Track: Molecular, Cellular, and Physiological 
Graduation Year: Spring 2023
Hometown: Columbia, MD

Rakshita’s interest in neuroscience began in high school when she started to wonder about the scientific basis behind phenomena like learning and cognition. To begin learning more about brain science, Rakshita conducted research through her school’s independent research program on topics such as neuroplasticity and sensorimotor perception. Upon coming to UMD, Rakshita learned of the new Neuroscience major and she knew that she wanted to be a part of it. She wanted to take classes which aligned more directly with her keen interest in brain and behavior, which the interdisciplinary nature of our Neuroscience program allows her to do just that. As Rakshita watches the Neuroscience major at UMD grow, she is excited to be able to extend her connections further through outreach as well as to give back through mentoring or giving advice to other interested students. In general, Rakshita is excited to learn more about the opportunities and knowledge that the Neuroscience major and other brain science initiatives at UMD have to offer. 

Currently, Rakshita is an undergraduate researcher in the Caras Lab under Dr. Melissa Caras, where she studies the neural basis of sensory plasticity and perceptual learning. Through studying the auditory pathway in freely moving Mongolian gerbils, perceptual acuity and learning can be assessed, and these studies can be more broadly applied when it comes to using perceptual learning as a mechanism for improving sensory function. In addition, as a member of the lab, Rakshita engages in regular practice of sharing, discussing, and presenting novel research to keep up with the ever-growing knowledge base around sensation and perception. Rakshita is also a member of Rising Researchers, a club at UMD which teaches high school and new college students the tenets of scholarly research while helping them become independent in pursuing opportunities in STEM fields. Additionally, she is a part of the Gemstone Honors College and serves as a UMD Honors Ambassador. 

When she is not working on her schoolwork or research, Rakshita enjoys painting, singing, and spending time outdoors. She looks forward to meeting more students and learning from their experiences as well. 

If you'd like to hear more about Rakshita's experiences, please contact her at rbalaji [at]