Meet Our Team

Ronna Hertzano, MD PhD - Principal Investigator

Dr. Hertzano is an otolaryngologist surgeon-scientist tenured Professor at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Born in Israel, Dr. Hertzano received her M.D. and Ph.D degrees from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel. Her doctoral thesis, which was performed both at Tel Aviv University and at the National Institutes of Deafness and Communications Disorders (NIDCD/NIH) focused on elucidating the signaling pathway downstream of the deafness causing gene POU4F3 in the mouse inner ear. She then performed her residency training in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she also established her research team.

Dr. Hertzano’s clinical practice focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the ear, with a specific emphasis on hearing restoration. As such, she sees and treats patients of all ages that suffer from hereditary and non-hereditary auditory and vestibular dysfunction. The goal of Dr. Hertzano’s research program is to make significant contributions towards the treatment of congenital and acquired auditory and vestibular dysfunction. Towards hearing restoration, she works to unravel the regulatory signaling cascades that lead to the proper development of the ear and specifically the hair cells. A second main interest is in developing therapeutics to prevent age and noise induced hearing loss. To facilitate dissemination, sharing and analysis of multi-omic data Dr. Hertzano developed the gEAR portal – gene Expression Analysis Resource ( Finally, Dr. Hertzano has a strong interest in mentorship. Her diverse team consists of undergraduates, medical students, residents, audiologists, graduate students, and post docs.

Dr. Hertzano is the recipient of several awards including the Burt Evans Young Investigator Award, from the National Organization of Hearing Research; Brian E. Emery, M.D., Outstanding Teaching Award, UMSOM; Distinction Award in Alternative/Basic Science for the Triological Society Thesis; and the 2021 UMB Researcher of the Year Award. Dr. Hertzano is chair of the American Neurotology Society research committee; core faculty of the University of Maryland College Park Center for Comparative and Evolutionary Biology of Hearing T32 grant; a member of the Hearing Restoration Program of the Hearing Health Foundation, and an organizing committee member of the HEAR@JAX workshop of the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine. In her free time, Dr. Hertzano enjoys running, cycling, and playing Rummikub.

Beatrice Milon, PhD - Research Supervisor

Beatrice received a master’s degree in Molecular Genetics of Developmental Diseases and Oncogenesis followed by a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University René Descartes (Paris, France). This led her to the University of Maryland Dental School for a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Franklin’s laboratory. She then moved on to Dr. Nurminsky’s laboratory (UMB, SOM) as a research associate. In July 2013, Beatrice joined Dr. Hertzano’s laboratory where she is using her skills in gene transcription regulation. In her free time, she likes to climb walls.

Reza Amanipour, PhD - Postdoctoral Fellow

Reza obtained his bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Baylor University, and his master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Methodist University (SMU). He completed his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of South Florida (USF) in 2019. His Ph.D. research primarily focused on qualitative and quantitative assessments for the pre-clinical, in vivo aspects of a drug discovery project on the regulation of glutamate within the inner ear to preserve hearing following exposure to loud noise in a mouse model. Reza completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the John and Edward Coleman Memorial Laboratory in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). His research involved multichannel recording from primary auditory cortex in an awake squirrel monkey model. Reza joined Hertzano Lab in 2021 to contribute to the development of therapeutic strategies based on estrogen signaling for the prevention and treatment of noise induced hidden hearing loss (NIHHL). In his spare time, he enjoys going to the gym and traveling is his favorite hobby.

Katie Gwilliam, BS - Fifth Year PhD Student

Katie is a fourth year Human Genetics, PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She received her B.S. in Biology, with a concentration in Biotechnology and Molecular Biology, and minor in dance at George Mason University. Katie studies the genetics and molecular mechanisms of inner ear development and hearing loss. More specifically, she researches the roles of specific transcription factors, such as the Regulatory Factor X (RFX) transcription factor family, in hair cell development and maintenance of the cochlea and vestibular system using mouse and zebrafish models. Katie is known as the lab’s baker and provides the lab with sweet treats for meetings, holidays, and more.
Kevin Rose, BS - Third Year PhD Student

Kevin Rose, BS - Fourth Year PhD Student

Kevin Rose obtained his bachelor’s degree in health sciences from the University of Cincinnati in 2012. He joined Dr. Hertzano’s lab as a graduate student in July 2018 to undertake a project that involved both wet lab and bioinformatic techniques. His current research project focuses on the otic mesenchyme specific transcription factor, Pou3f4. With techniques such as scRNA-seq, scATAC-seq, and CUT&RUN, he is unraveling the gene regulatory network downstream of Pou3f4, leading to novel deafness genes. In his free time, Kevin enjoys playing basketball, long walks with his dog, and video games.

Chris Shults, MS - Second Year PhD Student

Chris is a second year PhD student in the Molecular Medicine program. He recently graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health with a master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. He received his bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology from Tennessee Tech University. Before completing his master’s degree, he served as a high school science teacher in Baltimore City. Chris joined the Hertzano lab as their newest PhD student in 2021 to study the Ikzf2 pathway using a combination of wet lab and bioinformatics. He is an avid tennis player and always enjoys finding new restaurants Baltimore has to offer.

Ningjin Wu, MD - Second Year PhD Student

Ningjin is a second year Human Genetics, PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She received her MD degree from Xiangya School of Medicine after completing her clinical intern year in June 2020. Following medical school, she served as an intern at a biotech company in which she learned skills related to single cell ATAC sequencing, single cell RNA sequencing, and spatial transcriptomics. Ningjin hopes to contribute to translational research by combining her clinical knowledge with current genetic technologies. In her spare time, Ningjin has fun swimming, playing badminton, and trying out the many different restaurants in Baltimore.

