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Research Fellowship (Psychology)

Aleksandra Orlova, a Masters student of Psychology spent her summer working and researching as a research fellow at a lab at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Myself and my co-supervisor and mentor, MacKenzie Trupp

During this summer, I had the fantastic opportunity to spend a month working as a research fellow at one of the leading labs in the field of Neuroaesthetics, specifically the Empirical Visual Aesthetics and ART*IS Lab at the University of Vienna’s Psychology Department.
My primary objective during this visit was to plan and collect data for my master’s thesis research project, all the while learning from and collaborating with researchers at the Lab. However, during this period, I also had the chance to participate in various other experiences and events taking place at the University of Vienna.


In addition to collecting data for my research, I had the privilege of assisting in a large-scale study conducted at the renowned Albertina museum. The study aimed to explore the psychological benefits of art viewing and the lasting impact it has after a museum visit. We designed an automated messaging system for survey completion and guided participants through the study at the Albertina Museum. As someone with a background in Art History, conducting scientific research amidst some of the greatest works of art was an incredibly exciting experience.

A group photo with the director (Matthew Pelowski) and some of the members of ART*IS lab

One of the most unique experiences I was fortunate to be a part of was an fMRI study. Participating in an fMRI study is already an exciting opportunity, given their rarity, cost, and significance. However, this study was even more special because it involved pet dogs. The University of Vienna houses a Comparative Canine Neuroimaging Unit (CCNU), which focuses on studying dog-human interaction and dog information processing to understand our pet companions and answer questions about convergent evolution. During this time, I gained insights into dog-specific studies, including training and the design of specialised equipment. I also obtained practical knowledge of how fMRI technology functions, which solidified the theories I had learned during my neuroscience classes at Goldsmiths. The image on the right shows the fMRI study special setup for dogs.


Me presenting a poster at the Early Career in Research event hosted by the Psychology Department

Most importantly, my trip to Vienna allowed me to connect with incredible individuals, both from the University of Vienna and other institutions worldwide, who are deeply passionate about their work. I also had the opportunity to present my own study on viewing art in Virtual Reality at the Early Career in Research poster sessions hosted by the Psychology Department.

In summary, my time in Vienna significantly broadened my understanding of academia and introduced me to many influential figures in the field of Neuroaesthetics. I would strongly recommend that anyone seize the opportunity to study abroad, as it not only enriches your knowledge but also helps you establish valuable connections. Even if your program doesn’t include such an experience in its curriculum, as was the case for me, I encourage you to identify institutions or companies you’d like to collaborate with, reach out to them, and make such an experience possible!