Meet the Team

Principal Investigators

Elisa Trucco, Ph.D.

Phone: (305) 348-8426

Dr. Trucco completed her BA at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University at Buffalo, SUNY after completing an APA accredited clinical internship at Yale University. She then completed two Postdoctoral Fellowships through the University of Michigan’s Department of Psychiatry (funded by NIAAA and NIDA).

She joined Florida International University’s Department of Psychology as an Assistant Professor in 2015 in the Clinical Science in Child and Adolescent Psychology Area. Dr. Trucco is also affiliated with FIU Pre-Eminent Program, the Center for Children and Families. She is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Florida and Michigan. She currently directs the Research on Adolescent and Child Health (ReACH) Lab. She is the recipient of the Research Society on Alcoholism’s 2015 Enoch Gordis Research Recognition Award and was designated as a 2016 Rising Star from the Association for Psychological Science. In 2017, Dr. Trucco was also named an FIU Top Scholar and received a College of Arts, Sciences, & Education Faculty Award for her notable awards and grant funding.

Dr. Trucco’s research focuses on understanding how adolescent substance use develops through a social ecological perspective. This involves identifying early risk and protective factors that lead to adolescent problem behavior and substance use across multiple levels. These levels include: biology (genetics, neurobiology), social contexts (peers, parents), and individual characteristics (personality, temperament). She examines factors that increase susceptibility to social contexts that either promote or deter adolescents from using alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. She also investigates pathways through which genes and temperament impact the onset of substance use. The goal of this work is to improve substance use prevention programs.

In addition to her funding through NIMHD as part of the RCMI, her research is supported through a career development award (K08) and an R01 as a Co-Investigator through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is also a Co-Investigator on the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) landmark study, Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD).

Matthew T. Sutherland, Ph.D.

Phone: (305) 348-7962

Dr. Sutherland is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Florida International University in the Cognitive Neuroscience Area, affiliated with FIU’s Center for Imaging Sciences (CIS), and co-director of the Neuroinformatics and Brain Connectivity Lab.

Dr. Sutherland has a broad background in cognitive neuroscience and specific training in drug abuse. He completed his B.A. in Psychology from Ohio University (2002) and his Ph.D. in Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of New Mexico (2007). He earned an Intramural Research Training Award to conduct postdoctoral research involving a cognitive neuroscience perspective on drug abuse in the Neuroimaging Research Branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the NIH (NIDA/NIH). Dr. Sutherland’s research has been recognized through awards from the NIH (NIDA Clinical Research Loan Repayment Program Award, Fellows Award for Research Excellence), the Organization for Human Brain Mapping (Abstract Merit Awards), and Florida International University (Top Scholar, CASE Faculty Research Award).

Dr. Sutherland’s research focuses on understanding the brain processes that lead to and maintain drug use/abuse (e.g., nicotine, marijuana) and associated conditions (e.g., HIV infection). His research utilizes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to examine human brain function and structure. Better understanding of the brain processing linked with drug use will inform the development of improved treatments for addiction, strategies to match people with the best treatment options, and efforts to prevent vulnerable individuals from initiating drug use.

In addition to his funding through NIMHD as part of the RCMI, his research is supported through multiple grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) including a Career Development (K01) award and a research (R01) award. Also, he is a Co-Investigator on NIDA’s landmark study, Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD).


Eric Wagner, Ph.D.

Phone: (305) 348-5612

Dr. Eric F. Wagner is a Full Professor in the School of Social Work, the director of the FIU-Banyan Research Institute on Dissemination, Grants, & Evaluation (FIU-BRIDGE), and a clinical psychologist licensed to practice in Florida. He is an internationally-recognized expert on brief interventions for alcohol and drug use disorders, with a particular emphasis on youth, minority, and immigrant populations. Dr. Wagner’s community-based clinical research has been sponsored by NIAAA, NIDA, the Ware Foundation, and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. He has served as an expert regarding adolescent substance use problems for NIAAA, the United Nations, the United States Department of Education, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and SAMHSA, regarding adolescent substance use problems.

Raul Gonzalez, Ph.D.

