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Next in our 2021 Incoming Grad Series is Daniela Sarmiento Hernandez, an incoming Ph.D. student in Counseling, Clinical, & School Psychology from Ecuador. She tells us about her research interests in risk and resilience for vulnerable populations, how growing up in Ecuador sparked an interest in mental health, and why her friends consider her a "celebrity magnet!"

By Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Monday, September 20th, 2021 - 7:30am

The 2021 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts about 8 students who are part of the entering class at UCSB.

Originally from Ecuador, Daniela Sarmiento Hernandez is coming to UCSB from Los Angeles to complete a PhD in Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology. Read on to learn more about her background, why she chose UCSB, and some surprising fun facts--including why her friends consider her a "celebrity magnet!"


Daniela was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but also spent a few years living in South Florida and Colombia, where her extended family resides. She told us that growing up in Ecuador gave her a unique perspective on health disparities and the consequences of having limited access to mental health resources. This drove her to pursue a career in the mental health field in order to impact people's lives, especially at-risk youth and families.

Daniela's parents are both Colombian and she told us they always dreamt of having their children attend college in the U.S. She is the first in her family to pursue graduate school and the first to explore a STEM field. Daniela originally planned to study neuroscience at UCLA, but became fascinated by the mind-body connection as she began taking psychology classes. She describes her undergraduate experience as "truly transformative," and said she fell in love with California and learned so much about myself and my academic interests. After graduating with a Bachelor's in Psychobiology, Daniela spent one year working as a research associate for the Adolescent Development Lab at UCLA.


Daniela believes the Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology program at UCSB is a wonderful fit for her academic and professional goals. She was attracted to its scientist-practitioner training model, as she hopes to acquire both strong research skills and applied psychological training, as well as to its focus on diversity. Furthermore, she said that her advisor, Dr. Maryam Kia-Keating, conducts fascinating work on risk and resilience in vulnerable populations that is a close match for her interests. Finally, Daniela loved the feel of the program. She said, "Everyone seems kind and genuinely passionate about the work they are doing."


Daniela will be starting the PhD program in Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, with an emphasis in Clinical Psychology. She told us her research interests lie at the intersection of psychology, biology, and culture, and that she is particularly interested in studying how these factors impact risk and resilience in diverse populations. She is also passionate about using community-based participatory research to inform the development of programs and interventions for youth and families.


Daniela told us her friends say she is a "celebrity magnet" because she frequently runs into celebrities. Some examples: she was on the same flight as Joe Jonas, met Shia LaBeouf at Whole Foods, ran into Wilmer Valderrama at the farmers market, and saw J Balvin and Steve Aoki on the same day at a hotel.

She said she is incredibly good at Super Smash Bros on the GameCube and Guitar Hero on any device. She also co-led a RipStik club in her neighborhood in elementary school.

Daniela is intrigued by how we can leverage technology to help certain populations. In high school, she helped develop an educational Android app for students with Down Syndrome, and in college, she co-led the creation of a web app designed to increase gratitude in college students.

Welcome, Daniela!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series.