Our Team

Lab Director  
Dr. Lauren Emberson

Assistant Professor, Psychology
Director, Baby Learning Lab

Dr. Emberson’s research is in the areas of learning, perception (audition, vision, crossmodal or multisensory), language development, face/object perception, and attention. Emberson investigates these capacities in young infants using behavioral and neuroimaging techniques (e.g., fNIRS: functional near infrared spectroscopy). Dr. Emberson works primarily with very young infants (starting at birth through 1 year) and also investigates preterm/premature infants who are at-risk for developmental delays.

The overarching goal of Dr. Emberson’s research is to understand the incredible learning capacities of the infant brain, and how these learning abilities contribute to an infant’s rapid development of perception (vision, audition, crossmodal perception). Dr. Emberson is driven to understand perception in its ecological context (i.e., what infants sees and hears all day long), so her work is often conducted in the contexts of language and face or object perception. Her work bears on the question of how early life learning and development contribute to later life outcomes and investigates this with premature infants and infants being raised in adverse early life conditions (e.g., lower socioeconomic status in the developing world).

Dr. Emberson’s research has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH in the US).

Dr. Emberson’s secondary research area is Cognitive.

In addition to the lab's anti-racism pledge, find Dr. Emberson's personal anti-racism and sustainability pledge here.

Contact Dr. Emberson:
Lab Managers  
Jack Cloake
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Research Manager

Jack joined the UBC Baby Learning Lab as Dr. Lauren Emberson’s Research Manager after its establishment in 2021. Prior to joining the Centre, she completed her B.Sc. in Behavioural Neuroscience here at the University of British Columbia. As a student, Jack took particular interest in cognition and brain dysfunction and recovery, specifically focusing on topics such as traumatic brain injury, memory and executive function. Her undergrad thesis in Dr. Peter Graf’s Memory and Cognition Laboratory focused on subliminal processing of visual stimuli during affective and cognitive decision-making, aiming to better understand the mechanisms and neural systems that underlie these processes.

Passionate about the intersections between science and society, Jack loves getting to work with the diverse Vancouver community in such an engaging research context. If you have questions about what it’s like to participate in a study, or how to get involved in research during your undergraduate degree, don’t hesitate to send her an email!

When not facilitating research, Jack can be found enthusiastically reading a book about an odd topic that has recently struck her fancy, trying to correctly name every flower in sight, and is most often spotted at one of Vancouver’s beautiful beaches with her life-partner-in-crime, Dan.

Contact Jack: jack@psych.ubc.ca
Shania Linggon
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Lab Coordinator

Shania recently completed her B.A. in 2021 with a double major in Speech Sciences and Psychology at the University of British Columbia. During her undergraduate degree, she previously worked with the Early Development Research Group (EDRG) as a Research Assistant in the Language Development Centre under Dr. Geoff Hall where she conducted a study that was interested in how children track the identity of a particular individual (proper names) and how they identify the identities of categories (count nouns) as they are going through transformations (i.e., metamorphosis). Shania is grateful to return back to the EDRG in her new role at the Baby Learning Lab where she can continue feeding her love for research in applied developmental psychology and neuroscience. In her spare time, Shania enjoys a range of hobbies including, but certainly not limited to: powerlifting, cooking, playing video games, painting and reading.

Contact Shania: shania@psych.ubc.ca
Postdoctoral Fellows  
Sabrina Burr
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Sabrina received her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science at Carleton University in 2021. Sabrina’s Ph.D. thesis examined the developmental trajectories of ADHD symptoms, academic achievement, and symptoms of internalizing disorders, with a focus on comparing adolescents with and without ADHD who did and did not eventually enrol in post-secondary education. Outside of her thesis, Sabrina’s research focused on numerical cognition, exploring the impact of the home math environment, the role of language in mathematics, and the relations among attention, anxiety and academic performance. Now, Sabrina is exploring new territory, working as a postdoctoral fellow in Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at UBC. When she isn’t churning out manuscripts, Sabrina enjoys spending time with her husband and their three poorly behaved dogs, avoiding people, eating carbs, and watching any show or movie about forensics.

Contact Sabrina: sabrina.burr@ubc.ca
Ola Dopierala
Postdoctoral Fellow
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Ola (short for Aleksandra, she/her) is a postdoctoral fellow, working as part of the fNIRS team in the Gates grant, analysing infant neuroimaging data to predict developmental outcomes.

Ola received her PhD (with distinction) in Psychology at University of Warsaw (Poland). Her PhD research, supervised by Dr Tomalski (Warsaw University), Dr Mercure (Goldmiths, UoL), and Dr Pluta (Warsaw University), highlighted the role of the multisensory speech in the development of functional cortical specialisation in infancy. Using fNIRS, she found that infants develop cortical representations of not only auditory but also visual speech. Ola received a MSc in Psychology, Specialisation Neuropsychology and Neuroscience from University of Warsaw. In her graduate research, under the supervision of Dr Tomalski, she developed a single, short EEG/ERP task to investigate infants’ ability to discriminate both speech sounds and voices.

When not working, Ola likes to spend her time on the go: travelling to other continents or exploring the city’s street-food scene. An avid skier, amateur yogi, (very) lazy runner.

