Alumni spotlight: Deea K Dev’s passion for science and giving back is shaping her career

Deea K Dev

UBC Psychology alumnus Deea K Dev’s passion for neuroscience and compassionate instinct has driven her to pursue a career where she can help vulnerable people.

After graduating with a BSc in Behavioural Neuroscience in May 2022, Deea is continuing her studies in UBC’s Doctor of Medicine program with a goal of specializing in psychiatry.

Helping people comes naturally to Deea

She volunteers at Atira Women’s Resource Society, a non-profit organization that supports women and children affected by violence. After seeing a gap in nutrition education with Atira’s residents, Deea led nutrition workshops and community kitchens. She also volunteers as a health researcher with the Simbi Foundation, a research-led non-profit organization that supports refugees in Uganda. She recently published a review Addressing the state of mental health in South Sudanese refugees across Uganda in the Canadian Journal of Undergraduate Research. Deea’s interests in immigrant advocacy and STEM motivated her to launch STEMPacts, which offers STEM education and mentorship to young immigrants and refugees in Metro Vancouver.

Deea says, “Volunteering and advocacy give me the platforms to support these communities by utilizing my privilege and the resources that I am fortunate enough to have access to.”

“The only thing that separates vulnerable populations and individuals like myself is social privilege. Someone might have the drive, same talents, same passions as I do, but the multitude of barriers they face (that I never even have to think about simply due to privilege) leaves them in a very different position in life.”
Psychology Alumae

Deea’s mental health advocacy led to her role as a project assistant at the UBC Mood Disorders Centre, where she led a study to investigate enhanced measurement-based care on patients with psychiatric mood disorders. She was also Chairperson of the Science Undergraduate Society’s Mental Health Advocacy Committee and volunteered with Covenant House Vancouver, where she led the distribution mental wellness kits for homeless and runaway youth.

Deea has received numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding community contributions. Recently she was awarded the HSBC Emerging Leader Premier Undergraduate Scholarship and UBC’s Westbrook Scholar Award, a prestigious honour for undergraduate students with exceptional leadership, community service, and high academic achievement.

“I was honoured to receive the award for championing some of these causes. They give it to 20 students at UBC—it was really heartwarming.”
Psychology Alumnae

Deea’s research career path

Deea’s research career began when she joined Dr. Janet Werker’s Infant Studies Centre as an NSERC Research Assistant. She wanted hands-on research experience and to apply theories from the classroom. After realizing her interests aligned more with cognitive science and neuroscience, she joined Dr. Daniela Palombo’s Memory & Imagination lab through UBC’s Directed Studies program. Students in the program pursue independent research with the guidance and supervision of a UBC faculty member. She thrived in the lab and continued her work in the lab as a Research Assistant and through another Directed Studies research project, Negative Emotion Improves Memory for the Order of Events, which was published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

This research explored how emotion can influence a person’s memory for events—and the implications in the context of legal proceedings, such as eyewitness testimony.

“When individuals experience a traumatic event with negative emotion, it can influence their memory of that event. Researching the implications for the way we recall events was something I was really interested in. With Directed Studies, student research doesn't necessarily get published or end up exactly how you want it to be. Daniela was an incredible mentor and we managed to get my work published.”
Psychology Alumnae

From May to August 2022, Deea worked with Dr. Palombo and Dr. Samantha Dawson, both assistant professors in UBC’s department of psychology, on the research project, A Woman’s journey to parenthood: memory, self schema, and well­being during fertility treatment. This research examines how significant infertility experiences are remembered—and how these memories shape a woman’s identity and well-being.

While getting involved in research propelled Deea’s career goals, she says for an undergraduate student, it can be intimidating. She advises students to look past any fear and go for it.

“To step into that world—and even reaching out to professors—can be super daunting, because you might feel like there's that huge gap in experience. It can be really intimidating. But what's the worst that can happen? Go for it and continue trying!”
Psychology Alumnae