Epstein Lab Research Publications People Links Contact Center for Cognitive Neuroscience University of Pennsylvania

Principal Investigator

Russell Epstein

Russell A. Epstein, PhD
Professor of Psychology
Goddard Laboratories, Office 522
epstein[at]psych.upenn.edu | CV
I am a professor in the psychology department at Penn and I'm pleased to work with all the fine folks below. I got into this business somewhat by accident: after an undergraduate degree in physics at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in computer vision with Alan Yuille at Harvard, I wandered into a postdoc with Nancy Kanwisher at MIT just around the time that fMRI was taking off. I then spent 2 years working with John Duncan at the MRC-CBU in the other Cambridge before coming to Penn in 2002. When I'm not thinking about scenes, places, and the brain, I like to talk about politics and ponder the meaning of the word "representation" over a glass or two of beer.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Zhengang Lu

Zhengang Lu, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
zhengang[at]sas.upenn.edu
My research goal is to understand how the human brain makes sense of a complex visual world. Our world is a "blooming, buzzy confusion". However, we can perceive and understand our world in a rapid and seemingly effortless way, such as knowing where we are and where we are going. My ongoing project in the lab seeks to understand the neural mechanisms of human navigation by combining functional brain imaging, computational, and virtual reality techniques. Before joining the lab, I studied the neural representations of faces and scenes.

Michael Peer

Michael Peer, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
mpeer[at]sas.upenn.edu
Website
I am a Fulbright postdoctoral fellow in the lab, and I study how the human brain represents large-scale environments. In contrast to small laboratory settings, navigation in the real world involves processing of complex, segmented, and hierarchical environments; my research uses fMRI, VR environments and testing of real-world knowledge to understand how these processes are performed in the brain. In addition, my work attempts to understand how spatial representations are related to relational memory in other complex knowledge domains, such as social relations and encoding of time. Previously, I did a PhD as an Eshkol fellow at the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem, where I developed applications of resting-state fMRI to diagnosis of clinical neuropsychiatric disorders.

Chris Gahnstrom

Chris Gahnstrom, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
cgahn[at]sas.upenn.edu
I am interested in fundamental and generalizable neural mechanisms underlying cognition. To this end, the field of spatial navigation is especially exciting because it allows us to design experiments using complex yet ecologically valid task paradigms. I use various methods from computational modeling and fMRI to investigate flexible behavior and neural representations in spatial and non-spatial domains. As part of my postdoc, I will work on neural representations of space, reinforcement learning models, and hierarchical planning. Before joining the lab, I completed my PhD as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at UCL in the lab of Prof. Hugo Spiers where I investigated spatial goal coding in stochastic environments and planning in large state-spaces with licensed London taxi drivers. I have also worked in value-based decision making with Prof. Tobias Donner at UKE in Hamburg, Germany.

Sarah Goodroe

Sarah Goodroe, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
sgoodroe[at]sas.upenn.edu
My current research focuses on planning and representation in complex spatial domains. I am particularly interested in how changes (both physical and abstract changes) to one’s environment impact both of these factors. Additionally, my research aims to produce meaningful and ecological behavior in realistic navigation tasks and utilizes modern video game approaches to create more immersive desktop navigation paradigms. My work utilizes several methods to include immersive virtual reality, multivariate fMRI, and trajectory analysis. Before joining the Epstein lab, I completed my PhD at University College London working with Dr Hugo Spiers. My thesis work focused on dynamic route planning in complex space and hierarchical planning in large state spaces. Before my PhD, I worked on overlapping route representation with Dr Thackery Brown at Georgia Tech, where I received my undergraduate degree.

Anna Shafer-Skelton

Anna Shafer-Skelton, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
ashafers[at]sas.upenn.edu
My research aims to understand when/how we form integrated representations of our 3D environments through navigation and visual exploration. How might these representations change depending on our current goals or long-term experience with an environment? What reference frames and what types of visual information might contribute? Before joining the Epstein lab, I completed my PhD with Tim Brady and John Serences, studying working memory for scene-specific representations, as well as neural representations of the 3D geometry of scenes. As a lab manager with Julie Golomb, I investigated the reference frames of different types of visual representations as we visually explore and interact with the world.

Graduate Students

Tony Han

Linfeng (Tony) Han, B.S.
Graduate Student, Psychology
hanlf[at]sas.upenn.edu
My current research focuses on the interplay between perception and spatial cognition. For example, how does the perception of landmarks or local visual environments affect global spatial learning? How do humans integrate visual scenes from multiple viewpoints into a unified spatial representation? Besides these questions, I am also broadly interested in how humans represent spatial and non-spatial contexts, and whether these representations share similar neurocognitive foundations. I aim to explore these questions using a combination of behavioral testing, functional neuroimaging, and computational modeling. Beyond science, I am an amateur pianist, photographer, and Starbucks “been there” series collector.