Contact Ola: ola@psych.ubc.ca
Graduate Students  
Zahra Abolghasem
Graduate Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Zahra (she/her/hers) is a graduate student in Dr. Emberson’s Baby Learning Lab! She received her H.B.Sc in Psychology from the University of Toronto in 2020. Before joining the University of British Columbia, Zahra had the pleasure of working as a lab manager at the University of Toronto where her work broadly investigated factors that influence memory integration across development. Zahra’s masters work will focus on what neural mechanisms and experiences are involved in prolonging experience-induced perceptual changes. Outside of the lab, Zahra spends her time embroidering, exploring Vancouver, and cooking various dishes.
Zohreh Soleimani
Graduate Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Zohreh (she/her) holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering and Communications and a MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Tehran, Iran. Her thesis was on the Emerging Adulthood stage and its cultural implications in Iranian culture. She found out that one of the most important markers for emerging adults to perceive someone as an adult was social skills and being mature in relationships, which includes moral values and prosocial behavior such as being helpful or supportive for others. Since then moral development has become her passion. More specifically, she is interested in human sociomoral nature and the cognitive and emotional mechanisms underlying moral functioning in infants. She is a graduate student in Developmental Psychology and working under the supervision of Profs Emberson and Hamlin at UBC. In her spare time, Zohreh enjoys hiking, swimming and sometimes embroidering!

Contact Zohreh: zrsoleimani@gmail.com
Research Assistants  
Vaidehi Asawa
Research Assistant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

I am a 4th year B.A. student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Commerce at UBC. I love working at the lab as I am eager to learn how wonderful little human brains acquire skills to navigate an increasingly complex society. My former challenging experiences have sparked a passion for understanding more about neurodivergent babies and how they can thrive in a society made for neurotypicals. I am also excited to be part of empirical research and fan my spark of curiosity to a flame of growing understanding of psychological concepts. In my free time, I am scouting for new locations to hang up my hammock and read a book or set up my easel for another painting.
Ryan Wang
Research Assistant
Pronouns: He/him/his

Ryan is a 4th-year B.A. student majoring in Psychology at the University of British Columbia. Thrilled to be joining the Baby Learning Lab as a research assistant, Ryan is excited to learn more about developmental research and behavioural coding in children. In addition, he spends a lot of his time volunteering and giving back to the community he grew up in including at: Vancouver General Hospital, GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, UBC Recreation Intramurals, Health & Home Care Society of BC, and coaching ultimate frisbee. Outside of extracurriculars, Ryan enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, basketball, hiking, and travelling with family and friends.
Zein Hedayati
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Zein is a 3rd-year B.Sc. student majoring in Integrated Sciences with a focus on the disciplines of physiology and psychology. She’s had lots of experience working with younger children as a daycare assistant and through a diverse range of volunteering experiences. Being able to work with the lab and all the amazing people on the team has fostered her enthusiasm to explore baby learning, memory, and development. Additionally, she has a particular interest in how psychological dysfunction can impact physiological functionality and vice versa. On the rare occasions she has free time, she loves to sketch, paint, run, read and spend time with her cats!
Fengting Yan
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Fengting is a 3rd-year B.A. Directed Studies student majoring in Psychology as well as minoring in Early Childhood Education at UBC. She enjoys working and learning from the people in this fantastic group at the Baby Learning Lab ! She also works as an educator's assistant in UBC Childcare services. She is eager to learn more on children’s development and how teachers and parents provide should positive help. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and playing tennis as well as cooking.

Contact Fengting: fengting.yan@ubc.ca
Emma Kim
Work-Learn Research Assistant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Emma is a 3rd-year B.Sc. student majoring in Behavioural Neuroscience at UBC. Delighted to be joining the Baby Learning Lab as a research assistant, Emma is thrilled to take a closer look at developmental research and intertwine it with her passion for promoting positive identities in children. Having worked with infants and children through various volunteering experiences, she is excited to explore the wonderfully complex processes of how babies learn through their senses. In her free time, Emma loves reading, playing the guitar, film photography, and watching sunsets!
Jaimie Muller
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Jaimie is a 4th-year B.A. psychology major and French minor. She is eager to develop a more in-depth understanding of babies’ cognitive and neurological processes as they perceive the world. She hopes to further incorporate findings into future thesis work of her own. Jaimie has previously led camps with Pedalheads and the Richmond Olympic Oval, and she is passionate about working with parents and families. In her spare time, Jaimie
enjoys reading, skiing, and playing volleyball (both indoor and beach).
Carmynn Skalnik
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Carmynn is in the fifth year of her B.A. degree, majoring in Psychology at the University of British Columbia. She loves to volunteer as a research assistant here at Baby Learning Lab, as well as for the Early Development Research Group! Being a big sister in her expansive blended family has shown her the importance of adaptation to provide for children’s diverse needs and the unique impacts of cultural differences within families. She loves finding ways to connect her professional interests of research and therapy with her other passions of graphic design, sculpting, painting, and even skiing!

Contact Carmynn: carmynn.skalnik@ubc.ca
Tora Chen
Work-Learn Research Assisant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Tora is a fourth year B.A. Work-Learn Research Assistant majoring in psychology as well as minoring in creative writing at UBC. Excited to join the research team, Tora hopes to further explore the academic aspects of research and deepen her broadening interest in psychology. During her time at UBC, Tora has taken on executive positions to bring awareness to mental health and the LBGTQ+ community. In her spare time, Tora enjoys catching up with pop culture, reading, and exploring the city.