Gerlai Lab Personnel

                                                           Graduate Students 

Amira Abozaid, HBSc, PhD.c 

Amira joined the lab in 2017 and completed her Honors Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga. She has undertaken multiple research courses including a Biology Thesis program in the lab during her final year of undergraduate studies exploring the effects of embryonic alcohol exposure using the zebrafish as a model organism.

She is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology studying the effects of embryonic alcohol exposure on learning and memory outcomes in larval and adult zebrafish.

In the last few years, Amira has published 5 peer-reviewed papers, and has attended multiple conferences in which she has presented her work.

Amira has expertise in zebrafish behavior and learning & memory. She keeps the lab under control.

Amira's Google Scholar:



Ben Tsang, HBSc, MSc, PhD.c, FRSA

Ben joined the lab during his undergrad and completed his Honors Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science from Kings College London.

He has worked in administrative, research, and managerial roles within University and Hospital settings, and has experience using zebrafish, ram cichlids, and mice in basic & preclinical research. 

Apart from his PhD, Ben has worked at the Hospital for Sick Children as a Clinical Research Manager, performing the middle cerebral arterial occlusion surgery.

He is the resident fish whisperer for the Gerlai lab with funding from the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (GLAS) and the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and has produced over 21 peer-reviewed publications in the field of behavioral neuroscience resulting in an h-index of 8, and is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Ben is the recipient of the 2023 University of Toronto Mississauga Graduate Research Prize.

Ben's Website:
Google Scholar:

Stephanie Shishis, HBSc, MSc.c

Stephanie joined the lab in 2019 and completed her Honors Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga, with a double major in Biology for Health Science and Psychology. She will be pursuing a Master of Science at the University of Toronto in our lab as part of the Department of Cell & Systems Biology starting January 2022.

During her undergrad she was part of the Psychology Research Opportunity Program and Biology Thesis Program in our lab. She has been involved in many research projects and most recently has been interested in exploring what constitutes an optimal housing environment for zebrafish by measuring anxiety/stress-like behaviours. 

Stephanie's expertise is in zebrafish husbandry and behavior. She provides the lab energy.

Stephanie's ResearchGate:

Zahra Siddiqi, HBSc, PhD.c

Zahra joined the lab in 2019 and completed her Honors Bachelor of Science at the University of Toronto Mississauga, majoring in Psychology with double minors in Biology and Women & Gender Studies. 

For her PhD in Psychology, she will be continuing to investigate zebrafish discriminability as well as working with mice in the Martin Lab to determine the effects of long  term analgesia exposure on learning and memory.

She is looking forward to collaborations to study aversive conditioning in zebrafish from a biological perspective. 

Zahra has expertise in numerosity and behavior.

Zahra's ResearchGate:



Patrick Fahim

Patrick Fahim is an upper year undergraduate student at UTM. He is currently working on a project with Stephanie Shishis and Jenny Sung exploring the effect of enrichment on ethanol induced behavioural impairments in zebrafish. As this project comes to a close he hopes to broaden his experience and pursue the biological side of animal research with Ben.

Chuanyu Wu 

My name is Chuanyu Wu. You can also call me Yuri. I am a 4th-year UTM student specializing in neuroscience and majoring in bio for health sci. I will join the Gerlai lab for my biology thesis. I am currently helping Stephanie with her research on the effect of tank sizes on zebrafish behaviour. I have a strong passion for neuroscience and especially for using animal models to study their behavioural responses. I am looking forward to getting more involved in the lab and in this research field. During my free time, I love to spend time exploring nature and arts created by amazing artists!

Celina Micaela Javier

Hi, I'm Celma!
I am a fourth year student in neuroscience and biology. Previously, I was a work study and thesis student. My thesis was on the learning and memory capabilities of the German ram cichlids. My interests are in human and animal behaviour, neurological disorders, and neuroimaging. Currently, I am finishing a study on the neuronal death of juvenile zebrafish using two-photon imaging. I do everything with my conjoined twin Veronica who will one day cure cancer #teamben. A fun fact about me is that I like to collect Japanese swords. Hopefully I become as rich as Dr. Gerlai so I can fund my collection.

Veronica Venditti

Hi, my name is Veronica and I am a Senior Research Assistant in the Gerlai Lab!
I recently completed my undergraduate thesis and a work-study position in the lab, where I was lucky enough to work with Ben and my identical twin Celma. I am excited to continue my research in the lab this summer as a University of Toronto Excellence Award recipient, where I will be examining the learning and memory abilities of the Ram Cichlid, a new species in behavioural neuroscience. I am always happy to help out in the lab, as I am here 24/7 (I pretty much live here now) :)

Omer Syed 

I'm Omer, a Senior Research Assistant at the Gerlai Lab. 

I previously completed my biology thesis at the lab, studying behavioral effects of caffeine on the zebrafish circadian rhythm. My current research interests are largely surrounding psychedelic compounds, and I'm examining the suitability of zebrafish as a preclinical animal model for investigating psychedelic safety and toxicity.

