Melissa is a professor for Cognitive Psychology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and head of the Scene Grammar Lab (SGL). After receiving her Diploma in Psychology from the Free University in Berlin working with Prof. Arthur Jacobs, she went back to Munich, where she received her Ph.D. at the Ludwig-Maximilians University for her studies on the "Allocation of Attention in Scene Perception" (Prof. Werner Schneider). An increased interest in scene perception (and whisky) then brought her to the University of Edinburgh to work with Prof. John Henderson. The past 5 years, she worked on issues of scene guidance during search with Prof. Jeremy Wolfe at Harvard Medical School. Besides her great interest in "Was unsere Welt im Innersten zusammenhält", Melissa likes to get her students excited about Visual Cognition in class. Above all she enjoys perceiving alpine scenes with her husband Daniel.
Dr. Sandro Wiesmann, Post-doc
Sandro completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology at Goethe University before earning his PhD on “The role of object and global scene information during human scene categorization” at the Scene Grammar Lab under the supervision of Melissa Võ. As a Postdoc in the lab, his main research interests surround human scene understanding, ranging from fast gist processing to real-world object statistics and their relations. His work makes use of psychophysical methods and extensive statistical modelling, and he is currently branching out into EEG and eye tracking. Besides research, Sandro is passionate about teaching and sharing his enthusiasm for cognitive psychology with students. As a lay magician, he has a particular interest in the psychology of (visual) illusions, deception, and conjuring. His teaching frequently involves demonstrations and discussions of how these phenomena relate to mechanisms of attention, perception, memory, belief formation, etc.
Naomi Vingron, Post-doc
Naomi completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology at Stony Brook University in New York before moving to Montreal to pursue a PhD in Experimental Psychology at McGill University, focusing on psycholinguistics. Most recently, Naomi completed a postdoc at the Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital in Montreal, investigating multitasking costs of language and visual processing during walking in a VR environment. Naomi has had a long-standing interest in the fields of vision science and bilingualism, particularly eye movements and their application in both. Joining the SGL as a postdoctoral researcher, she brings with her experience in eye tracking in reading, image viewing and visual search. At the SGL, Naomi hopes to dive more deeply into vision science, working primarily on the role of the bilingual experience in scene grammar and visual search strategies.
Yury Markov's academic journey began at HSE University, where he acquired both his Bachelor's and Master's degrees with honors in Psychology. He completed his PhD at HSE University with a dissertation on "The Structure of Visual Working Memory Units" under the supervision of Prof. Igor Utochkin. His work at HSE University was dedicated to the investigation of how people store information in visual working memory. Along with completing his PhD, he expanded his research horizons as a Visiting PhD Researcher at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne under the supervision of Prof. Michael Herzog, investigating crowding, ensemble summary statistics, and serial dependence. Yury was always inspired by studies with realistic stimuli and environments; thus, he joined Prof. Melissa Vo's Scene Grammar Lab as a postdoc in 2023. At the SGL, he investigates how observers learn scene grammar rules using artificial scenes. Find out more about Yury here.
Dr. Victoria Nicholls, Post-doc
Vicky completed her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from the University of St Andrews, UK, after which she moved to the University of Glasgow, UK for a MSc in Brain Imaging. This was followed by a move to Bournemouth University for her PhD in Cognitive Psychology focusing on visual sampling strategies used in road crossing situations. Most recently she completed a postdoc at the University of Cambridge investigating context effects on object recognition in real world environments using mobile EEG and augmented reality.
Vicky has a long-standing interest in the neural processing and representations of the real world. She joined the SGL as a postdoctoral researcher bringing experience in eye tracking, EEG (mobile and static), virtual and augmented reality. At the SGL, Vicky aims to investigate how scene hierarchies are represented neurally.
