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Virtual Reality and Nature Lab

Meet our Researchers

Clemson students taking virtual reality video footage of the football field at Memorial Stadium.

A multidisciplinary research network.

Our lab research assistants, affiliates, interns and alumni represent a variety of different disciplines and academic institutitions. We all, however, share a common focus on studying people's experiences with nature, both physical and simulated. We are also united in our purpose to make the world a better place. 

Learn how you can become a lab affiliate or intern

  • Lab Director
    Matthew Browning

    Matthew Browning, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University)

  • Lab Manager
    Olivia McAnirlin

    Olivia McAnirlin (Ph.D. candidate, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University) is a PhD candidate pursuing a degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management. Her research interests include studying the psychological and physiological impacts of nature and virtual reality, as well as using virtual reality as a form of storytelling.

  • Research Assistants
    Shuai Yuan

    Shuai Yuan (Ph.D. student, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University) has a background in architecture which influences his research interests, which include discovering how urban green space design affect human psychological experiences (such as perceived safety) and exploring the use of multiple methods (e.g., VR, big data, spatial network analysis).


    Allison Maynard’s background in conservation education, ecology, and child and youth studies influence her research interests. She is a PhD. student at Clemson University in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management researching how virtual reality can build place-based attachments, impact individual pro-environmental behavior, and change the basis of conservation and environmental degradation education.


    Tong Liu (Ph.D. student, Planning, Design, and Built Environment, Clemson University) is highly interested in exploring humans’ exposure and response to the surrounding natural environments and how it affects their mobility behavior and health. Tong has a background in landscape architecture and is currently involved in research projects including spatiotemporal analysis, spatial cognition, pose detection and behavioral mapping.


    Huseyin Ertan Inan (Ph.D. Candidate, Tourism Management, Anadolu University) is interested in exploring the psychological and physiological effects of different types of virtual reality technologies and simulated nature. He has a background in industrial engineering and is currently working on tourism, recreation, and nature studies involving various research designs and methods such as experimental design, multi-criteria decision making, and data mining.


    Fu Li's (PhD Student in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University) research interest falls into the study of human perception, cognition and behavior in the built environment, which mainly focuses on the human-environment interaction, assessing the impact of human well-being, and evaluating the performance of the design. He has a background in landscape architecture and is currently working on projects involving multi-pipeline knowledge such as urban study, cognition, GIS, machine learning, smart city, and mobility.


    Nazanin Hatami (PhD Student in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University) has a background in architecture which has inspired her to investigate the effects of Environmental Psychology on human health. She is interested in promoting human interaction with the built environment by using innovative methods and technologies such as AR and VR.


    Mondira Bardhan (M.S. Student in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at Clemson University) is enthusiastic about exploring human-nature interaction, particularly evaluating the importance of nature exposure to human physical and psychological health. Her pure background in Environmental Science and research experience in public health support her research interests.

  • Affiliates

    Ben Fowler

    Ben Fowler (Ph.D. student, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University) has a background as a professional outdoor guide and educator, which continues to influence his research interests in visitor use management for parks and protected areas. Ben specializes in the design, planning, and management of water-based recreational resources (e.g., rivers, water trails, etc.) utilizing mixed-method research designs and advanced analytical tools.

    S.M. Labib

    S.M. Labib's (Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, The Netherlands) primary research focus is on developing novel quantitative spatial analytical approaches associated with geographic information science, spatial data science and remote sensing. Labib applies spatial analytics in health impact modeling to explore the influence of the built and natural environment (e.g., greenspace) on health outcomes.

    Sahar Mihandoust

    Sahar Mihandoust (Research Assistant Professor, Health Facilities Design and Testing (CHFDT), Clemson University) is interested in Evidence-based design and exploring the effects of design on nurse and patient outcomes. Her primary research interest is evidence-based health care design, biophilic design, patient safety, and design for special populations.

    Muhammad Mainuddin Patwary

    Muhammad Mainuddin Patwary (Khulna University, Bangladesh) is is one of the founders of the Environment and Sustainability Research Initiative (ESRI), a volunteer research team initiated by a group of enthusiastic graduates of Environmental Science Discipline, Khulna University, Bangladesh. His research focuses mostly on the coupled human-environment interaction.

    Vishnunarayan Girishan Prabhu

    Vishnunarayan Girishan Prabhu's (Ph.D. Candidate, Industrial Engineering, Clemson University) research interests include developing simulation models, mathematical models and predictive analytics techniques to improve healthcare operations. He is very passionate about utilizing new technologies, IoT Devices and non-pharmacological techniques to address pain, anxiety and mental health issues.

    Kailan Sindelar

    Kailan Sindelar's (Ph.D. candidate, Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program at Clemson University) research interests include environmental rhetoric in virtual reality, critical animal studies, care ethics, climate change communication, and technical communication.

