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@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
Goddard Laboratories
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
Goddard Laboratories
mpeer@sas.upenn.edu | Homepage
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.

Iva Brunec

Iva Brunec, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
Goddard Laboratories
iva.brunec@gmail.com
My research focuses on understanding how people form cognitive maps and how this is reflected in their neural patterns. But not everyone is able to navigate in the world efficiently, and not all maps are formed the same way. To investigate what determines the ability to integrate information in a structured way, I use virtual reality and pattern similarity analyses in fMRI. I’m also interested in whether the ability to extract spatial maps relates to one’s understanding of structure in non-spatial domains, and whether the underlying mechanisms fully overlap. Before joining the lab, I completed my PhD at the University of Toronto, where I studied hippocampal representations during spatial navigation and the role of boundaries in segmenting our experience.

Graduate Students

Tony Han

Linfeng (Tony) Han, B.S.
Incoming Graduate Student, Psychology
hanlf[at]sas.upenn.edu
Two broad questions guide my research: First, how do humans navigate themselves in spatial environments with information from landmarks, boundaries, and cognitive maps? Second, how do humans mentally represent spatial and non-spatial contexts, and do these representations share similar neurocognitive foundations? As an incoming graduate student in the lab, I aim to explore these questions using a combination of behavioral testing, functional neuroimaging, and computational modeling. Before joining the lab, I majored in psychology as an undergraduate student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Beyond science, I am an amateur pianist, photographer, and Starbucks “been there” series collector.

Research Specialists

Catherine Nadar

Catherine Nadar, B.A.
Research Specialist & Lab Manager, Psychology
Goddard Laboratories
cnadar@sas.upenn.edu | Homepage
I am a recent graduate from the University of Delaware with a Honors B.A. degree in Psychology. During my undergraduate research career I worked in a cognitive neuropsychology lab led by Jared Medina, where I was involved in research regarding mirror-touch synesthesia, brain plasticity after stroke, and multisensory integration. My senior thesis project aimed to identify the neural correlates of visuotactile integration using a multimodal approach, including behavioral testing, fMRI, and MVPA. Moving forward, I am interested in qualifying and quantifying cognitive processes with a multimodal approach to neuroscience. As a research specialist in the Epstein Lab, I am excited to learn from the people above!

Lab Alumni

Postdoctoral Fellows

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