Benjamin Shuster, BS - Research Fellow

Benjamin Shuster, BS - Research Fellow

Ben received a B.S in Neurobiology and Physiology from the University of Maryland, College Park, and joined Dr. Hertzano’s laboratory as a post-baccalaureate research fellow in 2017. He investigates sex-differences in auditory physiology and estrogenic protection from noise-induced hearing loss. Ben also co-leads a public outreach/community science project investigating recreational noise exposure in gyms. In his spare time, Ben enjoys playing sports (all of them), reading, and cultivating a newfound appreciation for fine whiskey.

Erika Lipford, MS - Research Fellow

Erika Lipford, MS - First Year Medical Student

After graduating from Mount Saint Mary’s University with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Spanish, Erika joined the Hertzano laboratory to study sex differences in the expression of estrogen and estrogen-related receptors within the mouse cochlea. In 2020, she completed her thesis and received a master’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biomedical Science from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. After graduating, she continued to work as a research fellow to elucidate the underpinnings of estrogenic protection. Erika is now a first year medical student at the University of Maryland and studies the molecular pathways upregulated in response to noise-induced hearing loss. When not in lab or class, Erika can be found hiking with her dogs, crocheting, and concocting new brewing recipes.

Yang Song, PhD - Lead Bioinformatician

Yang Song, PhD - Lead Bioinformatician

Yang received her master’s degree in Biological Statistics and Modelling and her Ph.D. in Molecular Microbiology from Illinois State University. In 2012, Yang joined the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore as post-doctoral fellow. Yang continues to work at the IGS as a bioinformatic analyst. Yang combines her expertise in bioinformatics, statistics, and molecular biology to analyze and optimize transcriptomic and epigenetic datasets generated in the Hertzano laboratory using mouse and zebrafish models. In her spare time, Yang enjoy swimming and oil painting.
Joshua Orvis, MS - Lead Bioinformatics Software Engineer

Joshua Orvis, MS - Lead Bioinformatics Software Engineer

After completing an undergraduate degree in Microbiology from the University of Oklahoma, Joshua started work in bioinformatics at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) working on primary eukaryotic annotation and distributed grid computing systems.  He transitioned to the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) in 2007 while completing a graduate degree in Bioinformatics from Johns Hopkins University, where he is now also an Adjunct Professor, teaching three courses in their graduate program.  At IGS his work focus includes gene expression studies, data visualization projects, and metagenomics.  He works remotely from his home in Oklahoma and, outside of work, enjoys track racing (and rebuilding his car between events), reading, drawing, Spartan Races, and hiking with his wife and four children.

Lab Alumni

Priya Patel, MD – Resident Researcher, 2022

Current Position – ENT Resident at University of Maryland Department of Otorhinolaryngology

Katie Kennedy, MD – Resident Researcher, 2021

Current Position – ENT Resident at University of Maryland Department of Otorhinolaryngology

Lawrance Lee, MD – Medical Student Researcher, 2018 – 2021

Current Position – ENT Resident at Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Otorhinolaryngology

Mark McMurray – Research Technician, 2016 – 2021

Current Position – Technician at the Princeton Atacama Cosmology Telescope

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Shil Patel – MD PhD Rotation Student, 2020

Maggie Matern, PhD – PhD Student, 2014 – 2019

 Current Position – Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University

Sunayana Mitra, PhD – Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2016 – 2017

 Current Position – Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Michigan State University

Yoko Ogawa, PhD – Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2015 – 2016

Manoj v2 (2)

Manoj Racherla, MD – Research Assistant, 2011 – 2013

Current Position – Physician of Internal Medicine at University of Maryland Medical Center

Manan Shah, MD – Research Assistant

Current Position – ENT Physician at the Advanced ENT & Allergy Center in Colorado

Laura Morrison, DO – Research Assistant, 2014

Current Position – DO at Holtz Children’s Hospital in Florida

Nikhil Paladugu – Research volunteer, 2017


Danisha Gallop – Research Assistant, 2014

Current Position – Research Assistant at University of Maryland, Baltimore

Zachary Margulies, BSc – Research Assistant, 2014

Lorna Silipino, BSc – Research Assistant, 2011 – 2015

Current Position – Research Staff at the Frederick National Laboratory

Mallory Highstein, MD – Resident Researcher, 2020

Current Position – ENT Resident at University of Maryland Department of Otorhinolaryngology

Ryan Casserly, MD – Resident Researcher, 2017

Current Position – Otology and Neurotology Physician at Otologic Medicine & Surgery at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware

Andrew Tkaczuk, MD – Resident Researcher, 2016

Current Position – Laryngologist and Assistant Professor at Emory School of Medicine

Katherine Perry, MD – Resident Researcher, 2013

Current Position – Otolaryngologist at Chesapeake Otolaryngology Association in Maryland

Gavin Gassen, MD – Resident Researcher, 2009

Current Position – Otolaryngologist and Assistant Professor at Tulane University School of Medicine 

Kelly Finck, AuD – Student Researcher, 2017 – 2018

Current Position – Audiologist at Hearing Assessment Center, LLC in Maryland

Summer Students and Volunteers

Manaahil Rao, Summer Medical Student in 2021

Ori Zalzman, Summer Student in 2021 

Ashley Barnes, Summer Student 2013

Andrew Biedlingmaier, MD

Alok Shetty, Summer of 2017

Alexis Mears, Summers of 2018 and 2019

Sindhu Murugan, Summer of 2019

Katherine Williams, MD, Summer of 2013

Graham Trent, MD, Summer of 2015

Virginia Drake, MD, 2014

Christopher Toth, PA, 2014 – 2015

Allen Myers, Summer 2014 and Fall 2016 to Summer 2018

Tomer Lagziel, BSc

Lauren Chessum, PhD, 2017