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San Diego Resilience Research Team

Geraldine V. Oades-Sese, Ph.D, Director & Principal Investigator

When not engrossed in research and clinical practice, Dr. Oades-Sese is busy pursuing her various other passions: Earning her private pilot’s license flying a Cessna 172; cultivating her “Monet” garden, where each year she plants thousands of Darwinian Hybrid tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and irises; playing  the drums with the family band she’s performed with since age 14. She’s also a serious bird photographer, an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, and loves to read scientific articles and books on expeditions, Charles Darwin, biogeography, and neuroscience.




Wai-Ling Rubic, M.A., Project Manager
Wai-Ling Rubic, M.A., is a graduate of Pacific Oaks College (known for its advocacy in social justice) in Pasadena, California. Currently, she is the Mental Health and Disabilities Coordinator for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo serving the San Diego area. She is also an Adjunct Faculty at Grossmont Community College in Child Development. She directed the Early Head Start and Head Start programs at the A.B Polinsky Children’s Center, a 24-hour shelter for abused and neglected children, for eight years and created a developmentally appropriate social-emotional curriculum targeted specifically for traumatized children. Her research interests include the bicultural and bilingual identity formation of people of color, social justice, cultural diversity, developing resilience in young children, and evidence-based interventions for children in crisis. She has coauthored a number of publications on resilience of at-risk bilingual preschoolers and culturally sensitive interventions for young children. She enjoys reading and swimming in the ever present sun and warmth of San Diego.





Beatriz Cruz-Rivera, B.A., Project Manager

Beatriz Cruz-Rivera has a B.A. in Government and a B.A. in African American Studies from the University of Notre Dame.   She is currently the Project Coordinator for Project COMBAT (Children Overcoming Military Based Adversities Together) under Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School-Department of Pediatrics. She was one of two Project Managers for the Sesame Street Resilience Project San Diego Lab under Rutgers RWJMS-Department of Pediatrics.  Her past experience includes working with children and families administering developmental screening tests as well as providing advocacy and case management to Head Start families.  She served on the Child Welfare Emergency Response Team for San Diego County investigating child abuse and neglect allegations. Her previous experience also includes writing and administering grants for California Community Colleges.







Karen Grace-Martin, Statistician
Karen Grace-Martin, the founder and president of The Analysis Factor, is a professional statistical consultant with Masters degrees in both applied statistics and social psychology. Her career started in psychology research, where her frustration in applying statistics to her data led her to learn more statistics. She soon realized that her favorite part of research was data analysis, leading to a career change. Her background in experimental research and working with real data has been invaluable in understanding the challenges that researchers face in using statistics.
Karen was a professional statistical consultant at Cornell University for seven years before founding The Analysis Factor. Karen has worked with clients from undergraduate honors students on their first research project to tenured Ivy League professors, as well as non-profits and businesses. Her ability to understand what researchers need and to explain technical information at the level of the researcher’s understanding has been one of her strongest assets as a consultant. She treats all clients with respect, and derives genuine satisfaction from the relief she hears in their voices when they realize that someone can help them.
Before consulting, Karen taught statistics courses for economics, psychology, and sociology majors at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College. She has co-written an introductory statistics textbook with Stephen Sweet: Data Analysis with SPSS. Karen has developed and presented many statistics workshops, most recently on missing data, logistic regression, and interpreting regression parameters.

Su Li, Statistician
Su Li received a PhD in Sociology in 2006 and a MS in Mathematical Methods for Social Science in 2002, both from Northwestern University. Su Li joined Berkeley Law in January 2010, as the statistician for the school of law. She works with professors, editors of the California Law Review, J.D. and Ph.D. students, as well as affiliated researchers and scholars on research papers/projects, government reports, law suit cases, and dissertations. She provides consultation services on data retrieving, modeling construction, results interpretation and other relevant issues.
Su Li’s research interests are on legal profession, quantitative methods, social network analysis, gender and social inequality, economic sociology and organizations. Her previous publications focus on gender segregation and inequalities in higher education. Her current research involves the development and change of the legal profession, in the field of white collar criminal litigation, as well as in the context of globalization.
Su’s recent works have been published in Arizona Law Review and Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. Su is leading two research projects: Foreign law firms’ expansion in China; adolescent mental health well-being and early adulthood criminal behavior. Before joining Berkeley Law, Su Li was an assistant professor of Sociology at Wichita State University in Wichita Kansas.

