab. She has always been intrigued by the interplay between the mind (psychology), body (biology) and environment, and how the combination of the three play a critical role in who we are as an individual. She aspires to receive her Ph.D. and conduct research in the field of neuropsychology.
Phone:   305-348-6637


Karen Granja, B.A. in Psychology & Minor in Biology

Karen is an FIU alumna, earned her B.A in Psychology with a minor in Biology. Her interdisciplinary background has fueled her interests in Clinical and Research work. She has plans to go on to grad school and obtain a Ph.D in Clinical Neuropsychology. Whenever she’s not preoccupied being fascinated by the brain, she loves listening to music and going to concerts.
Phone:   305-348-3545


Natalia Guzman, B.A. in Psychology

Natalia works for the Choices Study after conducting her Master’s Program Practicum with the SUHN Lab. She will be receiving her Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling in the Summer and has chosen Addiction Counseling as her career path. She is interested in starting up her own community outreach program to aid in substance use and suicide prevention. If Natalia won the lottery she would adopt all the homeless dogs in the world, but for now she volunteers at the animal shelter when she has extra time.
Phone:   305-348-9100


Diana Martinez, B.A. in Psychology

Diana earned a BA in Psychology from FIU in 2013 and is currently working on the Mind Matters Project. She is interested in exploring the influence of psychological and social factors on health outcomes in diverse communities. She hopes to continue her studies in graduate school and pursue a Master’s degree in Health Psychology.
Phone:   305-456-2985







Roberto Gonzalez

Roberto is a Junior, double-majoring in Biology and Women’s and Gender Studies with a minor in Chemistry. He is on the Pre-medical track, currently looking into pursuing either Radiology or Internal Medicine. He loves dogs and in his free time he enjoys going to concerts and watching funny movies.



William Pullido

William is a senior majoring in Biology with minors in psychology and religion. He was born in Colombia but raised his whole life in Miami, FL. He is on the premedical track in pursuing a career in the medical field; currently his main interest in the medical field is Emergency Medicine. Some of his interests are going to the beach, movies, kayaking, and relaxing when time is allotted.



Maria Salamanca

Maria is a junior, double majoring in biology and sociology. She is on the pre-medical track and is interested in pursuing neurology. Maria hopes to one day join Doctors Without Borders. When she is not studying, she enjoys reading, trying new food, and working out.



Carol Sanchez

Carol Sanchez. Junior following a pre-medical path while majoring in biology and a minor in psychology. My interest for the brain sparked as soon as I got a hold of a psychology book in high school and ever since then research pertaining to drug use, Alzheimer’s, and mental illnesses have drawn my attention. I hope to potentially integrate what I learn in this lab into my future endeavors as a physician.



Ifrah Waheed

Ifrah is a Junior, double majoring in Chemistry and Psychology with a minor in Biology. She is currently on the Pre-medical track in hopes of attending medical school and becoming a Pediatric Surgeon. She is interested in conducting research in the field of neurocognitive and developmental psychology in hopes to further enhance her knowledge and research in these fields.





Lab Alumni

Alysha Thomas
Angelica Pizarro
Angelica Rojas
Angelica Taube
Claudine Hernandez
Danielle Rammo
Elizabeth Rodriguez
Giovana Basmagi
Jalesa Menzie
Jessica Jaramillo
Jose Taque
Julia Schwarz
Laura Cebollero
Linda Bustos
Katheleen Ortuno
Kayla Pickarski
Keylanni Jane-Alvarez
Maryanne Vaca
Melanie Vega
Melisa Alonso
Natalia Guzman