The field of vision sparked an interest in Julia early on and she gained first insights when she investigated inter-item distortions in visual working memory
Bledowski’s working group. Julia’s passion for cognitive neuroscience was ignited and thus, she started the Research Master at the University
of Amsterdam with focus on Brain & Cognition and Methods. There she did an internship in Heleen Slagter’s lab, replicating an EEG study on emotion-induced blindness. In her
master thesis, Julia performed an fMRI simulation study improving fMRI analysis of response inhibition with Hilde Huizenga and Lourens Waldorp. Now in her PhD, Julia finally found her way back to visual perception. She is investigating if well-known
eye-movement findings from the typical laboratory setup will also hold true in a more realistic, virtual reality environment. Find out more about Julia here.
Aylin is currently a PhD student at the SGL. She got her bachelor's and master's
degree at Goethe-University and was a research assistant in the lab for a few years. Besides her research she especially enjoys teaching the EXPRA, methods in experimental psychology, and supervising thesis projects and
internships. In 2019, Aylin worked as a summer research
assistant at Talia Konkle's
Lab, at Harvard, where she got first hands on experience in the area of deep-learning. In her PhD, Aylin wants to
investigate how scene-grammar might capture relevant factors of variation in natural images and how higher-level semantic networks support a variety of visual-cognitive tasks using EEG,
eye-tracking, psychophysics and computational modelling.
Dilara Türk, PhD student
Dilara holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a master's degree in Cognitive Sciences. During her master's studies, she developed a keen interest in the field of vision, particularly focusing on facial expressions and auditory cues. Dilara's curiosity centers on understanding how we learn and process the visual stimuli we encounter in our daily lives. In July 2022, she joined the Scene Grammar Lab to further her research. Her work there revolves around investigating how people learn to associate everyday scenes and objects from a developmental perspective, while also exploring the influence of language on this process.
Lea Müller Karoza, PhD student
Lea is a PhD student at the lab. Her journey in cognitive psychology began during her first Bachelor's semester when the lecture made her curious. Eager to explore further, she had the opportunity to peek into the EXPRA, where fascinating studies on scene grammar and action-priming were underway. After the EXPRA strengthened her interest, Lea joined the lab as a research assistant. She went on to complete both her Bachelor's and Master's theses here, delving into the relationship between scenes, objects and functions. Currently, Lea is interested in how we perceive actions and the affordances of different scenes. Her research revolves around understanding the dynamic interaction between our surroundings and our mental representations, which ultimately allows us to navigate our world smoothly and effectively.
Theresa Henke, Research Assistant
Theresa is currently studying psychology as a Bachelor student. She joined the lab as a research assistant in her third semester because she liked the lecture and seminar in cognitive psychology best. Now, she enjoys working with an eye tracker.
Ronja Schnellen, Research Assistant
After attending the Bergkranz seminar, Ronja joined the lab to work on her Bachelor thesis with Naomi, in which she focused on individual differences among bilinguals in visual search using eye-tracking. Simultaneously, she also started working in the lab as a research assistant, wanting to learn more about different experimental and programming methods in cognitive psychology.
Leila Zacharias, Research Assistant
Leila is currently pursuing her M.Sc. in Psychology. Her interest in cognitive psychology was sparked during the lecture, prompting her to join the lab as a research
assistant during her second B.Sc. semester.
During her undergraduate studies, she gained valuable insights into visual perception studies through her participation in the EXPRA, where she examined the role of viewpoint dependence on context effects. She then went on to write her Bachelor thesis in the lab where she investigated the role of visual working memory in hybrid search tasks.
At present, Leila is involved in her master's research module, working with Aylin on an EEG study. This project not only helps her gain a better understanding of EEG data analysis but also introduces her to the interesting field of Representational Similarity Analysis (RSA), offering new perspectives in the process.
Zoë Bolz, Research Assistant
Zoë is currently studying psychology as a Bachelor student at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. The lecture and seminar about cognitive psychology sparked her interest in cognitive psychology. She was delighted to join the Scene Grammar Lab as a research assistant during her third semester and to learn more about the various aspects of visual cognition.