Jenna Engler, Project Coordinator

Jenna Engler, is currently pursuing her M.A. in Counseling specializing in School Counseling at the University of San Diego (USD). She hopes to work at the elementary or middle school level to help establish anti-bullying curriculum and promote healthy lifestyles within the school system. In addition, she is working as a Research Assistant for the Positive Psychology Project (PoPP) at USD. PoPP’s main goal is to help build resiliency with middle school students in diverse areas of San Diego using positive psychology interventions. Outside her studies, she enjoys discovering new places, running, sewing projects, watching Notre Dame football and experiencing it all with family and friends. 

elizabeth Elizabeth Orient, Project Coordinator
Elizabeth Orient, is currently completing her final year as a graduate student in San Diego State University’s Psychology M.A. program with an emphasis in developmental neuroscience. She has B.A. in Psychology from University of California, Irvine. She’s a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral scholar and research assistant in a developmental neuroimaging lab. Her future plans include obtaining a Ph.D in Psychology or a second Master's degree in a healthcare-related field. In the past, she has worked with children as a testing evaluator for the MIND Research Institute and as an assistant coordinator for a youth hospital internship program. Favorite activities include watching "nerdy" T.V shows, visiting museums, going on road trips, and documenting life through a camera lens.
Alejandra Murillo, Bilingual Evaluator

Alejandra Murillo, will enter the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at the University of San Diego this coming Fall. She has B.A. in Psychology and B.S. in Business Administration from St. John's University. Her interest in pursuing this career is due to personal experiences and the many people she has encountered. Prior to joining the Sesame Street Resilience Project, Alejandra was a Campus Ministry Student Assistant who led various service opportunities at St. John's. Favorite pastimes include reading, traveling, playing softball, and spending time with family and friends.

Brittany Haskell, Evaluator

Brittany Haskell, is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of San Diego. She has B.A. in Psychology from Christopher Newport University. She hopes eventually to work for a nonprofit organization that helps women or children who have experienced trauma. She is looking forward to gaining research experience in this field.
elissa Elissa Leibl, Bilingual Evaluator
Elissa Leibl, is currently at San Diego State University working on her Early Childhood Socio-Emotional and Behavioral Regulation Intervention Specialist Graduate Certificate (EC-SEBRIS), and will be starting the Masters of Science in Child Development program this coming fall. She has B.S. in Kinesiology from California State University, San Marcos. She interned this past year as a developmental specialist at a low income preschool in San Diego. In January of 2012, she started a non profit organization called Project R.E.A.Ch., which gives education and health supplies to disadvantaged children in Central America and also throughout Southern California.  Elissa enjoys traveling, surfing and going to the beach. 
jacqueline Jacqueline Israel, Evaluator
Jacqueline Israel, is now finishing up her third year as a graduate Clinical Psychology student at the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego. She has B.A. in Psychology, University of California, Davis. While at Davis she studied child development and worked with children with autism. Her past practicum experience was with the Cancer Center and Burn Unit within University of California, San Diego’s Medical Center. She is currently finishing her third year practicum at a locked psychiatric hospital serving children, adolescents, and adults. She sees herself as a pediatric psychologist in the future, working primary with children diagnosed with various medical conditions. Having been born and raised in Northern California, Jacqueline loves good food and good wine. She also enjoys cooking, going to concerts, and exploring the world.
milka Milka Lara, Bilingual Evaluator
Milka Lara, B.A. candidate in Psychology and Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego. She has worked as a Learning Community Mentor on campus, in which she implemented workshops ranging from stress management to community building for the purpose of retaining first-year UCSD students who self-identify as belonging to historically underrepresented races and ethnicities. She is currently an intern at EJE Academies Charter School in El Cajon where she works with underrepresented middle school students for retention purposes. She hopes to one day help children and youth dealing with depression, bipolar disorder, trauma and abuse. Some of her pastimes include reading, swimming, going to concerts and spending time with her family.

