Spotlight on Interns: Sergio Hernandez

CBAM participates each year in NIDA’s summer intern program for underrepresented minority students. One of this year’s interns, Sergio, is a recent graduate of California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. We sat down with him to learn more about his interests.

What drew you to studying psychology?
Just the science itself. It’s a very interesting field. There’s so much in it, and it’s so philosophical and artistic at the same time. It’s a great combination of science and art.

Did you know you wanted to study psychology right away or did it take some time for you to decide what you wanted to major in?
For me, I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences, but I wasn’t sure what. It wasn’t until I read certain things that I decided psychology was the right thing for me to study. That’s what drew me in.

What kinds of things did you read that drew you into psychology?
I read a lot of philosophical things, like about what makes a person a person, why people behave in certain ways—just in general what drives people. Why are humans so different and at the same time so alike?

What kinds of projects did you work on during your time at CSU Long Beach?
I did several poster presentations, one of which was about music and personality. It was pretty interesting because we all accept certain stereotypes to correspond with certain types of music. You would have never thought that, for example, people who listen to opera tend to be very emotional.  I worked with two labs at CSU Long Beach and am still involved with them. One of the labs is a stress research lab, and one of the studies we did was to collect data from freshmen students and see how stress levels affect dropout rates. The overall goal of this lab is to increase retention for students. We tested a new survey to measure levels of stress among students. If it shows efficacy and helps predict students that are at a high risk of dropping out, the survey could be implemented at the university to help give those at risk students the resources they need. I helped recruit participants, completed data analysis for a research poster, and transcribed interviews, especially for the Spanish speaking participants. The other lab that I work with focuses on depression and anxiety among children. We’re trying to help facilitate outreach programs, especially for mental health, in low-income, rural communities.

Do you know what your long term career goals are?
I want to do research, but I’m not sure specifically what kind of research. I know it will be something psychology related.

What are you doing at CBAM so far?
So far, I’m doing a literature review about how music influences drug use. There’s not a lot of literature on it that I’ve found so far, but what I have found has been interesting. I’m already getting ideas for graduate school. There’s a Master’s program at CSU Long Beach that I’m interested in and hope to apply to with this internship under my belt.

Do you have any advice for students who are just starting out with developing their interests?
Start research as soon as you can. Find something that interests you—even if it’s just taking notes, there’s something to learn everywhere.


CBAM is a multidisciplinary center that seeks to advance the prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses, especially in communities with health disparities. As part of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, CBAM works at the intersection of academia and community with a focus on treating addictions and preventing the spread of HIV.

© The UCLA Center for Behavioral & Addiction Medicine (CBAM). All Rights Reserved.