Jonathan Mader, Research Assistant
Jonathan is currently studying Psychology as a Bachelor student. As a performance athlete, he worked a lot with psychologists to reach peak performance which sparked his interest in psychology. His psychology studies at Goethe University made him interested in cognitive and neuroscience in particular. Following his interest, he joined the lab where he helps as a research assistant gaining practical experience. After his Bachelor, he wants to do his Master’s in Psychology majoring in cognitive and neuroscience.
Bettina Schultz, Dipl. Psych., Lab Manager
Bettina keeps the lab running at high speed both functionally and socially! Besides the daily administrative work support she likes to feed the team: mentally with useful information and also physically with homemade bakery!
Bianca Seibert, Lab Manager
With her head, heart and hand, the psychologic-technical assistant supports the scientists in their studies and workflows at the Scene Grammar Lab.
Henning Beck, PhD
Henning completed his doctoral degree at the Graduate School of Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience in Tübingen and pursued his interest to show the beauty of the brain ever since. In doing so, he won the German Science Slam Nationals in 2012 and published several books about the brain’s flaws and mistakes (“Scatterbrain”) or about human learning and understanding. Currently, he focuses on learning processes in a VR set-up and how a spatial environment contributes to learning progress.
Draschkow, previously PhD and interim Professor in the lab
After his time with Michael Zehetleitner at the LMU Munich and his work in the area of telerobotics (with Bernhard Weber, DLR), Dejan slowly drifted off into the realm of scene processing. Together with Melissa and Jeremy Wolfe (BWH & Harvard Medical School) he investigated the interaction of visual search and scene semantics. He finished his Master's program in Neuro-cognitive Psychology (LMU Munich), with a thesis at Ben Tatler's Active Vision Lab, investigating how task relevance modulates semantic interference in a real world setting. Dejan´s work focuses on the way memory representations are formed, modulated and used in a predictive/preparatory fashion when guiding perception and attention in naturalistic behavior. He is also fascinated by the interactive nature of scene and object processing and its neural mechanisms. After doing his PostDoc with Kia Nobre in the Brain & Cognition Lab @ Oxford, he is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology.
Sage Boettcher, PhD Student
Sage is a student in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Masters program at Goethe Universität. Previously she completed her Bachelors at University of Delaware where she worked with Dr. James Hoffman and Dr. Steven Most in unraveling the neural correlates of Emotion Induced Blindness using EEG. Subsequently, she spent two years working full time in Dr. Jeremy Wolfe’s Visual Attention Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School as a research assistant. During her time there she researched hybrid search, which is the combination of visual search and memory search. In the SGL she continued her work in understanding the properties of visual attention. Currently, she is a graduate student in the Brain & Cognition Lab, supervised by Kia Nobre.
Gioia, Cy and Beau are our youngest lab members and Melissa's dearest research assistants! They love to visit us in the Scene Grammar Lab. Having initially joined the lab, they are already pursuing science by attending symposia and conferences, joining us in virtual team meetings as well as making their first appearances at VSS. We are looking forward hearing a lot more from them in the future!
Dr. Erwan David, Post-doc
Erwan completed his Master's degrees in social and cognitive psychology and in cognitive sciences before receiving a PhD in computer science in 2019 from the University of Nantes (France).
His main interests are related to eye movements: how to measure, visualize, analyze and compare them in different domains (2D, VR, 3D). Eye movements are very informative about ongoing cognitive processes and are a second-order measurement of the deployment of attention in visual scenes.
Erwan is currently a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Melissa Vo's Scene Grammar Lab, bringing with him knowledge about eye tracking, virtual reality, machine learning, programming and computational modelling.
His flagship project is the improvement of computational models of eye movements by adding scene grammar knowledge and visual task specificities into the equation as a source of top-down influences.
Dr. Maxim Spur, Post-doc
Maxim got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering at the University of Technology in Berlin before taking off to France to do his PhD at the École Centrale de Nantes.
Already being very interdisciplinary in his courses and projects, which ranged from analog electronics and digital signal processing to computer graphics, human-machine interaction and quality/usability studies, he continued to broaden his horizon by joining the Architecture, Ambiances and Urbanities lab in Nantes to write his thesis on the uses of virtual reality for visualizing multi-layered urban data at multiple scales.