Stephanie Torres, Evaluator

Stephanie Torres, B.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Neuroscience & Behavior, University of California, San Diego. In addition to working on the Sesame Street Study, she is working in other labs to further expand her knowledge on the neural mechanisms behind degenerative brain disorders. She is interested in the prevention and treatment of brain dysfunction in children. In the future, she plans to attend graduate school and attain a Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology
jo Jo Toscano, Bilingual Evaluator
Jo Toscano, M.A. in Education/Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Bilingual and Early Childhood Education, San Diego State University. She is recently retired from a teaching career that afforded her the opportunity to work with children in grades Pre-k through Second. As an early childhood educator, she has always been a strong advocate for developmentally appropriate curriculum. She spent the majority of her years in the classroom working for the South Bay Union School District in South San Diego County. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, reading, gardening, hiking, and spending time with my family.

Anais Medina Flores, Bilingual Evaluator
Anais Medina Flores, B.A. candidate in Psychology, University of California, San Diego. She is a research assistant in an anxiety and hoarding lab at VMRF in La Jolla and in the Center for Brain and Cognition at UCSD. She plans on attaining a Masters in Social Work or a Ph. D. in Developmental Psychology. Aside from school, Anais enjoys San Diego’s Restaurant Week, comedy shows, and movies.


Aura Barragan, Bilingual Evaluator
Aura Barragan, is currently enrolled at California School of Professional Psychology in order to pursue a Psy.D degree in Clinical Psychology. She has B.A. in Child and Family Development and a minor in Psychology from San Diego State University. Aura’s experience ranges from working with children from birth to 18 years of age in various medical, clinical, and mental health settings. Most recently, Aura has worked assessing children with various developmental delays as well as with intrauterine substance exposed children. Aura hopes to continue work with children after she receives her doctorate degree and dreams of one day being able to work assessing children with neurological disorders.


Melissa Koenigsberg, Evaluator
Melissa Koenigsberg is currently completing her M.A in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of San Diego. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Binghamton University. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she interned at the eating disorder inpatient unit at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan. After graduating from her current program, her goal is to attain a Ph.D. in psychology . Outside of work and school, she enjoys hiking, skiing, camping, and travel.


Elizabeth Straus, Research Assistant
Elizabeth Straus is currently working towards her doctorate in the Ph.D. program at the California School of Professional Psychology, at Alliant International University.  She received her undergraduate degree from UCLA in 2008.  After graduation, Elizabeth worked at a residential treatment center in Los Angeles for 2 years before moving to San Diego to start graduate school.  She has completed practicums at both outpatient and inpatient programs in the San Diego area.  As a research assistant, Elizabeth has gained experience testing children with anxiety and co-occuring spectrum disorders. Elizabeth enjoys running, traveling, and reading in her spare time.


Y Mui Chho, Research Assistant
Y “Ylaine” Mui Chho, B.A. in Chinese Language and Literatures, and a minor in Education from the University of California, Irvine. While at UCI, she was part of AmeriCorps non-profit organization called Jumpstart.  Jumpstart works with preschool student in low-income neighborhoods to help develop and strengthen their language and literacy skills. She served her first two years as a Corps member and her last year as a Team Leader. The three years that she spent in Jumpstart has given her many precious memories and has motivated her to continue working with preschool age children. A foodie at heart, in her spare time she enjoys exploring new eateries, traveling, watching movies, learning new languages, and spending time with family and friends.




Tamara Halperin, Evaluator

Tamara Halperin is currently enrolled at California School of Professional Psychology pursuing a Psy.D degree in Clinical Psychology. She received a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Applied Psychology from University of California Santa Barbara. Her past practicum experience has been with Turning Point Crisis Center. She will be working at the San Diego Center for Children in addition to the Sesame Street Resilience Project. Tamara dreams of one day opening up her own practice and looks forward to continuing her work with at-risk adolescents after she receives her doctorate degree.




















Nadin Rizk, Evaluator            






                                                                                                                                                                           Nadin graduated for California State University-Long Beach in 2011 with a bachelors in Psychology. She is currently attending the California School of Professional Psychology to obtain a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. Some of her interests include watching sports games such as baseball. Nadin says that she is blessed to be in San Diego since going to the beach is one of her favorite activities. 







Lily Taing, Evaluator


Lily Taing is currently attending graduate school at San Diego State University working on her Masters of Science in Child Development. This has allowed her to gain experience working with children and assessment tests to determine children's developmental progress. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior from University of California, Irvine. She has worked at Karate For All (KFA) which teaches karate to children with special needs in the form of Occupational Therapy and has been a teacher's assistant at several Children's Centers. She grew up in Southern California and loves listening to music, watching movies, and spending time with her family and friends.