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


Daniel Stolzberg

Staff scientist / AuD student

Daniel received his undergraduate degree in cognitive neuroscience with a minor in linguistics at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, NY.  Following graduation, he worked as a laboratory technician and then as a predoctoral student with Dr. Richard Salvi, also at the University at Buffalo, investigating peripheral and central neural processes underlying hearing loss and tinnitus.  Following completion of his Ph.D., Daniel worked as a postdoc on various projects in the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Lomber at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, using high field neuroimaging tools to create “Catlas”, the first volumetric atlas of the feline brain.  In the Caras lab, Daniel is investigating how aging affects auditory encoding, perception, and learning.  Daniel is currently pursuing a clinical degree in audiology at the University of Maryland. 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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Johena Sanyal

Graduate rotation student

Johena is rotating through the lab as a first-year predoctoral student in the BISI program. She recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Neuroscience. Her interest in behavioral systems began at Michigan, where she worked in the Burgess lab studying how activity in visual association cortex during wake and sleep affects associative learning. While in the Caras lab, she will be starting a project using fiber photometry and a norepinephrine biosensor to establish the dynamics of norepinephrine release during auditory perceptual learning. She is most excited to learn new techniques, get experience doing surgeries in gerbils, and get to know everyone in the lab. Outside of lab, you can find Johena on a hike, baking, or on TikTok. 

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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 for a summer where she assisted the lab in collecting their data. Additionally, at Salisbury, Taylor was a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and the Bioenvirons club. She also 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. 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 Neuroscience major who is deeply interested in the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience and hopes to pursue a career along the lines of scientific research. Her curiosity for neuroscience was bolstered by her previous lab work at the Keller Lab of Sensory Perception at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Medicine. At UMD College Park, she is a member of the Gemstone Honors program, which is centered around undergraduate, student-led research. She is also an UMD Honors Ambassador and a member of the Rising Researchers club at UMD, which aims to teach high school and early college students tenets of academic research and careers in STEM. Rakshita also takes interest in the way scientific knowledge is communicated to general audiences and enjoys writing and teaching to this end. She greatly looks forward to furthering her learning and growth through working in the Caras Lab.

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Gabriel Dayanim

Undergraduate Researcher

Gabe is a Neuroscience major from Philadelphia who hopes to pursue a career in medicine and/or research. He became interested in neuroscience research while in the Bhatnagar Lab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and has continued ever since with his work at the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine and in UMD’s Gemstone research program. Gabe is a campus ambassador for Gift of Life, a bassist in the University of Maryland Repertoire Orchestra, and an active member of the UMD Hillel. He is also an avid musician, cook, and hiker. Gabe is excited to work and learn 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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Laudan Nikoobakht

Undergraduate Researcher

Laudan is a Computational Neurolinguistics major interested in the neurobiological mechanisms of language and learning. She was a summer student in the Single Molecular Biophysics lab at the NHLBI-NIH, performing research on the binding affinity of topoisomerase IV and its binding with topoisomerase enzymes. Currently, Laudan is an undergraduate researcher at the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Nutrition, a program between UMD and FDA, investigating viruses isolated from food for outbreak response using Next Generation Sequencing. At UMD, Laudan is a part of Technica, the largest hackathon in the world for underrepresented genders as well as the Iranian Students’ Foundation. She is passionate about increasing accessibility and diversity in higher education and research. In her free time, Laudan loves to read, travel, as well as practice and teach yoga. She looks forward to working in the Caras Lab.

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Former lab members

Steven Cerna | Post-bac trainee

Charlotte Cooper | Laboratory Technician

Lashaka Jones | Postdoctoral Researcher