Sydney, what a wonderful place to be! I carried my secondment for a year at Western Sydney University, and besides all the adversities (fires, floodings, covid…), I can genuinely say that it was a fantastic experience that helped me grow personally and professionally. 

The hospitality from Tamara and the psychology department was incredible, and the discussions deepened my interest in perception and how the brain understands the surrounding world. I also had the opportunity to initiate myself into virtual reality and how to deploy experiments using it. For that, the friendships I carried forward and the experiences lived there, I am truly grateful for this opportunity.

January 1st, 2022: PLATYPUS IS BACK!

Platypus ended the suspension and started operating again after more than a year of being unable to conduct any secondments because of the world-wide travel restrictions. We look forward to a flurry of activity in this year and parts of 2023. Thankfully, the duration of the project has been extended by the European Commission until April 2023. Kirschan Koerfer from WWU will be the first to go to WSU again as soon as the Australian border will open.

Secondments to Western Sydney University from 2018-2020 by Johannes Kirchner

I was lucky enough to spend two secondments in Sydney, one for 5 months from November 2018 to April 2019 and a second one for another 7 months from August 2019 to March 2020. Working with Tamara Watson from Western Sydney University (WSU) was a fantastic experience and completely changed the course of my Phd studies. Thanks to Tamara I got to know and exchange ideas with a lot of great researchers from WSU and the other Sydney universities. Her contacts to MRI specialists from St. Vincent’s Hospital enabled me to run an MRI experiment myself, an opportunity I wouldn’t have had at my home university. The research I conducted in Sydney layer the foundation for my doctoral thesis and led to several collaborative publications.

Sydney must be one of the nicest places to live in the world. There is such a large variety of cafes, restaurants and local breweries spread all over the town. You find a few dozens of beautiful beaches in the city area, and the nearby Blue Mountains are great for hiking and rock climbing! I’ve made some great friends at WSU and got to experience so many classic Australian traditions with them: having a barbecue on Australia Day, spending Christmas at the beach, cheering for the local tennis players at the Australian Open…

Visit to Monash University, July 2017 and University of Rochester February 2018 by Sabine Tepper

Never before have I visited such a great campus university as Monash. It is an own city in a beautiful park scenery. It was a pleasure to work with Adam Morris and his team. My task consisted of preparing guideline for the seconded researchers and for the home und host institution, gathering and evaluating information, like visa, housing, infrastructure, etc, and find out the right contact persons. Collecting first-hand experience with rules and regulations at different institutions was exciting and helped for a good communication structure between the partners at this level.  Thanks for the great support.

Rochester was my second stay at a big campus university but my instruction was the same. The tunnel system at the university was quite special. It is necessary because of the amounts of snow. My daily way to work was very comfortable because of the university bus line. I was a little early to visit Prof. Dr. Michele Rucci Lab because he just moved from Boston but everything worked out well. Thanks for the excellent encouragement.

My secondments to Monash University 2018-2020 by David Engel

As a PhD student at Frank Bremmer’s lab in Marburg I had the pleasure to enjoy a total of 8 months at Monash University in Melbourne: six months from September 2018 through April 2019 and two months in early 2020.

During that time, under supervision by Adam Morris, I developed an experimental setup that allowed me to investigate visuomotor processing of simulated self-motion in virtual reality. I was provided a lab space to develop and test the setup and to run my first experiments on it. I felt warmly welcomed at the department, everyone in the lab was highly supportive and provided me with their expertise. At Monash, I benefitted not only from weekly seminars within the department where we discussed state-of-the-art research and where I had the opportunity to present and discuss my own projects, but also from frequent visits of notable scientists who gave insight into their work and helped me to extend my (neuro-)scientific horizon. My stay at Monash laid the foundation for three collaborative publications that eventually comprised my doctoral thesis.

On the non-scientific side, I could happily confirm that Melbourne is one of the most livable cities in the world! I greatly enjoyed its music and art scenes and the huge diversity of international food. Apart from that, beautiful nature with abundant wildlife is just around the corner. People were super friendly, and it was a breeze to connect and make new friends!