    Colby Parkinson

    Colby Parkinson's (MS student, Forestry Ecosystems and Society
    Oregon State University) research interests revolve around the environmental services provided by green spaces and wilderness, health and wellbeing outcomes associated with outdoor physical activity and recreation, and environmental attitudes and behaviors as they relate to sustainibility.


    Jiaying Dong (Ph.D. student, Planning, Design and the Built Environment, Clemson University) has a background in landscape architecture. Her research interests lie in green space planning, health outcomes and population equity. She is also passionate about urban design research in response to climate change.


    Hansen Li (Ph.D. candidate, College of Physical Education, Southwest University) has research interests in environmental health and physical activity. He aims to explore interdisciplinary methods to promote public health in the context of global urbanization.


    Katie Thurson (Ph.D. student, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University) studies data science and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in youth programs.


    Aaron Rueben (Post-doctoral Fellow in Clinical Neuropsychology, Duke University) investigates the interplay of the physical environment with cognitive and mental health across the lifespan. He is particularly interested in the opportunity for exposure to nature (real and virtual) to foster healthy brain and emotional development in children and psychological resilience and enduring mental health in adults.

  • Interns


    Wyatt Foster (High School student at Anderson University)

  • Alumni
    Doug Becker

    Doug Becker (PhD in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois), is currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the departments of Agricultural Economics and Natural Resources and Society at the University of Idaho. His research focuses generally on environmental health, with studies on the relationship between health and environmental factors such as pollution, extreme temperatures, and natural spaces, and is branching out into novel topics like land abandonment and wildfire risk in Mediterranean Europe.

    Mona Jawed

    Mona Jawed (Senior, Centennial High School, Champaign, Illinois) aims to be an environmental activist and engineer and is working with several community environmental groups, including the Virtual Reality and Nature Lab.

    Kangjae Lee

    Kangjae Lee, Ph.D. (Informatics at Illinois, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) studies Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to explore the impact that environmental factors can have on human behaviors. His research investigates the dynamic associations between several environmental factors and different types of physical activity, such as walking, using GIS and machine learning techniques.

    Yichu (Effie) Lu

    Yichu "Effie" Lu's (Graduate student, Environmental Policy and Science, Columbia University) interests include environmental policy, social science, and environmental economics. She has assisted Dr. Browning with virtual reality research and is now working on a systematic review of the framing of aquatic invasive species.

    Katherine Minmaugh

    Katherine Mimnaugh (Ph.D. student, Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, University of Oulu) works under the tutelage of Dr. Steven M. LaValle in the Perception Engineering Lab. Katherine's research focuses on the measurement of human perception in virtual reality, as well as interaction and embodiment in virtual robotic telepresence. Her background is in clinical psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and she completed her Master's thesis,¨Investigating how mindfulness promotes the restorative effects of nature exposure in virtual reality, as Dr. Browning's student in 2018. 

    Sadia Sabrina's master’s research is focusing on Rivers, Watershed and Landscape Dynamics. She volunteered with the Virtual Reality and Nature Lab from February to December 2017.

    Seunguk Shin

    Seunguk Shin (Ph.D. student, Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) is broadly interested in nature’s benefits to people and the relationship between people and nature. His main research interests include the promotion of pro-environmental behavior, the psycho/physiological benefits of exposure to nature, and using transformative techniques (such as virtual reality) to enhance human experience and well-being related to nature. 

    Yuxi Weng

    Yuxi Weng's (Ph.D. student, Department of Landscape Architecture, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University) research interests lie in the landscape spatial characteristics of human response through eye-tracking, bio-monitoring sensors and EEG to explore the health effects of the natural environment on humans. She is also a forest healer and regularly organizes forest therapy activities.


    Jie Yin

    Jie Yin's, PhD, MUP (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) research interests lie in the cross-disciplinary field of urban planning/design and public health. He is now working on quantifying the health impacts of biophilic design and nature contact by using virtual reality, eye-tracking, bio-monitoring sensors and spatial analysis.


    Max Knipstein (Undergraduate student, Communications, Clemson University)


    Abby Cox (Undergraduate student, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University)

    Tyler Cribbs

    Tyler Cribbs' (Ph.D. student, Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University) research as a Ph.D. student focuses on the impact of visitation on the ecosystems in wetlands and coastal areas. In 2020, he was among the first graduate students in the country to receive a Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

    mai helmy

    Mai Helmy (Menoufia University) earned her PhD from Liverpool University and has a background in cognitive psychology. Some of her research interests include shape, emotion, social cognition, cognitive biases, personality, individual differences, job satisfaction, work addiction, psychological and physiological impacts of nature and virtual reality, and cross-cultural psychology.


    Scarlett Lawhorne (2021 Graduate of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University) is currently working as a Recreation Leader for Pasco County FL Parks, Recreation.

Virtual Reality and Nature Lab at Clemson University
Virtual Reality and Nature Lab at Clemson University | 418 Daniel Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634-0735