Who’s Who

Core Members


Sergei Gepshtein, PhD - Founding director of the USC Center for Spatial Perception & Concrete Experience

Trained in neurobiology, perceptual psychology and vision science, Sergei investigates visual perception and visually guided action from the mechanistic point of view of neuroscience and from a point of view that respects visual experience as a research focus in its own right. (The latter area of studies was born in the Gestalt movement, from which it evolved into a modern and rapidly developing research of perceptual organization.) Sergei is a scientist at the Center for Neurobiology of Vision at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, where he studies boundaries of visual perception in the natural world and in visual media using methods of sensory psychophysics and computational neuroscience. He also directs the Collaboratory for Adaptive Sensory Technologies, which he founded at the Salk Institute in 2015.

Sergei served as a Guest Editor of the Journal of Vision; he is a member of the Editorial Board of Cognitive Processing, an International Quarterly of Cognitive Science, and an editor of Oxford Handbooks for Oxford University Press. Recipient of awards from the Swartz Foundation for Computational Neuroscience Research and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, and recipient of grants from NIH, NSF, and the Kavli Foundation, Sergei is increasingly involved in studies of built environments and design of immersive media, as a founding member of the 5D|World Building Institute and as an inaugural recipient of the Harold Hay Award (2013) from the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, whose Board of Directors he joined in 2016.


Alex McDowell, RDI - Director of the USC World Building Institute

Professor of Practice at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. As Director of the USC World Building Media Lab (WbML) at the School, Alex and his interdisciplinary students collaborate to build immersive worlds for storytelling across multiple platforms. The WbML was awarded the prestigious Future Voice Award at the 2014 Interaction Awards in Amsterdam. He also leads the USC World Building Institute, a renowned multi-disciplinary knowledge space. He is recipient from George Lucas of the William Cameron Menzies endowed chair in Production Design.

An award-winning designer and storyteller working at the intersection of emergent technologies and experiential media, Alex has 30 years experience as a production designer of feature films, working with directors David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Terry Gilliam, and Anthony Minghella among others. As Visiting Artist to the MIT Media Lab (2005-2010) he designed the robot opera “Death and the Powers.” He is a Getty Research Institute scholar, and a member of the AMPAS SciTech Council. In 2006, he was awarded Royal Designer for Industry by the UK’s Royal Society of Arts, and in 2013 UK Designers & Art Directors President’s Award.


Scott Fisher - Director of the USC Mobile & Environmental Media Lab

Scott Fisher is a Professor in the Media Arts + Practice Division and is the founding Chair of the Interactive Media Division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He is an interaction designer whose work focuses primarily on mobile media, interactive environments and technologies of presence.

His media industry experience includes Atari, Paramount, and his own companies Telepresence Research and Telepresence Media, and he is well known for his pioneering work in the field of Virtual Reality at NASA. A graduate of MIT’s Architecture Machine Group (now Media Lab), he has taught at MIT, UCLA, UCSD, and Keio University in Japan. His work has been recognized internationally through numerous invited presentations, professional publications and in the popular media. In addition, he has been an Artist in Residence at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies and his stereoscopic imagery and artwork has been exhibited in the US, Japan and Europe.