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  
Annie Schwartzstein
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Lab Manager

Annie received her B.A. in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. While at Minnesota, Annie assisted with political and social psychology research under Dr. Eugene Borgida, focusing on metasterotype activation between conservatives and liberals. Annie is very excited to work with the families and babies here in the Baby Learning Lab! When not working with research assistants or researching, Annie enjoys baking for friends, running, and trying out new restaurants.

Contact Annie: annie.schwartzstein@princeton.edu
Jack Cloake
Pronouns: She/her/hers
Research Manager

Jack loves the diversity of her role as Research Manager (a true Jack-of-all-trades), which involves overseeing the Baby Learning Lab’s finances, human resources, ethics, data management, and equipment.
Jack completed her B.Sc. in Behavioural Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. As a student, Jack took particular interest in how our complex human abilities – such as language and cognition – are affected by disruptions in brain development, and the brain’s neuroplastic response to these disruptions. Her undergraduate thesis in Dr. Peter Graf’s UBC Memory and Cognition Laboratory focused on subliminal processing during affective and cognitive decision-making, aiming to better understand the mechanisms and neural systems that underlie our decisions.
When not facilitating research, Jack can be found enthusiastically trying to correctly identify every flower/bird in sight, and is most often spotted elbows-deep in her garden, or at one of Vancouver’s beautiful beaches with her husband, 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. 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  
Sori Baek
Graduate Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Sori, (pronounced like "sorry" in a Canadian accent) received her B.S. in Psychology in University of Minnesota. Sori is excited to use fNIRS to investigate the mechanisms through which babies use their experiences to engage in top-down processing on visual perception. She is most interested in exploring functional connectivity in the infant brain to understand the inception and early development of complex functional networks. In her spare time Sori likes to attempt to cook Korean-American fusion cuisine using cool new kitchen gadgets, sample exotically flavored potato and non-potato chips, collect stationery and stickers, talk to strangers, and take naps.

Sori's Personal Website

Contact Sori: baek.so.r@gmail.com
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
Soraya Alavinezhad
Visiting Graduate Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Soraya is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at the University of Tehran. The subject of her doctoral thesis is "Designing a family-based interactive sensory-motor play program and evaluating its effectiveness on visual-motor coordination and communication for toddlers 12 to 24 months old with low birth weight" under the supervision of Dr. Afrooz of the University of Tehran.

Soraya has researched and worked with infants. Also, she has taught at the University of Tehran since 2017. She has been designing workshops for more than ten years to promote the growth of infants and their parents.

Her interest is in the areas of language development and perception in infants, learning capacities of the infant’s brain, the effect of play on the activity of an infant's brain areas, and the role of emotion in infants learning and experiences.

Soraya's goal in joining the Baby Learning Lab is to explore infants' learning abilities and perceptions of their surroundings and learn about fNIRS involvement of different areas of their brain from a neuroscience perspective under the supervision of Dr. Emberson.

Soraya spends most of her free time with physical activities such as running, mountaineering and rope jumping and enjoys being with her family. She also writes poetry and is eager to use her experiences and knowledge in parenting.
Research Assistants  
Emma Kim
Research Assistant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Emma is a 2nd-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!
Shehleen Rasul
Research Assistant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Shehleen (pronounced /ʃeɪlin/) graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry from UBC in 2021. Shehleen is excited to learn more about fNIRS technology and its use in investigating the mechanisms through which babies develop. Additionally, she has an interest in linguistics and language development. During her undergraduate studies, Shehleen was involved in healthcare advocacy and worked in the healthcare industry as a laboratory technician. Shehleen enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her cat.
Jaimie Muller
Research Assistant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Jaimie is a 3rd-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
Research Assistant
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Carmynn is in the fourth 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
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Tora is a 3rd-year B.A. Directed Studies student 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.
Koei Yang
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Koei is a 4th-year B.A. Honours student majoring in psychology at UBC. She will complete her final Honours project in the Baby Learning lab. Her volunteer experiences with children and seniors have made her a patient, creative, and supportive person. She enjoys memorable connections that form with those that she volunteers with. When not researching, Koei enjoys jewellery designing, skiing, and hiking with her two Yorkies!
Jocelyn Chun
Directed Studies Student
Pronouns: She/her/hers

Jocelyn (she/her) is a 4th-year B.A. Psychology major and Family Studies minor at UBC. She will be working on the research team as a Directed Studies student to complete a thesis on statistical learning. While in middle and high school, Jocelyn was an active advocate for youth empowerment and unlocking the hidden potential of young individuals – she now hopes to learn more about how developmental research can be used to improve support systems for underrepresented families and kids. In her spare time, Jocelyn enjoys singing, playing guitar, and building houses in the Sims 4!