Phone: (305) 348-4921

Dr. Gonzalez is director of the Substance Use and HIV Neuropsychology (SUHN) Lab, where research focuses on the interplay of neurocognitive functions, drugs of abuse, and risky behaviors, often among participants with or at risk for HIV. These topics are linked by their frequent co-occurrence and an overlap in brain systems implicated in drug addiction and risky behaviors, as well as changes that may occur to these systems through the specific actions of drugs of abuse and HIV. A large portion of his research portfolio focuses on the neurocognitive effects of cannabis. The research being conducted in the SUHN Lab aims to identify neurocognitive differences that may place individuals at risk for substance use disorders or that emerge from their use, in order to inform interventions designed to reduce drug addiction and the risky behaviors that may contribute to the spread of HIV. Dr. Gonzalez is also a clinical neuropsychologist with substantial experience conducting neuropsychological assessments in both English and Spanish among individuals with a range of neurological disorders. He is also a Co-PI on NIDA’s landmark study, Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD).

Wasim Maziak, Ph.D.

Phone: (305) 348-4501

Dr. Wasim Maziak is both a Full Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology. He is also the founder and director of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies, a pioneer research and capacity-building institution in the Middle East. He has extensive experience in tobacco control research and has published over 180 peer-reviewed papers, including contributions in Science, Lancet, Nature, and the British Medical Journal. Dr. Maziak is a recognized leader on waterpipe (hookah) research, and his work in this field has been instrumental in bringing international attention to this emerging threat to global public health. Dr. Maziak has been continuously funded by National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2001.

William E. Pelham, Ph.D.

Phone: (305) 348-3002

Dr. Pelham is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College and earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1976. He was a faculty member at Washington State University, Florida State University, the University Pittsburgh (WPIC), and the State University of New York at Buffalo (Director, Center for Children and Families) prior to moving to Florida International University in 2010, where he is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, and Director of the Center for Children and Families. He remains an Emeritus SUNY Distinguished Professor of Psychology at SUNY Buffalo and an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at WPIC. Dr. Pelham’s research focuses on ADHD in children and adolescents. His interests include treatment, development and evaluation, including behavioral treatments, pharmacotherapy, and the combination of the two. Most recently, the treatment research has concentrated more on dosing and sequencing in behavioral, pharmacological and combined interventions. In addition, Dr. Pelham studies the outcomes in adolescence and adulthood of ADHD children, focusing on multiple domains including substance use.


Nasreen Hidmi, M.S.

Program Coordinator
Phone: (305) 348-6143

Nasreen is the Program Coordinator for the Antecedents and Consequences of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ACE) Project. Nasreen attended graduate school at Florida International University where she earned a Master of Science in Psychology degree through the Professional Counseling Psychology Master’s Program. During her internships at FIU’s Center for Children and Families and Barry University’s College Reach-Out Program, Nasreen received clinical training and experience treating children, adolescents, and their families with a variety of internalizing and externalizing disorders. Nasreen also received experience in research and data collection during her undergraduate studies as a research assistant in the Legal Psychology Department at FIU. Nasreen’s interests are in expanding the availability of mental health resources for adolescents and their families through field work and research. In the future, she aspires to further her education in the field of psychology.

Brigitte Madan

Senior Research Assistant
Phone: (305) 348-7461

Brigitte is a Senior Research Assistant for the ACE Project. She earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017. Brigitte also earned an Associate’s degree in Psychology from the Honors College at Miami Dade College in 2015. Before coming to the ACE Project, she worked at UNC’s Center for Health Equity Research creating positive youth development programs for high school students in rural North Carolina. In addition, Brigitte interned at the Simmons House Adolescent Unit in London, England working with young people diagnosed with emotional and mental health disorders. Brigitte’s research interests lay in adolescent decision-making, mood disorders, and cultural influences. She hopes to continue her education and obtain her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Benjelene Sutherland

Research Assistant
Phone: (786) 708-1606

Benjelene Sutherland is a research assistant for the Antecedents and Consequences of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ACE) Project. Benjelene is an undergraduate student at Florida International University majoring in Psychology and also double majoring in Philosophy of the Mind. Her aspirations are to become a Neuropsychologist, to do research and help patients with brain damage or other cognitive impairments. She also has  interest in positive psychology, as she believes in the idea that every human being is able to reach his or her best potential.




Odette Manresa, M.S.

Intake Specialist
Phone: (786) 708-1606

Odette Manresa  is the Intake Specialist for the Antecedents and Consequences of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ACE) Project. Odette is currently attending her last year of graduate school at Florida International University where she is completing a Master of Science in Psychology degree through the Professional Counseling Psychology program. Odette, through her internships at FIU’s Center for Children and Families and Jewish Community Services of South Florida has received clinical training and experience treating children, adolescents, and adults with internalizing and externalizing disorders. Odette also acquired research experience, during her undergraduate studies, as a research assistant and as the assessment coordinator for the Program for Attention, Learning, & Memory (PALM) at FIU. Odette’s interests are in learning more about and treating internalizing disorders with adolescents and young adults.