Not stopping there, in 2021 Maxim joined the SGL as a post-doctoral researcher, where he now works on a project in collaboration with the Hochschule für Gestaltung on how design parameters of public spaces can affect the emotional states of their users — more specifically on how the perception of time during waiting situations in metro stations can be influenced. Here he gets to use his full toolbox and hopes to continue expanding it further.
Jacopo Turini, PhD student
2018 - 2023
Jacopo is currently a PhD student at SGL. After a bachelor's degree in psychology at University of Milano-Bicocca, he joined the master program of the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences of the University of Trento, where he worked on lexical-semantic processing in MEG with Olivier Collignon and Roberto Bottini. His interest for visual perception started with an internship with Radoslaw Cichy and Daniel Kaiser at FU Berlin, where he contributed to an EEG study investigating perception of visual scene fragments. He's interested in the interplay between visual perception and memory, object recognition and semantics.
Dr. Stephen Hinde, Post-doc
2019 - 2020
Stephen is a post-doctoral researcher in Cognitive Psychology at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and working on a project on Cognitive Design using AR/VR between the Scene Grammar Lab at Goethe University and Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) Offenbach. Stephen also holds visiting researcher status at the School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, United Kingdom. Stephen holds several degrees: including a degree in physics, psychology, a masters in Sanskrit and Asian studies, and a PhD in psychology. Stephen followed an early career as an industrial computer science researcher, working with Hewlett-Packard Research Labs and IBM and working with film companies such as Dreamworks rendering systems. He holds over 20 patents in computer research. He then pursued a second career as a psychology researcher looking at the Cognitive Effects of Media and how they can be studied in psychology. After receiving his PhD in Psychology from the University of Bristol, in the Cognitive Study of Moving Images, working with Professor Iain Gilchrist and Dr. Tim Smith, he then worked for a time in the Interacting Minds Centre, collaborating with the Lego Foundation, at Aarhus University Denmark. Following this, he worked at the Bristol Vision Institute, University of Bristol with BBC Research and Development. In addition, Stephen enjoys skiing, hiking, martial arts, traveling and looking after two delightful godsons.
Laura Maffongelli, PhD
2018 - 2019
Laura was a postdoc in the SGL. Her research interests focus on the relation between language and action with respect to the syntactic mechanisms involved. She investigated the neurophysiological basis of the processing of complex action sequences during action observation, first in the adult brain with Luciano Fadiga and Alessandro D’Ausilio, and later on in the infant brain with Moritz M. Daum. Specific interest lies on how similar phenomena might, or might not, relate to the processing of complex sentences in language. EEG, eye tracking and TMS measurements are the basic methodologies of her research. Together with Melissa and the SGL lab she will further explore the „scene grammar“ as far as syntax is concerned. Laura enjoys hiking, cooking, and – as one of the characteristics of the dolce vita style – drinking good wine.
Tim Cornelissen, PhD
2014 - 2018
Tim received his masters degree from Utrecht University (The Netherlands). In Utrecht and during a short stay in Lund (Sweden) Tim has worked with Ignace Hooge and Kenneth Holmqvist (Lund Humanities Laboratory), studying the influence of social factors on visual search and eye movements. His interests in visual attention and eye tracking eventually lead him to scene- and object perception. His research in the lab focused mainly on the time course of scene- and object recognition, with a special interest in the processing of information from outside central vision. Tim gained insights into these things by bringing together eye tracking and EEG. He now solves similarly difficult problems for Apple.