Valentina Bravo  

"¡Hola! I am Valentina Bravo and I am a third year student from Peru. I am doing a major in Biology for Health Sciences, another major in Political Science, and a minor in Biomedical Communications. I am very interested in science communication (I love talking) and public health policy. I am pleased to join the Gerlai Lab under Ben as I LOVE neuroscience and LOVE dealing with animals. I will be conducting a study on the behavioural effects of abrupt temperature changes in adult zebrafish. This would be my first project with the lab, so I am beyond excited! In my free time I like to talk about my dog and my bunny, and how peruvian food is the best food. I am thrilled to join this lab and cannot wait to see my —and my peers'— progress in the following months!"

Jenny Sung 

Hello~ My name is Jenny Sung, and I am a Psychology major at UTM. I am joining the Gerlai lab to work with Ben, and to pursue my research interests in behavioural neuroscience. In my spare time, I love to go for a walk carrying a good cup of latte.

Silas Liening

I am an aspiring psych student in 1st year from Germany who is working with Ben in the Gerlai Lab. I think that most things are cool, especially bananas and ramen. A particular interest of mine is studying hard, which I refer to as 'grinding'. Apart from education, I like thinking about the potential benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, being hot, overthinking, and sleeping 9 hours. 

Andrew Gnanapragasam  

My name is Andrew Gnanapragasam and I am a 3rd year student specializing in Psychology and minoring in Biology. I am currently a volunteer under Amira. I have always been interested in learning and memory, both the behavioural and biological aspects of it. I am looking forward to exploring these more in detail at the Gerlai Lab! 

Yashi Rawat 

My name is Yashi Rawat. My fascination in Behavioural Neuroscience developed through taking several Neuroscience courses in Biology and Psychology. This made me decide to take PSY397: Neuroplasticity and Behaviour. PSY397 led to my interest in research carried out in the Gerlai Lab. I am currently working on an Independent Research Project with Amira on Novel Object Recognition in Juvenile Zebrafish. I have other interests which include baking, swimming, and trying to learn martial arts. 

Alison Lai

Heyy, I'm a second year for neuroscience specialist and a psychology major. I like steve (the cat) and wasting time doing nothing. I maybe like fish but they're on thin ice. My future plans are to hopefully be a rich researcher. 

Rache Dass

I'm a 4th year Neuroscience Specialist Student at UTM. I joined the Gerlai Lab as a volunteer, and I am currently completing an independent research project. My project examines if shoaling preferences in zebrafish are affected by their housing densities, broadly examining if stress has an effect on group-formation. I am collaborating with Yuri for this project, and we are being supervised by Zahra and Stephanie as our project makes use of numerosity and shoaling. I am excited to continue researching and discovering social behaviour in zebrafish.

Steven Li

My name is Steven Li and I am a fourth-year student double majoring in Biology for Health Sciences and Psychology. I am currently a Biology Thesis student in the Gerlai lab under the supervision of Ben and hope to learn more about the behaviour of zebrafish. In my free time, I enjoy going on hikes, working out at the gym, and playing the piano. I'm also goofy.

Kelly Cheung

Hello, I'm Kelly! I'm a fourth year student specializing in neuroscience and minoring in biomedical communications and biology. I am working on my ROP and Biology thesis with Ben. My interest is in behavioural neuroscience. In my free time I'm road tripping and exploring new places. Also stuck with Steven.

Patryk Kmiec 

My name is Patryk Kmiec and I am a 4th year student doing a double major in Psychology and Sociology. I am currently a volunteer, but would like to do my Undergrad work with the Gerlai lab. Some interesting facts about me are that I am in the aquarium hobby myself, and have experience raising and breeding various fish species. I also have 2 axolotls and 2 leopard geckos, as I am an animal lover at heart. I cannot wait to see where this opportunity takes me! 

Eren Aday

Hi! I am Eren (yeah the spelling is like Eren Jaeger) from Ben's team. I am interested in most things, or at least I think I am. But I know that I love rocket ships. I don't have much experience with fish apart from having a goldfish when I was six that I may have killed because of overfeeding. Anyways, as an undergrad, I want to gain research experience from working with such experienced people in the Gerlai lab and hope to contribute to the lab's extensive research. If you have come this far, thanks for reading my blurb! 

Ryan Ugovsek

My name is Ryan Ugovsek and I am an incoming third year student at UTM. I am currently majoring in Biology for the Health Sciences, with minors in psychology and chemistry. However, I plan to pursue a specialist in neuroscience starting in the 2023-2024 fall/winter term. As an aspiring neuroscientist, I have always been fascinated by the variety of techniques and model organisms that researchers use in the laboratory. The Gerlai Lab's previous work with zebrafish, in particular, inspired me to join the team and contribute to its current research!