Meet the Team

aepperson.jpg Anna E. Epperson, PhD

Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of Health Psychology

Dr. Anna Epperson is an Assistant Professor of Health Psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of California, Merced. Her research focuses on racial/ethnic disparities in health behavior, exploring how social and cultural factors impact health behavior and perceptions of health risk, particularly in American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) and Latinx communities. She examines health behavior through community-based research and current projects focus on: 1) increasing vaccine confidence and uptake among AIAN and Latinx communities; and 2) reducing substance use among at-risk populations (e.g., AIAN youth, Latinx young adults). Prior to joining the faculty at UC Merced, Dr. Epperson was an Instructor of Adolescent Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. She earned her PhD in Health Psychology from the University of California, Merced, an MA in Experimental Psychology from California State University, Stanislaus, and a BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. She completed postdoctoral training at the Stanford University Prevention Research Center as an National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute T32 research fellow in Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. She is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.


Luis Solorio Luis Solorio 

Lab Manager 

Luis Solorio was born and raised in Tulare, CA. He graduated with honors from the University of California, Merced, earning a B.A. in Psychology and Public Health. He is currently the Research Lab Manager within Dr. Anna Epperson's health psychology research lab. He is currently working on a research project examining cannabis-related behaviors and perceptions of health risks among Latinx young adults. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of California, Merced, Luis completed a year-long clinical internship with the Merced County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services center under the Substance Use Disorder Division.  Luis' research contributions have led towards several awards, including internships at Princeton University and Brown University. 


Mgarcia1 Mary Garcia

Research Coordinator

Mary Esperanza Garcia was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley and transferred from community college with a UC Regents Scholarship to the University of California, Merced. While attending University, Mary received a Bachelor's in psychology and completed an internship at the Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center where she investigated the cessation related needs amongst Latinx tobacco users in the Central Valley. Mary is currently the Research Coordinator in the Epperson Lab for the Connect/Conectados: Social Networks and Health among Indigenous Californians Research Collaborative grant project. Mary’s research interests are grounded in a commitment to address the health disparities that continue to affect central Californian’s and other vulnerable populations.




Current Graduate Students


Allison Temourian Allison A. Temourian, M.A

Allison is a doctoral candidate in the Health Psychology Ph.D. program at UC Merced advised by Drs. Anna V. Song and Anna E. Epperson. Her research falls under two major domains, 1) examining cognitions as they relate to addictive behaviors and 2) antecedence to health risk behaviors with an emphasis in nicotine addiction. Under the first domain, Allison has worked extensively with the Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center (NCPC) to examine e-cigarette behaviors among dual users, the impact of flavored tobacco bans on tobacco control, e-cigarette warning labels and subsequent use, tobacco product waste in the San Joaquin Valley using geographical information systems (GIS), and digital cessation aids. Under the second domain, Allison has examined COVID-19 protective behaviors, adolescents’ alcohol use, and adolescent e-cigarette and marijuana initiation.




nbeylin.jpg Natalie Beylin, M.A

Natalie graduated with high honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, earning a Psychological and Brain Sciences B.S. and Applied Psychology Minor. She is currently a third-year Health Psychology Ph.D. student studying under Dr. Anna Epperson in the Epperson Lab. Natalie is interested in unraveling the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that link childhood adversity to health behaviors, with a specific emphasis on substance use within minority populations. Her research also delves into the potential applications of culturally tailored mindfulness techniques in substance use interventions, aiming to contribute significantly to this field.




SEspinoza Selina Espinoza

Selina Espinoza (she/her/ella) is a first-generation Latinx and third year health psychology Ph.D. student under Dr. Anna Epperson advisership and is a part of the Epperson & Health Behaviors Lab. Selina graduated with an A.A. in Art and A.A.-T in Psychology from Hartnell Community College. Additionally, Selina graduated with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in statistics from California State University, Monterey (CSUMB).

She also graduated with 4 scholar titles which include 2020-21 Sally Casanova Scholar, McNair Scholar, Stanford Phoenix Scholar, and CSUMB Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scholar.

Selina's research interests include factors that influence cannabis perceptions and uptake among vulnerable subgroups such as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, college students, and Mexican American young adults. Selina is also interested in community engagement and advocacy, which involves applying her research knowledge and skills that serve community members in order to improve public health. Selina also has conducted research within these research areas among these groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Research Assistants


Meztli Galicia Meztli Galicia

Meztli is a first-generation student in her fourth year of undergraduate studies. She is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Chicano Studies. Her interest in this lab is to see how socio-economic status and subjective social status affects health outcomes among the population. She hopes to earn her doctorate degree in Psychology and work with children as a pediatric psychologist.



ERico.jpeg Estrella Rico

Estrella is a first-generation Chicana with Indigenous roots. She's a fourth-year undergraduate majoring in Psychology, she is also a member of the Native and Indigenous Student Coalition and holds the position of secretary. She's interested in health and finding ways to encourage others to make their health a priority as well as reducing substance use and crime in the community. Her plan after graduation is to further her education and achieve a master's degree in criminology. She wants to become a criminal investigator and profile while her main focus is on the Native, Indigenous and Latine community. 

Joselyn Vasquez

Joselyn (Joe) is a fourth-year first-generation student majoring in Public Health and Psychology. Joe is set to graduate in the fall of 2023. Joe intends to pursue a MPH and then a PhD in Public Health. Joe is interested in researching how the war on drugs has negatively impacted vulnerable groups such as minorities, as well as the impact of substance abuse on their health and other aspects of their lives. As a result, Joe hopes to work with substance-abusing individuals and, one day, to be a part of a consumption room and advocate for the implementation of consumption rooms in Los Angeles, California. 

Lab Alumni

Kiana Beheshtian; Sonia Serrano Garcia; Alondra Mercado; Angela Roberts; Jackie Barragan