Postdoctoral Spotlight: Daniel Guest, PhD

Apr. 25, 2024
Daniel Guest, PhD, smiling with dark brown shoulder length hair, brown eyes, and blue button-up shirt.
Daniel Guest, PhD

Daniel Guest, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Laurel Carney, PhD, at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He completed his PhD in Psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his undergraduate studies in Psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas. His research focuses on building computer models of the auditory system to better understand how the auditory system works, including the role of feedback connections.

“These models have mostly focused on what we call the “afferent” or “feedforward” pathway, which leads from the ear through the brainstem and up to the cerebral cortex where sounds are processed,” Guest said. “But the auditory system, like all sensory systems, also has an “efferent” or “feedback” pathway that sends signals from the brain back to earlier stages of the system, including way back to the inner ear. The role of these feedback connections is not totally understood.”

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded Guest an F32 to investigate the role of efferent pathways in the auditory system. This grant will allow Guest to improve computational models of the auditory efferent system and investigate the role this system plays in everyday listening tasks such as hearing one person speaking when there is a noisy background.

Guest has always been interested in science, but it was not until a research opportunity during his undergraduate studies that he saw a career path for himself. While working as a research assistant in a speech perception lab he helped run behavioral studies and analyze the data. “I enjoyed the work, and I was intrigued by the scientific questions we were asking. One thing led to another, like a chain of dominoes, and here I am!”

When Carney approached him about becoming involved in the Hearing and Balance Collective, he was eager to help. Today, as a co-leader of the journal club he hopes to nurture the sense of community that was especially disrupted during COVID. He has also benefited from being a part of the club. “The journal club has really improved my understanding of a few areas of research. For example, in my line of work, data on the mechanics of the inner ear are very important, but I am trained as a perceptual psychologist, not a mechanical engineer. I am lucky to have colleagues that are trained in that area and are willing to share and explain the concepts, tools, and data, giving me a much better understanding than if I were to try to learn them on my own.”

This article originally appeared in NeURoscience Volume 21.