Research Specialists

Catherine Nadar

Catherine (Cathy) Nadar, B.A.
Research Specialist & Lab Manager, Psychology
cnadar[at]sas.upenn.edu
Website
I am broadly interested in qualifying and quantifying cognitive processes with a multimodal approach to psychology and neuroscience. During my undergraduate research career I worked in a cognitive neuropsychology lab led by Jared Medina at the University of Delaware, where I was involved in research regarding mirror-touch synesthesia, brain plasticity after stroke, and multisensory integration. Presently, in the Epstein Lab, I am interested in investigating the basis of non-Euclidean navigation strategies in different types of environments. I am most excited to learn from the people above!

Tamar Japaridze

Tamar Japaridze, B.A.
Research Specialist & Lab Manager, Psychology
tamarjap[at]sas.upenn.edu
I am interested in how internal representations of objects within a scene may contribute to forming cognitive maps and aid in navigation of such spaces. My interest in cognitive neuroscience developed while I was an undergraduate studying neuroscience at Colgate University. While there, I worked on research studying the organization of scenes based on early neural responses, as well as completed my thesis on individual differences in aesthetic responses to art. Before joining the Epstein lab, I spent a year working in a Visual Attention lab at CU Denver. Now I’m excited to learn about all aspects of spatial navigation research, from research design to methodology to data analysis.

Undergraduate Researchers

Claire Wang

Claire Wang
Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am an undergraduate now majoring in Networked and Social System Engineering (NETS). With a passion for behavioral research, I joined the Epstein Lab to gain insights on human spatial exploration and hope to facilitate the research process. In this lab, I am given the chance to utilize my design and coding skills in research settings. I have broad interests in product management, software design and development, and graphic design. I am very excited to hone my skills as a research assistant and learn from the great minds in the lab.

Lab Alumni

Postdoctoral Fellows

Iva Brunec Iva Brunec, PhD
Postdocoral Fellow, Psychology
iva.brunec[at]gmail.com

Michael Bonner Michael Bonner, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Neurology
Currently: Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University
michafra[at]mail.med.upenn.edu

Steven Marchette Steven Marchette, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
stmar[at]sas.upenn.edu

Maria Olkkonen Maria Olkkonen, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
mariaol[at]sas.upenn.edu | Homepage

Seth Bouvier Seth Bouvier, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
sethbouvier[at]gmail.com

Victor Schinazi Victor Schinazi, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
v.schinazi[at]gmail.com

Sean MacEvoy Sean MacEvoy, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
Currently: Assistant Professor at Boston College
sean.macevoy.1[at]bc.edu

Graduate Students

Alon Hafri Alon Hafri
Graduate Student, Psychology
ahafri[at]gmail.com | Homepage

Alexandra Keinath Alexandra Keinath
Graduate Student, Psychology

akeinath[at]sas.upenn.edu

Josh Julian Josh Julian
Graduate Student, Psychology

joshua.b.julian[at]gmail.com

Matt McCabe Matt McCabe
Graduate Student, Psychology

Teresa Pegors Teresa Pegors
Graduate Student, Psychology

tpegors[at]sas.upenn.edu | Homepage

Marieta Pehlivanova Marieta Pehlivanova
Rotating Graduate Student, Psychology
marieta[at]sas.upenn.edu

Marcelo Gomes Mattar Marcelo Gomes Mattar
Rotating Graduate Student, Psychology
Goddard Laboratories, 5th Floor
mattar[at]sas.upenn.edu

Vanessa Troiani Vanessa Troiani
Current Post-Doc at Temple University

troiani[at]gmail.com

Lindsay Vass (Morgan) Lindsay Vass (Morgan)
Graduate Student, Neuroscience

lmo[at]mail.med.upenn.edu | Homepage

Research Specialists

Rachel Metzgar Rachel Metzgar
Research Specialist Emeritus
Currently: Research Assistant at MRRI

Stamati Liapis Stamati Liapis
Research Specialist Emeritus

John Ryan John Ryan
Research Specialist Emeritus

Anthony Stigliani Anthony Stigliani
Research Specialist Emeritus
Currently: PhD Candidate at Stanford
astiglia[at]stanford.edu

Mary Smith Mary Smith
Research Specialist Emeritus
Currently: PhD Candidate at UCSD
maryesmith[at]gmail.com

Emily Ward Emily Ward
Research Specialist Emeritus
Currently: PhD Candidate at Yale
emily.ward[at]yale.edu

Whitney Parker Whitney Parker
Research Specialist Emeritus

Steve Higgins Steve Higgins
Research Specialist Emeritus

Alana Feiler Alana Feiler
Research Specialist Emeritus

Undergraduate Researchers

Hana Flaxman Hana Flaxman
Independent Research Student

Rachel Freilich Rachel Freilich
Independent Research Student

Nicole Paul Nicole Paul
Independent Research Student

Peter Bryan Peter Bryan
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Monica Osher Monica Osher
Independent Research Student

Ben van Buren Ben van Buren
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ross Avila Ross Avila
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Beth Lovisa Beth Lovisa
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Karen Jablonski Karen Jablonski
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Laboratory Mascot

Munchkin Munchkin
Lab Mascot Emeritus