Verena Willenbockel, PhD
2015 - 2018
Verena was a postdoc in the SGL. Her interest in scene perception was sparked when studying Cognitive Science at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. There she completed her undergraduate thesis investigating the influence of color contrast on human overt attention under the supervision of Prof. Peter König. For her Masters in Psychology, she joined Prof. Jim Tanaka’s lab at the University of Victoria, Canada. She worked as a research assistant in the EEG lab exploring face and object perception, and for her thesis, focused on spatial frequency tuning in human face identification. Her interest in combining psychophysical methods and (intracranial) EEG to study various aspects of visual perception then led her to the labs of Prof. Frédéric Gosselin and Prof. Franco Lepore at the Université de Montréal for her PhD, and eventually back to Germany to the Goethe University in Frankfurt. In the SGL, she investigated the influence of scene context on object recognition, and individual differences in scene perception. Outside the lab, Verena enjoys yoga, hiking, and exploring scenes where mountains and forests meet the ocean.
Sabine Öhlschläger, PhD
2014 - 2018
Fascinated by the brain’s capacity to adapt to the requirements of an ever-changing environment, Sabine has visited different labs that address this question in either children or grown-ups. Joining the research group of Claudia Friedrich, Sabine got familiar with EEG research in children’s language development. As research intern in the Brain and Learning Lab of Daphné Bavelier, she gained new insights into how action video game play might influence learning and plasticity in adults. This idea also inspired her Master’s Thesis Project with Brigitte Roeder at the University of Hamburg, in which she investigated the electrophyssiological effects of tactile working memory training on plasticity in blind individuals. During her PhD Sabine looked further into this learning perspective to investigate the development of Scene Grammar!
Tim Lauer, PhD
2014 - 2022
Tim completed his Bachelor's course at Darmstadt University of Technology, where he worked with Karl Kalveram in the field of sensory-motor control. He then did his Master's program at Goethe-University Frankfurt and got particularly interested in object and scene perception. Initially, Tim joined the SGL as a research intern but then also worked as a research assistant and tutor, and finally completed his Master's thesis in the SGL. And he just couldn't get enough: He joined the SGL as a PhD student afterwards and is now up to new adventures in the field of visual perception. Specifically, Tim further pursues his interest in the neurophysiological basis of interactive object-scene processing.
Margit Feyler, Dipl.-Soz.Päd., Lab Manager
20## - 2023
With her head, heart and hand, the psychologic-technical assistant supports the scientists in their studies and workflows at the Scene Grammar Lab.
Antonia Reinhart, Lab Manager
2017 - 2019
Before Antonia took over the job at the Scene Grammar Lab, she had completed a three-year job training as administrative assistant in public service at the Goethe university.
She knows the internal processes in academia and supported us with her administrative knowledge.
Caroline Seidel, Tutor
2015 - 2020
started as an intern at the SGL, deepened her knowledge due to several seminars in cognitive psychology and then started her own project with the SGL. The project on the influence of sounds on
visual search and memory performance ended up as a focus for her undergraduate thesis (2017) and graduate research module (2019). For the time between the end of her bachelor studies and the start of the master's program at the Goethe
University, Caroline joined the Visual Attention Lab (BWH & Harvard Medical School), where she worked with Iris Wiegand and Jeremy Wolfe on Hybrid Foraging Search in Aging (published 08/2019).
Caroline had been a tutor of the EXPRA twice and finally graduated from GU in July 2020. Having a master’s degree in her pocket, she joined the Bethge lab in Tübingen where she is now developing an Artificial Intelligence course for students taking part in the Bundeswettbewerb KI. We’ll definitely collaborate in the future!
Jason Helbing, Research Assistant
2018 - 2022
Jason is an MSc student in psychology majoring in cognition and neuroscience. He joined the lab during his BSc studies when he got interested in our virtual reality (VR) lab. His aim is to use the capabilities of VR in combination with eye and motion tracking to get a comprehensive picture of naturalistic behaviour in realistic scenes during everyday tasks, especially with respect to memory representation and attentional guidance involved in these processes.
Danislava Chuhovska, Research Assistant
2019 - 2023
Danislava is currently a Master student in clinical psychology, whose interest for cognitive psychology first sparked from the lecture during the first semester of her Bachelor. Afterwards, she did her EXPRA in the lab and looked into the role of anchors vs. global ensemble textures in object recognition. Later on she joined the lab as a research assistant and did her Bachelor thesis in the lab, investigating the search initiation effect.
