Student Profile: Daniela Sarmiento Hernandez strives toward culturally-adapted interventions and mindfulness for underserved demographics in a techno-centric society

Tuesday, January 11, 2022
Daniela Sarmiento Hernandez

Daniela Sarmiento Hernandez is a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology working under Dr. Kia-Keating. She received her B.S. in Psychobiology from UCLA in 2020, where she conducted research on the interaction between sociocultural experiences and biobehavioral development in youth of diverse backgrounds. After graduating, she worked as a research associate at UCLA's Adolescent Development Lab. Her current research interests lie at the intersection of psychology, biology, and culture, focusing on how these factors impact risk and resilience in underserved populations. Sarmiento Hernandez is passionate about using community-based participatory research to inform the development of programs and interventions for youth and families, as well as the study of technology as a mechanism for mindfulness practices.

GGSE: What is one career goal and one personal goal you hope to achieve after your time at UCSB?
Sarmiento Hernandez: After my time at UCSB, one career goal I have is to work at a community clinic or hospital that serves Latinx individuals. I would love to use my bilingual skills and the thorough diversity training I am obtaining in the Ph.D. program to implement and use culturally-adapted interventions in English and Spanish. I am really interested in working with children, adolescents, and families, so I hope to work with this demographic throughout my career.

A personal goal of mine is to deepen my meditation practice. I started meditating when I was 15 years old, and I have always wanted to do a long meditation retreat (that lasts a few days or weeks). At some point after my time at UCSB, I would love to spend some time traveling in the East, where meditation originated, and learn from spiritual leaders.

GGSE: How has your work with UCLA’s Adolescent Development Lab furthered your interest in and experience with the development of interventions for underserved youth?
Sarmiento Hernandez: My work with UCLA’s Adolescent Development Lab allowed me to explore the interaction between sociocultural experiences and biobehavioral development in youth from diverse backgrounds. I conducted research examining the links among gratitude, positivity, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, stress, mindfulness, prosociality, and inflammation. Throughout these projects I gained an understanding of the types of intervention strategies that are most useful at promoting well-being and resilience in underserved youth. These experiences sparked my curiosity about the implementation of these research findings into real-world clinical settings. I am excited to do more research on the implementation of these interventions during my time at UCSB.

GGSE: Tell us a little bit about what the intersection of technology and mind-body practices means to you.
Sarmiento Hernandez: Given the massive increase in technology use in recent years, I am an avid proponent of leveraging technology to increase the accessibility of health treatments. Technology has the ability to reach individuals in underserved communities that have limited access to health services (such as therapy) and/or programs that promote mind-body practices (such as yoga). By using technology to deliver these services, we can reach a wider audience and provide unique features that are only available in digital formats. For example, being able to play/pause a recorded yoga video rather than relying on existing schedules at the local gym may provide families with more flexibility to practice yoga. My interest in the intersection of technology and health started back in high school when I helped develop an educational Android app for students with Down Syndrome. In college, I co-led the creation of a web app designed to increase gratitude in college students. Now, in graduate school, I am looking forward to helping develop a website for Latinx families to promote mindfulness and restorative communication.

GGSE: Outside of school and work, what activities do you hope to take part in around Santa Barbara?
Sarmiento Hernandez: Living in Santa Barbara feels unreal at times. It’s so beautiful. I love being outdoors, so I hope to go on more hikes and spend more days at the beach, preferably with a guitar in hand. I also tried a few local dance classes last quarter and I really enjoyed it, so maybe I will try out more classes—whether that be dance or painting or music. I also love trying new restaurants with friends, so I hope to do a lot more of that around Santa Barbara. Lastly, I would love to volunteer at a community center working with children or puppies or, preferably, both.