M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara
B.A. University of California, San Diego
Areas of Expertise:
Spatial cognition and human navigation
Courses I Teach:
- Cognitive Psychology
- Spatial Perception and Cognition
My Saint Michael’s:
At Saint Michael’s, the class sizes allow me to tailor the class to the particular group and spend a substantial amount of time discussing projects with each student on a daily basis. I teach a course called Spatial Perception and Cognition. This class is primarily based on discussing previous research and designing and conducting new experiments to build on previous work. We get to tackle problems that have never been addressed before and make new discoveries. This is immensely rewarding for my students and me. Students are able to use my state of the art immersive virtual reality (VR) lab. The immersive VR system allows users to experience 3D environmental simulations through a Head Mounted Display, and the system also incorporates head orientation and body tracking. Movement is natural and the sense of being inside another world compelling. Such systems are typically found only in larger research institutions.
I am particularly interested in the areas of human navigation and people’s sense of direction. To conduct my research, I use virtual reality simulations to examine how people learn and remember new places. I was the advising professor for a NASA-funded student research project at Saint Michael’s titled “The Effect of Testosterone Levels on the Navigation of Real and Virtual Worlds.” I use my previous research as the basis of the course Spatial Perception and Cognition. In class, my students and I discuss the results and design and conduct new experiments to build on the work. They tackle problems that have never been addressed before and make new discoveries.
I enjoy reading science fiction and listening to music, particularly jazz from the 50’s, punk rock from the 80’s, bluegrass and the Grateful Dead.
“Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king.” – Bob Dylan
Melissa VanderKaay Tomasulo of the Saint Michael’s psychology/neuroscience faculty shares news of a recent publication that she co-authored with her psychology faculty colleague Anthony Richardson. Here is the citation for the work, to which the authors contributed equally according to a note that followed the citation: “Richardson, A. E., & † VanderKaay Tomasulo, M. M. (2022): Stress-induced HPA activation in virtual navigation and spatial attention performance. BMC Neuroscience, 23(1), doi:10.1186/s12868-022-00722-y” The two faculty scholars have been involved in research on topics of interest to, among others, NASA experts.
(posted July 2022)