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. After graduating, Melissa moved back east to pursue postdoctoral studies with Dan Sanes at New York University. Melissa is thrilled to now be 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

Lashaka Jones

Postdoctoral Researcher

Lashaka received a B.S in biology at the Morgan State University, in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was a member of the MARC U STAR honors program, which is geared towards increasing the presence of underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences. As a result of this opportunity, she performed research at Morgan State under Dr. Gloria Hoffman, and completed a summer internship at Emory University under Dr. Larry Young. After Morgan, Lashaka attended Lehigh University to obtain her Ph.D. in Biology. She is currently completing her dissertation work under Dr. R. Michael Burger. Lashaka is excited to continue her research career in the Caras lab at the University of Maryland, beginning in early 2020. Lashaka now takes great pride in mentoring undergraduate researchers as she was!

CV | Email

Steven Cerna

Laboratory Technician

Steven received a B.S. in Kinesiology from The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he volunteered in Dr. Julia Cherry’s wetland ecology lab. Steve completed the Health Careers Opportunity Program at Marquette University, beginning his biomedical research background. After graduating, Steven was an NIH PREP scholar at Virginia Tech in Dr. Michelle Theus’ neuroscience lab, where he completed an independent research project. Steven spent the summer of 2019 as an MHIRT scholar with San Diego State University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan completing a short-term microbiology research project at Kaohsiung Medical University. Steven is currently studying the role of the orbitofrontal cortex in auditory perceptual learning in the Caras lab at the University of Maryland .

CV | Email

Charlotte Cooper

Laboratory Technician

Charlotte received her B.S. in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, Virginia, where she graduated with honors. As an undergraduate, she completed an internship in Dr. Kirk Brown’s social psychology lab, where she realized her interest in behavioral neuroscience. She also interned in Dr. Joseph Porter’s biopsychology lab, and presented research she worked on at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago. After graduating, she worked under Dr. Patrick Beardsley at VCU Health Pharmacology & Toxicology. More recently, she was a member of the surgical implant team at Champions Oncology in Rockville, Maryland. She is currently pursuing academic research in the Caras Lab at the University of Maryland.

CV | Email

Rakshita Balaji

Undergraduate Researcher

Rakshita is a freshman Neurobiology and Physiology major who is deeply interested in neuroscience and hopes to pursue a career in the field of scientific research. In high school, her curiosity for neuroscience was bolstered by her 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 a UMD Honors Ambassador, a singer in the UMD treble choir, a member of the Rising Researchers club, and a part of the International Youth Neuroscience Association. She greatly looks forward to furthering her learning and growth through working in the Caras Lab. 

CV | Email

Gabriel Dayanim

Undergraduate Researcher

Gabe is a sophomore 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.

CV | Email