Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Carlos Sierra Hernandez receives Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

September 01, 2015

Congratulations to Carlos Sierra Hernandez, an upcoming PhD student in SFU's Department of Psychology, who received a prestigious three-year Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship in 2014/15.

Carlos Sierra Hernandez is driven by his commitment to a comprehensive understanding of the mental health concerns in the community. Not only does the psychology PhD student have an extensive publication record, he has also spent years as the Senior Distress Service Volunteer for the Vancouver Crisis Centre. This opportunity to work with the most vulnerable populations has allowed Carlos a unique perspective into the effect his research will have on the public.

Along with this volunteer work at the Vancouver Crisis Centre, Carlos' experience at the Psychiatry Department at the University of British Columbia has been instrumental to his personal and academic development. As a Research Technician at the Psychotherapy Program, Carlos has participated in a number of projects in the field of psychotherapy research. Carlos’ volunteer and research experience have been tremendously influential in his early work as a researcher where he has focused in investigating two specific vulnerable groups: men experiencing mental health issues and youth experiencing emotional and mental health problems. “Although different in many respects, these two groups of individuals require our interest and attention”, Carlos said. With respect to his interest in investigating men’s experience of mental health issues, Carlos added: “we need to understand how our fathers, brothers, and male friends experience mental health issues and also how we can offer effective help to them”.

Similarly, Carlos' interest in understanding youth experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties lies in the realization that this is a vulnerable group in our communities. “Adolescents require our attention because they are in a critical time in their lives. They might be experiencing tremendous emotional, physical, and interpersonal changes that, in some cases, might result in behavioral and emotional issues” Carlos said. Research on this population requires that programs that address the behavioral and emotional difficulties experienced by youth be effective and available to the youth and their families.

One program that has shown to have positive results in combating youths behavioral and emotional issues is Connect, a 10 week attachment-based parenting program. This parenting program, developed in part by Dr. Marlene Moretti, professor at the Psychology Department at SFU, helps to strengthen the relationship between youths and their parents. Carlos aims to investigate the long-term effectiveness of Connect, as well as to better understand the mechanisms and processes that lead to its success. In addition, Carlos hopes to investigate how effective Connect is for fathers and mothers attending this program. This last research interest represents an intersection between Carlos’ interest in investigating men’s mental health and youth with behavioral and emotional problems.

Carlos’ commitment to his research is paralleled only by his publication history. Despite not yet beginning his PhD, Carlos has produced seven papers, with two as first author. What is even more impressive is that when Carlos began his undergraduate degree at The University of Western Ontario, he was not yet fluent in English because he had moved to Canada when he was 15.

Not one to let anything hold him back, Carlos achieved his goal of going to university and is now working towards a new goal of influencing clinical practice and provision of effective mental health services in the community. With this goal in reach, Carlos adds, “my academic and nonacademic activities have important implications not only for my field of study but also for the community as a whole.”

Carlos Sierra Hernandez is a PhD Student in the Department of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. He is one of six students at SFU in 2014/15 to receive a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, which are granted to graduate students studying in Canada based on their academic excellence, research potential, and leadership contributions.

To find out more or connect with Carlos see:

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