Graduate Students

Julie Cristello, M.S.

Phone: (305) 348-3375

Julie Cristello is a doctoral student in the Clinical Science area of the Child and Adolescent Psychology program. After graduating from Saint Anselm College in 2012, she worked as a Senior Clinical Research Coordinator and Grant Administrator for Dr. John Kelly at the Recovery Research Institute/Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). During her time at MGH, she coordinated multiple studies examining adolescent substance use treatment, mechanisms of behavior change, and recovery support services. During graduate school, she will work to develop a better understanding of the influence that environmental contexts and social networks have on adolescent substance use to improve community-based prevention programs and positive development among youth. Julie is specifically interested in examining how behavior on social network sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) can influence alcohol and drug use.

Jessica Flannery, M.S.

Phone: (305) 348-0464

Jessica is a doctoral graduate student in the Department of Psychology, specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience. She graduated from Grinnell College with a B.A. in Psychology and a concentration in neuroscience. Jessica is now a graduate research assistant in the Neuroinformatics and Brain Connectivity (NBC) Lab interested in substance abuse, addiction, and reward processing. She is currently working on several projects in the NBC lab that investigate mechanisms of reward processing and the neurobiological impact of drug use and neuropsychiatric diseases.

Lauren Hill


Lauren is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Florida International University, specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience. She completed her M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and a B.S. in Psychology from Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO). Lauren is interested in the integration of multiple modalities (e.g. genotyping, EEG, fMRI) to better understand the brain mechanisms that underlie drug use. She is currently working on the NIH-funded Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, which will follow the biological and behavioral development of 10,000 children across the USA through adolescence.

Ranjita Poudel


Ranjita is a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the Florida International University, specializing in Cognitive Neuroscience. She completed her M.Sc. in Neuroscience from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway and B.Sc. in Human Biology from the Kathmandu University School of Medical Sciences (KUMS), Nepal. Ranjita is interested in application of meditation on human brain functions, drug abuse and addiction.

Sarah Hartmann


Sarah Hartmann is a doctoral student in the Clinical Science in Child and Adolescent Psychology program. Prior to joining the REACH Lab at FIU, Sarah completed her undergraduate work at the University of Louisville. There she worked in both an adolescent/young adult substance use lab and an ADHD lab. Within both labs, Sarah chose to examine transdiagnostic cognitive-affective vulnerability factors for substance use. During graduate school, Sarah plans to continue her examination of these vulnerability factors. She hopes to contribute to the extant pool of knowledge regarding cognitive-affective antecedents and consequences of adolescent substance use. Long term, she would welcome the opportunity to design and implement substance use assessments and treatment modalities targeting vulnerable adolescent and young adult populations.

Nilo Fallah-Sohy


Nilo Fallah-Sohy is a doctoral student in the Clinical Science in Child and Adolescent Psychology program. She received her BS at the University of Maryland in 2013, where she worked as an undergraduate research assistant at the Social and Moral Development Laboratory, under the direction of Dr. Melanie Killen, contributing to several developmental studies examining children’s and adolescents’ social cognition, morality, and peer relationships. From 2014-2019, she worked as a senior clinical research coordinator and grants manager at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine and Recovery Research Institute, under the direction of Dr. John Kelly; there, she served as the lead coordinator on multiple projects evaluating non-professional treatment and recovery support services both for individuals with substance use disorder and their family members.

Nilo’s research interests include the screening and prevention of substance use and co-occurring disorders among children and adolescents in educational and other non-professional, community-based settings. During graduate school, she hopes to bring her developmental and clinical research experiences full circle, in order to examine social contexts (i.e., peers, family) and cultural influences (i.e., acculturation, ethnic identity) as risk and protective factors of adolescent engagement in substance use.

Research Personnel 

Michelle Villar

Paige Goldman

Sandra Guerra

Chabeli Cardenas

Maria Zapata

Jasline Fernandez

Monica Melendez

Betsy Alas

Valentina Satizabal

Ruben Castellon

Alexander Rodriguez

Maynela Quinones

Nathalie Del Valle