Would come again 

Bologna’s experience of Pablo by Pablo Sanz Diez

Bologna… I really liked it! Many reasons come to my mind… It could be for the great amount of history in its streets, or for the reddish color of its monuments, or the youthful atmosphere, or for its incredible gastronomy… For all these reasons, the capital of Emilia-Romagna was for me a very pleasant surprise. Even better was my experience in the department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences of the University of Bologna. The people who conform this lab were the responsible ones, they made me feel at home.
After the first few days of adapting to the department’s facilities, I began to dig into the intricacies of my Platypus project, which aimed at investigating the effects of motor adaptations on size perception. Although new challenges, concepts and experimental techniques were appearing every day, the facilities of the department greatly facilitated my stay. I had the opportunity to work with a mobile eye tracking system (Pupil Labs) and a motion capture system (VICON). Both were the core of my project and allowed us to perform accurate measurements on more than twenty participants, to all of whom I am very grateful for their participation. In addition, the results obtained under this project were presented at the annual meetings VSS 2021 and SfN 2021. Awesome! See you soon, Bologna!

Visit to Monash University, April – September 2019 by Jakob Schwenk

I spent six months in 2019 in Melbourne working with Adam Morris (and others) on marmoset electrophysiology. I worked on two projects that looked at the interaction of the temporal and spatial dimensions in the processing of visual information in area V1. The resources at Monash allowed me to get data on this from animals under anesthesia as well as from awake, behaving animals. I spent much of my stay on developing novel analyses to extract stimulus-related information from these neural signals. For this, I benefited greatly from the scientific environment at Monash, in particular the weekly seminars, discussions and journal club. 

Apart from the science, what helped me a lot was that for my first couple of days I overlapped with David Engel, also from our group, who was just finishing his time in Melbourne. With him having been in the same situation a few months earlier, I was able to benefit first-hand from his experiences and got used to everything pretty quickly. But, then again, Melbourne is a very convenient city to live in. The only thing I (coming from Germany to Australia after all) underestimated was how uncomfortable winters in Melbourne can get…

– Jakob Schwenk

Visiting the APlab at Boston University (BU) – by Annegret Meermeier

First of all, visiting Boston in the fall is a great idea. The parks as e.g. the Charles River Esplanade or my personal favorites the Jamaican Pond and the Arnold Arboretum offer ravishing views in fall. The foliage alone attracts a lot of tourists and when you get there, you know why. Boston is a very nice city with quite a bit of historic charm, lots of students and academic employees, sports and other public events.

Settling into the APlab went smoothly thanks to the very welcoming people who work there. After getting into C++ Coding (which was new to me) I could soon get a hands-on of the Dual Purkinje Eye tracker, the centerpiece of the Boston Lab. The DPI eyetracker can also be coupled to a stimulus deflector, an optico-electronic device that allows real-time image stabilization by shifting the image in the same direction and amount as the eye movements, with a spatio-temporal accuracy of 6 ms and 10″. During my stay I could also help with the testing of a newly developed machine, the digital DPI eye tracker which allows sub-arcminute resolution.
I was able to collect some data of the blind spot borders in 5 subjects, and a lot of data in my own eye, which we submitted as contributions to the VSS 2018.

—  Annegret Meermeier

Matteo Filippini visits Zeiss

My journey to the Zeiss Vision Science Lab, Tubingen

Period: from 17 September to 04 November 2017.

I’m having the pleasure to work with the Zeiss’s research group here in Tubingen. Although I cannot hide that my first impact was a little confusing, because this actually is my first experience in a foreign country, people here are great to helping you to make you feel like at home.

My project concerns the development of a virtual reality framework useful to study visuo-motor interactions by means of gaze-contingency psychophysical experiments. Although VR applications are not my specialty, I have always wanted to throw myself into and I am really enjoying it. In fact, in Bologna, I am more dedicated to electrophysiology and neural decoding algorithms but, I am already starting to picture some VR application possibly relevant with monkeys! Anyway, for the moment, I just focus on my actual project to give to Annalisa and Katharina the chance to work with these new intriguing methods!

Kick-off Meeting

PLATYPUS held our Kick-Off meeting at the Vision Science Society Conference in Florida in May 2017.


Back Row (l to r): Frank Bremmer, Adam Morris, Katarina Rifai, Michele Rucci, Claudio Galletti, Svenja Gremmler

Front Row (l to r): Tamara Watson, Markus Lappe, Patrizia Fattori, Anne Meermeier, Annalisa Bosco