Levi Kumle, Research Assistant
2018 - 2022
Levi is a MSc student in psychology majoring in cognition and neuroscience. Levi first joined the lab during their Bachelor’s thesis, working on simulation-based power analysis. Following this, they joined the lab as a research assistant. In collaboration with Dejan Draschkow at Oxford University, Levi is currently completing their Master’s thesis where they investigate working memory usage in natural behaviour.
Lisa Völker, Tutor
2016 - 2019
Lisa is currently a psychology Master student. She started as an intern in the Lab after her EXPRA experience in the second semester. With her internship-research on the effect of environmental cues on search behavior, she presented the findings at ECEM 2017 in Wuppertal. She was supervising students in the EXPRA in 2018 and wrote her Bachelor’s Thesis on „searching for meaning”, a study that investigates how task plays a role in language acquisition using virtual environments.
Lotte Kirschbaum, Research Assistant
2018 - 2020
Lotte studies psychology as a bachelor student. She first came into contact with the SGL during her EXPRA in the second semester when investigating learning behavior in Virtual Reality. There, she became interested in human cognition and its uniqueness.
She did an internship in the Lab and then became a research assistant.
Melvin Kallmayer, Research Assistant
2018 - 2020
Melvin is a computer science Bachelor student who joined the lab because of his interest in the computational approach to scene perception. He is also very interested in Neural Networks.
Saliha Reinecke, Research Assistant
2016 - 2018
Saliha finished her bachelor in Psychology and is currently exploring the world. She got interested in cognitive psychology during her first two semesters and soon joined the lab as an intern. After getting a glimpse of scientific research, she got stuck in the lab as a research assistant and decided to work towards a better understanding of visual long term memory.
Julia Kunz, Research Assistant
2016 - 2018
After first being an intern and later a research assistant in the SGL for almost two years, Julia recently finished her bachelor’s degree in Psychology working with Tim Lauer and Melissa Võ on the influence of coarse global scene properties in object processing. Julia recently started to enroll in the interdisciplinary BSc Engineering Science program at the Technical University of Munich. She wants to gain a fundamental knowledge of engineering, mathematics and the natural sciences to be able to combine experimental neuroscience with a profound training in engineering to possibly work in human-machine interface or neuro-engineering in the future.
Maximilian completed his bachelor's degree in Psychology at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt where he worked with Dejan Draschkow and Melissa Võ in unraveling the effect of visual search and
scene grammar violation on memory performance using virtual reality. During his time in Frankfurt he worked as a research assistant in Professor Võ's Scene Grammar Lab.
Currently, Maximilian is a student in the MSc Cognitive Neuroscience programme at UCL. In the Blakemore Lab he hopes to gain more knowledge about identity development during childhood and adolescence. Under the supervision of Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Dr. Lucy Foulkes his research project will focus on perspective taking in relationship with the sense of self in adolescent development.
Daniela Gresch, Research Assistant
2015 - 2017
Daniela finished her Bachelor's degree in Psychology at the Goethe University Frankfurt in summer '17 and was a member of SGL from almost the very beginning. She started off as an intern and then stuck with the lab as a research assistant. During her time at the SGL she helped creating the SCEGRAM Database and was involved in several EEG and Eye Tracking projects which deepened her interest into research. Before she started the Neuro-Cognitive Psychology masters program in Munich, Daniela did various internships in different job areas concerning cognitive neuroscience.
Marvin Schröder, Research Assistant
2016 - 2017
While Marvin was studying for his Bachelor degree in psychology he was also interested in cognitive science, so he decided to join the SGL as an intern to learn more about the subject. Especially the work on object-levels in a scene caught his attention and made him stay in the lab as a research assistant.
Margit Kanter, Research Assistant
Margit is currently completing her Bachelor’s in psychology. After developing an interest in cognitive psychology in the lecture and further exploring it in an internship at SGL, she joined the lab as a research assistant. Right now she is on the search for an area of interest to specialize in and working towards gaining more knowledge and skills.