ChatLab

Lab group photo in front of PCfN logo
ChatLab group photo (December 2021)

 

About ChatLab

We explore beauty, language, cognition, and the brain using converging evidence from behavioral, neuroimaging, and lesion studies. We investigate a wide range of cognitive processes, including those underlying aesthetic experiences, the use of figurative and spatial language, and event representation. We're also interested in ethical questions raised by neuroscientific progress.

Our lab is affiliated with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics (PCfN).

Lab Members


Director

Anjan Chatterjee

Anjan Chatterjee

Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture
 anjan@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Anjan Chatterjee is a Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture and the founding Director of the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics. He wrote The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art and co-edited Neuroethics in Practice: Mind, Medicine, and Society and The Roots of Cognitive Neuroscience: Behavioral Neurology and Neuropsychology. He has received the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contribution to Psychology and the Arts. He is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society, the past President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics, and the past President of the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society. He currently serves on the Boards of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and has served on the boards of Haverford College, the Norris Square Neighborhood Project and the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

CV for Anjan Chatterjee


Staff

Bella Bobrow

Bella Bobrow

Lab Manager
 isabella.bobrow@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 Bella Bobrow Website

Bella received her B.S. in Neuroscience from UC Santa Cruz, where she also studied art and architectural theory. At the PCfN, Bella supports daily operations, event planning, communications, and the administration of research studies. Outside of the lab, she does film photography, experiments with fashion design, and fosters shelter cats.

Jeffrey Vadala

Jeffrey Vadala

Researcher
 jeffrey.vadala@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

I am interested in human perception of landscapes and architectural spaces and how they shape both cognitive and cultural processes in contemporary and archaeological contexts. To explore this, my research utilizes virtual reality and augmented reality tools to explore the complexities of human perception at ancient Maya sites in the Yucatan and Belize. As the director of the Penn Neurology VR Laboratory, I currently work as a collaborator and software developer with the goal of bringing virtual and augmented reality approaches and experimental methods to neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and medical researchers. I owe my interdisciplinary approach and perspectives to my Ph.D. in anthropological archaeology which I received from the University of Florida in 2016 studying how the built and unbuilt landscapes at the Belizean site of Cerro Maya shaped human perception while structuring human and non-human relationships over time. I enjoy all things virtual, philosophy, playing music, making videos, and surreal humor.


Postdoctoral Researchers

Vicente Estrada Gonzalez

Vicente Estrada Gonzalez

Postdoctoral Researcher
 vicente.estradagonzalez@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

When looking at artworks, viewers’ eyes collect pieces of information that are articulated into narratives. Such narratives are responsible, to a great degree, for the art viewer’s aesthetic experience. During my PhD (at the University of New South Wales in Australia), I used eye-tracking technology to study the spatial and temporal dynamics of visual information collected while viewing paintings. I’m also interested in how such dynamics vary as a function of the context and format in which paintings are encountered. At present, this is highly relevant to the art world because most human interactions with artworks are in a digital format. For this reason, my research has also focused on the difference between looking at paintings in the museum, in VR galleries and as digital reproductions. At the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, I am interested in how cognitive abilities and emotional states are influenced by nature-inspired designs in virtual reality. I completed a B.Sc. in Psychology at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, where I conducted basic research on the role of the endocannabinoid system in drug addiction. Outside the academy, I created a curatorial project named Mexico Sensible in 2013.

Vasiliki Meletaki

Vasiliki Meletaki

Postdoctoral Researcher
 vasiliki.meletaki@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Vasiliki is interested in how art and design can be used to promote wellness and facilitate emotion regulation in general and clinical population. Her research interests include among others the influence of expertise and psychophysiological characteristics in aesthetic and emotional experiences. Before joining the lab, she was in the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences of CNRS in Marseille, working on interoceptive and psychological characteristics and bodily self on people with vestibular disorders. She received her PhD in Psychology from City, University of London investigating facial emotion perception and brain – body interactions on sensorimotor experts and specifically professional ballet dancers. Before that, she received her MSc. in Psychology from Coventry University where she fell in love with neuroscience investigating the neuroscience of creativity. Outside of the lab, you will find her dancing contemporary, traveling, baking, gardening, playing with her dog, or buying more books and plants.

Mariola Paruzel-Czachura

Mariola Paruzel-Czachura

Postdoctoral Researcher
 mariolaanna.paruzelczachura@pennmedicine.upenn.edu
 Mariola Paruzel-Czachura Website

I am a moral psychologist educated in psychology and philosophy (Ph.D.) who is extremely interested in aesthetics and morality. Specifically, how our perception of others’ beauty shapes our perception of their morality and vice versa – how morality shapes beauty. This includes not only understanding the beauty but also the ugliness. That is why I study facial attractiveness, including the perception of people with anomalous faces and scars. Before joining ChatLab, I studied prisoners’ moral judgments at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain (Bekker Scholarship, NAWA). I am also related to the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland), my alma mater. Privately, I love surrealist art, fashion, and traveling. I am a happy wife and mum of two wonderful sons.

Cliff Workman

Cliff Workman

Postdoctoral Researcher
 cliffworkmanphd@gmail.com
 Cliff Workman Website

When we judge people for their moral or prosocial behaviors, do our perceptions of their beauty influence our evaluations? I am interested in understanding how morality and beauty interact to modulate decision-making. Prior to joining the ChatLab, I was a postdoctoral scholar in the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of Chicago under the supervision of Jean Decety. Our work investigates the psycholigical and neural mechansisms underpinning political polarization and support for ideologically-motivated violence. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Manchester in England in 2016 where I investigated relations between moral cognition and emotions and the physiopathology of major depression. Before starting my PhD, I worked at Johns Hopkins University on neuroimaging studies of psychiatric disorders, and also completed a B.S. in Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where I worked on studies of clinical, cognitive, and social functioning.


