Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour BA student on finding herself in the Baby Lab

Emma Resendes smiling at the camera while wearing a McMaster t-shirt

Graduating student Emma Resendes, pictured here just after she found out she’d got into Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour — what she called her ‘dream program.’

Emma Resendes knew for a long time that she wanted to study psychology. She just didn’t know she’d find herself in the process.

Resendes, who is graduating from the BA Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour (PNB) program with a specialization in mental health in the Faculty of Social Sciences, leaves McMaster with an impressive résumé: Provost Honour Roll, work experience with the City of Mississauga and Community Living Mississauga, co-president of the PNB society, and lab manager of the Baby Lab (a lab dedicated to studying how human cognition develops from infancy to early childhood).

Resendes truly left her mark on the McMaster community, and in turn she was shaped by the experience, going from a ‘super-shy’ teenager to a high-flying graduate, ready for the next chapter of her academic life.

“I really realized that I was capable of a lot more than I thought,” she said. “By pushing myself to get involved with all the different experiences available, I grew so much.

I used to be super shy but after pushing myself into all these leadership roles, I think I’m a better person for it. I’m more outgoing now and it’s really benefitted my life.”


When she was 16, Resendes had the opportunity to work with a child and youth worker. That experience inspired her to pursue a career in psychology.

It was the social aspects of health that interested Resendes — how society understands and perceives mental health — so she gravitated towards the BA in Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour program, knowing that it would have more emphasis on society and culture.

“I decided to go with the BA because I thought that I would be more passionate about topics such as sociology and social psychology,” she said. “And that’s kind of where my strengths lie as well.”

As her academic journey progressed, it became clear Resendes was indeed academically strong — not only in the social sciences side, but also the science-based courses. In fact, Resendes was awarded the Provost Honour Roll Medal in recognition of her academic performance.


One of Resendes’ highlights from her time at McMaster was the opportunity to work in the Baby Lab throughout her second, third and fourth years. 

“Over the years I really got to grow within the lab. It was a phenomenal experience and the best introduction to research I could have asked for,” she said. 

In her second year of studies (and her first semester in the lab), she was doing infant perceptual research, looking at racial biases through a psychology lens. In her third year, Resendes received an Undergraduate Student Research Award, taking on a larger role as the lab manager, and replicating the study that she had helped with in second year.  

Finally, in her fourth year, she was helping with an undergraduate thesis project, and again had a stint as lab manager. 

“It was really nice to take on a leadership role and my supervisor in that lab, Dr. Xiao, was phenomenal at fostering my success and encouraging me to take on and try new things,” she said. “So it was really great experience.” 


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Emma’s dedication and contributions have been instrumental in shaping the Baby Lab into the thriving research environment it is today. Her meticulous attention to detail, collaborative spirit and passion for research will leave a lasting legacy, and she will be fondly remembered for her pivotal role in advancing our understanding of early childhood development. Gabriel Xiao, assistant professor, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour.

For her thesis, Resendes had the opportunity to work with researchers from St. Joe’s Hospital as she interviewed patients diagnosed with PTSD after they completed therapy to see what they thought about it and how it could be improved. 

She says she found nothing but support from her supervisors, Professor Karen Rowa and Associate Clinical Professor Kerry Boyd. 

“They both went above and beyond to really foster my success in that role,” said Resendes. “They helped me learn how to think differently about things, and they also really helped prepare me for grad school supporting me through interviews and the application process.” 

That help paid off, as Resendes secured a place at York University in the Master’s of Clinical Developmental Psychology program, which she’ll start in September. 


If Resendes has any advice for incoming students, it would be this: step outside of your comfort zone, and make the most of what McMaster, and the broader community, has to offer. 

“I definitely recommend taking on extra things outside of school work,” she said. “I think that those were the things that contributed to my development, as a person and as a student the most. 

I realized I could do things that I didn’t think I could like being a lab manager,” she says. “And just by pushing myself to get out there, I realized that I was capable of more than I thought.” 

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