FIU ReACH Lab | Research on Adolescent and Child Health
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Innovative scientists

The ReACH Lab is committed to understanding how problem behavior including alcohol and drug use develops among children and adolescents.


Identify early risk and protective factors

We aim to identify key biological, social, and individual risk and protective factors that contribute to alcohol and drug use so that youths ReACH their full potential.


Cutting-edge research

The ReACH Lab collaborates with fellow scientists and recruits students who have a passion for learning and critical thinking.


Understanding the Etiology of Adolescent Substance Use Through Developmental Perspectives

ReACH LAB Director, Dr. Elisa Trucco, alongside ReACH Lab Graduate Student, Sarah Hartmann, has published a review that aimed to understand the potential causes of adolescent substance use through the framework of developmental perspectives. The study provides an overview of biological (e.g., genetic, neuroimaging), individual (e.g., temperament, behavior problems), and social (e.g., parents, peers) factors that have been shown to increase the risk for, and protection against, adolescent substance use (namely the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana). Emerging areas of research (e.g., neurogenetics, sleep disturbances, childhood maltreatment, and media exposure) are also discussed. Understanding the factors associated with adolescent substance use can help inform prevention and intervention programs. 

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Do Parents Still Matter? The Impact of Parents and Peers on Adolescent Electronic Cigarette Use

A new study conducted by ReACH Lab Director Dr. Elisa Trucco in collaboration with ReACH Lab Graduate Student Julie Cristello and ACE Project Co-PI Dr. Matthew Sutherland explored the effect of peer norms and parental attitudes towards e-cigarettes on adolescent e-cigarette intentions, future use, and positive expectancies of use. Using data from the ongoing ACE Project, results found that, while peer norms were associated with positive expectancies of e-cigarette use, positive expectancies did not mediate the association between peer norms and later e-cigarette use. Furthermore, researchers found that parents’ perceptions of the harms of e-cigarette use not only influence adolescent e-cigarette use intentions (when controlling for adolescent attitudes and perceived peer norms), but also predict lower rates of e-cigarette use via e-cigarette use intentions. Results from the study indicate that parents still play an active role in influencing early stages of e-cigarette use among their adolescent children.

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Longitudinal Effects of Peer, School, and Parenting Contexts on Substance Use Initiation in Middle Adolescence

A new study by ReACH Lab Director Dr. Elisa Trucco in collaboration with colleagues at Florida International University  recently investigated the role of involvement with deviant peers, school connectedness, and parenting quality on adolescent substance use initiation (SUI). The study found that, in a community sample of nearly 400 adolescents, involvement with deviant peers mediated the relationship between school connectedness and SUI, with low school connectedness predicting high deviant peer affiliation, which, in turn, predicted high SUI. Parenting factors, however, were not significant moderators. Results indicate intervention and prevention programs for adolescents to develop healthy relationships in their community (i.e. not with deviant peers) and help bolster student connection to their school.

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We are seeking talented students who are eager to contribute to science!


The ReACH Lab is comprised of scientists committed to interdisciplinary and innovative research.

Elisa Trucco, Ph.D.

Lab Director

Nilofar Fallah-Sohy

Graduate Research Assistant

Michelle Villar

ReACH Lab Manager and Post-Bac Research Assistant

Odette Manresa, M.S.

ACE Project Intake Specialist

Luis Diaz Carrasco

Post-Bac Research Assistant

Victoria De Barros

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Mari Kumar

Research Intern

Julie Cristello, M.S.

Graduate Research Assistant

Sarah Hartmann

Graduate Research Assistant

Nasreen Hidmi, M.S.

ACE Project Program Coordinator

Betsy Alas

ACE Project Research Assistant

Aileen Abreu

Post-Bac Research Assistant

Kevin Leiva

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Megan Hare

Graduate Research Assistant

Benjelene Sutherland

ACE Project Graduate Research Assistant

Brigitte Madan

ACE Project Senior Research Assistant

Maria Zapata

Post-Bac Research Assistant

Katherine Rivas

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alexandra Sawczak

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Nathalie Delvalle

Research Intern


  • Types of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) lined up

    F.D.A. Authorizes E-Cigarettes to Stay on U.S. Market for the First Time

    The Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A) has authorized the first electronic cigarette allowed to be sold in the United States, following a controversial path to approval for these devices. The Vuse electronic cigarette device, as well as Vuse tobacco-flavored cartridges, was authorized by the agency last month, with the F.D.A saying that “The authorized products’ aerosols are significantly less toxic than combusted cigarettes based on available data.” The agency continued, saying they “determined that the potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use, would outweigh the risk to youth.” The news may be confusing to the public, given that e-cigarette products have been available for purchase in the United States for years. However, these products have been in approval limbo by the F.D.A for over a year while the agency investigated whether or not they could be considered a benefit or danger to public health. E-cigarette products were allowed to be sold by the F.D.A without authorization while waiting for approval, but it seems the agency is finally starting to crack down on individual products. As part of the agency’s review of e-cigarette products, thousands of brands and flavors have been ordered off the market over the past few months, including some of Vuse’s flavored products. Another popular choice among adolescents, Puff Bars, were also ordered off the market during this time.  Expectedly, the agency approval of Vuse products has drawn a mixed bag of reactions from the public. Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said “now that the F.D.A. has acted, we are hopeful that adult consumers and health communicators will begin to understand the harm reduction benefits offered by these and other smoke-free products.” On the other hand, Erika Sward, national assistant vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, said the F.D.A decision “throws young people under the bus.” Ms. Sward says the concern is both with the general approval of an e-cigarette device, as well as with Vuse specifically, which was recently found to be one of the most popular vaping brands among youth. Some public health experts believe that allowing e-cigarette devices to stay on the market may be beneficial in the long-run by helping the government impose stricter regulations on traditional cigarettes, which have been linked to over 400,000 deaths in the United States each year. ...

  • ACE Project Hosts Webinar on E-cigarette Use for M-DCPS SSCs

    ACE Project graduate students, Benjelene Sutherland and Katharine Crooks, provided a webinar on e-cigarette use/vaping to Miami-Dade County Public Schools Student Success Centers (M-DCPS SSCs). Alongside ACE Project program coordinator, Nasreen Hidmi, they provided information on current rates of e-cigarette use/vaping among teens and described potential risks of e-cigarette use/vaping on teens and the developing brain. Over 20 students attended the live webinar hosted on October 18th. Thank you for providing the community with necessary information on e-cigarettes, ACE team!...