Student Researchers

Amy Krimm

Amy Krimm

Undergraduate Student
 amykrimm@sas.upenn.edu

I am an undergraduate at Penn pursuing a B.A. in Visual Studies with minors in Neuroscience and American Sign Language/Deaf Studies. I am interested in how cultural context, language (especially visual languages like ASL), and personal experience shape how we interact with and perceive visual art. Outside ChatLab, I work as a writing tutor, help coordinate Civic House’s Community Engagement Program, and contribute to various arts publications. In my free time I enjoy rock climbing, drawing, and sewing my own clothes.

Zuha Nasim

Zuha Nasim

Undergraduate Researcher
 zuha@sas.upenn.edu

I am an undergraduate at Penn pursuing a B.A. in Fine Arts and Psychology with a minor in Chemistry. I am interested in how art and aesthetic experiences are viewed differently based on personal background, interests, and professional familiarity with artistic fields. Outside ChatLab, I work as a chemistry tutor, introductory biology TA, advise high school students on their college applications through Matriculate, and help produce Penn Equilibria's art/writing exchange annual magazine. In my free time I enjoy exploring art and science museums, doing henna, and trying new places to eat.

Mayank Patel

Mayank Patel

Medical Student
 mjp438@drexel.edu

I am a first year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine. I received my Bachelor’s in biomedical engineering but have always had an interest in neuroscience leading me to work at Avid Radiopharmaceuticals during my undergrad where I spent time learning about the brain and Alzheimer’s detection through the use of PET scans. My interest in ChatLab arose from wanting the answers to how we judge people and my current research is looking into how people perceive facial expressions, using functional near-infrared spectrometry. Outside of school and research, I love biking, gardening, cooking, and listening to podcasts.

Will Sturgeon

Will Sturgeon

Undergraduate Student
 sturge@sas.upenn.edu

As an undergrad at Penn, I’m studying architecture and computer science to bridge art and technology toward creating cutting-edge architecture that serves humanity. I’m fascinated by ways that machine learning can potentially capture aesthetic styles and preferences, or even generate new art, and what that means for humanity. Outside ChatLab, I develop computer vision for soccer-playing robots (UPennalizers), design the webpage for a magazine on art and tech (t-art), and various other odd jobs around campus. Just for fun, I love swing dancing, sketching, watching great movies, and reading anything and everything I can find!

Connor Wagner

Connor Wagner

Medical Student
 connor.wagner@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Connor Wagner is a Clinical Research Fellow in the Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In collaboration with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, In a collaboration with the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics, Connor is interested in using eye tracking technology to understand how individuals divide attention across facial features and regions and how that attention is modulated by craniofacial surgery, with the goal of optimizing aesthetic outcomes and improving patient satisfaction. Connor is an MD candidate at the Perelman School of Medicine at The University of Pennsylvania. Prior to medical school, he attained his BS in Neuroscience from Ohio State University.


Alumni

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Iftah Biran
  • Madhushree Chakrabarty
  • Alex Christensen
  • Evan Chen
  • Erin Conrad
  • Kohinoor Darda
  • Tilbe Göksun
  • Franziska Hartung
  • Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring
  • Stacey Humphries
  • Anja Jamrozik
  • Yoed Kenett
  • Nathaniel Klooster
  • Alexander Kranjec
  • Marguerite McQuire
  • Lorna Quandt
  • Raffaella Ricci
  • Gwenda Schmidt
  • Janice Snyder
  • Sara Waller
  • Christine Watson
  • Adam Weinberger
  • Steve Weisberg
  • Adam Woods
  • Denise Wu

Visiting Researchers

  • Eliza Alawi
  • Bree Chancellor
  • Alex Coburn
  • Roberta Daini
  • Vicente Estrada-Gonzalez
  • Annika Hillebrandt
  • Ting Fung Ho
  • Mar Llorens Gamez
  • Juliane Mühlhaus
  • Alessandro Piedimonte
  • Diana Rosa-Leyra
  • Miriam Rosen
  • Sailee Shikhare
  • Guo Yuyue
  • Lauren McCollum
  • Sashank Prasad

Medical Students

  • Nadir Bilici
  • Dillan Villavisanis
  • Zack Zapatero

Graduate Students

  • Prin Amorapanth
  • Lindsey Bupp
  • Claire Dinh
  • Ellie Garside
  • Dexian He
  • Joe Kable
  • Sandeep Vaishnavi
  • Elaine Wencil

Postbaccalaureate Students

  • Daniel Badgio

Undergraduate & High School Students

  • Melissa Beswick
  • Mary Dumler
  • Noha El Toukhy
  • Georgia Gerike
  • Carla Goncalves
  • Adam Greenberg
  • Gürer Gündöndü
  • Geena Ianni
  • Farhan Jivraj
  • Adrianna Kashuba
  • Jonathan Kopelovich
  • Kate Lauber
  • Devi Majeske
  • Katsiaryna Malykhina
  • Sonali Mehta
  • Antonio Nicosia
  • Elizabeth Olson
  • Michelle Oraa Ali
  • Kelly Porter
  • Fiona Shaw
  • Charlie Siegel
  • Billy Smith
  • Ben van Buren
  • Yuchao Wang
  • Alex Yu

Lab Managers

  • Angela Armstrong
  • Bianca Bromberger
  • Jesse Calhoun
  • Matt Lehet
  • Joe Ptacek
  • Emily Rogers
  • Feyza Sancar
  • Kenneth Thompson
  • Emily Urban
  • Page Widick
  • Ashley Wilson
  • Jonathan Yu

Patient Coordinators

  • Eileen Cardillo
  • Marianna Stark