Melissa Caras

Principal Investigator

Melissa received a B.S. in neuroscience with highest honors and B.S. in biology at Brandeis University, in Waltham, MA. She then took off for the west coast, earning a Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior under the direction of Edwin Rubel and Eliot Brenowitz, at the University of Washington, in Seattle, where she explored seasonal and hormonal influences on auditory physiology in wild-caught songbirds. After graduating, Melissa moved back east to pursue postdoctoral studies with Dan Sanes at New York University, where she examined the effect of hearing loss on auditory development, and the neural correlates of perceptual learning in adolescents and adults. Melissa is thrilled to continue this work as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Maryland, and is excited to uncover basic mechanisms of sensory learning and plasticity.   CV | Email


Matheus Macedo-Lima

Postdoctoral Researcher

Matt received a B.S. in biology from the Universidade Federal de Sergipe, Brazil. Before graduating, he completed a 1-year study-abroad program at the University of Washington Bothell. During this time, Matt worked with Rachel Cohen in lab of Eliot Brenowitz at the University of Washington Seattle. After returning to Brazil and graduating, Matt returned to the USA, to earn his PhD at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, working with Luke Remage-Healey. Throughout his career, Matt has been very active in science outreach as a contributor in the pop science blog Saense (for the Portuguese-speaking community), and as a communicator in the Skype a Scientist initiative. Matt is passionate about studying animal brains from a comparative perspective and is very excited to work in the Caras lab to study the neuromodulators that participate in perceptual learning. 

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Rose Ying

Graduate Student

Rose graduated from Wake Forest University in 2017 with a B.S. in Biology and minor in Linguistics. As an undergraduate, she completed projects on feeding behavior with Dr. Wayne Pratt. Most recently, she worked in the labs of Dr. Garret Stuber and Dr. Melissa Herman at UNC Chapel Hill, where she developed an interest in delineating the neural circuits related to addiction disorders. As a NACS graduate student under Dr. Melissa Caras, she looks to continue investigating neurocircuitry, particularly circuits involved in communication and auditory learning behaviors. Rose is an avid Netflixer, dog lover, and lacrosse player in her spare time.  

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Taylor Thomas

Laboratory Technician

Taylor graduated from Salisbury University in 2019 where she received a B.S. in biology. While attending, Taylor worked with Drs. Ryan Taylor and Kim Hunter for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute where they studied multimodal signaling and lek mating in the túngara frog. Taylor was given the opportunity to work in Panama where she assisted the lab in collecting population and genomic data. Additionally, at Salisbury, Taylor was a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and the Bioenvirons club. She gained animal husbandry experience while volunteering at the Delmarva Discovery Center, which prepared her for a job at her local veterinary clinic, where she interned before becoming a veterinary technician after graduation. Taylor then became a certified nursing assistant and worked as a home-care CNA before joining the Caras Lab team. Taylor hopes to eventually pursue a career in conservation data science. In her free time, you will find Taylor with her nose in a book or obsessing over her dog, Milo. 

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Rakshita Balaji

Undergraduate Researcher

Rakshita is a Molecular, Cellular, and Physiological Neuroscience major at UMD. Her interest for neuroscience research was piqued by her work at the Keller Lab of Sensory Perception at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she worked under Dr. Jason Alipio and Dr. Asaf Keller on a project that investigated the effect of perinatal fentanyl exposure on somatosensory development in mice. At the Caras Lab, she is conducting independent research on perceptual learning toward a Biology Honors Thesis. Outside of research, Rakshita actively shares scientific knowledge through teaching and mentoring. As a member of the Rising Researchers club at UMD, Rakshita works with her peers to teach high school and college students alike about academic research and careers in STEM. She has also served as a neuroscience teaching assistant and is an ambassador for both the Neuroscience Major and the Honors College at UMD. Rakshita is excited to learn more about sensory plasticity and explore the neural basis of perceptual learning through her work in the Caras Lab.

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Nicole Miko

Undergraduate Researcher

Nicole is pursuing a Biological Sciences and Public Health double major and Sustainability Studies minor at UMD. She is currently on the pre-med track with an interest in continuing with research post-graduation. She has previously participated in genetics research in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab at the USDA, studying the biosynthetic pathways of genetically modified tomato plants. Currently, she is interning at the Brain and Neuro Care Center for neurology, which has expanded her interest in learning about the nervous system. Nicole is a member of the University Honors program and enjoys helping out at the campus pantry. Outside of school, she enjoys playing soccer, reading, and interior design. She is excited for the opportunity to participate in on-campus neuroscience research and to broaden her knowledge of the auditory system and perceptual learning.

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Neema Aalemansour

Undergraduate Researcher

Neema Aalemansour is currently a Junior majoring in General Biology on the pre-med track. He recently had an internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center working with a PI interested in urinary biomarkers for high grade vesicoureteral reflux, which sparked his interest in research! In his free time he plays a ton of sports (mainly soccer) and the piano.

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Shakira Knight

Undergraduate Researcher

Shakira is a Neuroscience major at the University of Maryland. She is on a pre-pa track and is planning to specialize in neurosurgery. She is also in the Army National Guard. At school, she is involved in Red Cross, club volleyball, and the pre-pa club. She has experience working in a molecular lab at the Applications and Research Laboratory where she learned many laboratory techniques. In her free time, she loves eating sushi, watching anime, shopping for shoes, or reading. She is thrilled to get the experience of working in a neuroscience lab.

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Former lab members

Daniel Stolzberg | Senior Research Scientist at Otolith Labs

Gabriel Dayanim | Medical Student at Brown University

Laudan Nikoobakht | Laboratory Technician at Columbia University

Johena Sanyal | Graduate Student in the Taneyhill Lab at the University of Maryland

Lashaka Jones | Project Manager at LabConnect

Charlotte Cooper |

Steven Cerna | Laboratory Technician for the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine