STAR Faculty Mentors


* Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego through the Center for Veterinary Sciences and Comparative Medicine - Contact: Dr. Peter Ernst ( or Dr. Christina Sigurdson  ( ) first for further information.

(NOTE: This list of faculty is not all inclusive and other eligible faculty can also be sought after as STAR mentors.)

While all faculty within the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Medicine, College of Biological Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering are eligible to serve as mentors for student Scholars, they are expected to fulfill certain criteria:

Along the guidelines of the American Physiological Society, a successful mentor is one who engages in a dynamic process whereby mentor and mentee both learn to respect and trust each others commitment, expertise, and individuality. To sign up as a mentor, a faculty member must commit to the mentoring process and be willing to invest time, energy and resources into the relationship. The text of the relationship can be difficult to define, because mentoring is in many ways an elusive concept and an individual process. However, a mentor must possess the following characteristics:

  • Be a faculty member in the School of Veterinary Medicine,School of Medicine, College of Biological Sciences, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering
  • Be actively engaged in research
  • Provide adequate funding to support the student's entire 10 week research project expenses, including research supplies, posters, etc.
  • Be available throughout the summer for the student and attend student/mentor activities, including the STAR TG finale
  • Possess the expertise in the subject of the research proposal
  • Agree to ensure the student fulfills his or her conditions of award
  • Commit to active engagement with their students throughout the summer

Faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Medicine, College of Biological Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and College of Engineering who are eligible to act as a mentor are asked to provide a brief paragraph describing their background, research interests, and other pertinent information.
This information should assist students who have not yet selected a faculty mentor.

Amir Ardeshir DVM, MPVM, PhD

Dr. Ardeshir is a medical primatologist with interest in gastrointestinal diseases of non-human primates. His research interest lies in the understanding the essential communications of microbiota and immune system. He has worked with STAR students in the past looking at the mechanisms of TLR-ligands on the rhesus macaques ‘immune response. He also has broad interests in application of machine learning in pattern recognition of infectious diseases in non-human primates.

Students will join an ongoing study.

Please contact Dr. Ardeshir at for more information.


Boaz Arzi, DVM, DAVDC

Oral and Maxillofacial Research

My current research fields are 1) regenerating the mandibular bone after resective surgery or due to defect non-unions. This project combines the use of BMP-2 and a scaffold and efforts towards understanding stem-cells recruitments locally and systemically 2) adipose-derived mesanchymal stem cells for the treatment of feline gingivostomatitis. 3) the biomechanics of mandibular reconstruction as dependent on the fixation method. 4) Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders among the mammalian species. These projects extend and bridge the clinical practice at the UC Davis VMTH on one side and basic and regenerative laboratory science on the other side.

The summer STAR project is intended to take place both at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and in my laboratory.

Potential projects for STAR Students for the summer of 2015: 1) The effect of chronic malocclusion on TMJ disorders and 2) TMJ disorders in bears.

Please visit Dr. Arzi’s website at:


Keith Barr, Assistant Professor

CBS: Neuro, Physio & Behavior

Cranial (or anterior) cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs. CCL rupture results in instability within the stifle that initiates a downward spiral of synovitis, articular cartilage degeneration, and eventually osteoarthritis. Currently, intracapsular techniques replace the ruptured CCL with an autologous tissue or synthetic graft. However, these grafts aren't strong enough and so the repair is usually augmented with some form of extracapsular reconstruction. We have developed a viable alternative that should be strong enough on its own to return joint stability. Our unique method uses stem cells to engineer a ligament in vitro. Our current research is finalizing the optimal growth factor cocktail and mechanical intervention before beginning our implantation trails.

Please visit Dr. Baar's website at:


Melissa Bain

Companion Animal Behavior Program

I am an Associate Professor of Clinical Animal Behavior in the Companion Animal Behavior Service. My areas of interest include: prevention and treatment of behavior problems in companion animals, including the use of behavioral modification and psychotrophic medications; client compliance, especially as it relates to the treatment of behavioral problems; dog parks; and other areas of human-animal bond research, including owner attachment. I am open to ideas for research in other areas of behavior and the human-animal bond. Previous STAR projects include looking at: reasons for relinquishment of dogs to shelters in relation to behavior and training; effect of food enrichment in rhinos kept in zoos; effect of enrichment and hiding boxes on behavioral scores of cats in shelters; and the relationship between owner attachment and the term "guardian".

Please visit Dr. Bain's website for more information.


Danika Bannasch

Department of Population Health and Reproduction

Our current and future research plans are directed towards elucidating the molecular basis of inherited diseases in companion animals. We are interested in developing tests to help breeders eliminate inherited diseases in dogs and horses. A large number of the diseases seen in veterinary practice that affect purebred animals have a heritable basis.

Characterizing inherited disease in dogs has the added benefit of providing an animal model for human diseases. Presently we have projects in both horses and dogs.  We are working on the molecular basis of Hoof wall separation syndrome and susceptibility to pneumonia in horses.  In dogs we are working on the molecular basis of Addison’s disease, cleft palate, spinal disraphism, Hypertrophic osteodystrophy and myopia in dogs.

Please visit Dr. Bannasch's website at:


Linda Barter, BSc(vet), BVSc, MVSc, Ph.D.

VM: Surgical and Radiological Sciences

Dr Barter is an anesthesiologist with a 50% clinical appointment to the VMTH split between large and small animal anesthesia. Currently she is researching analgesia and anesthesia in rabbits but is interested in anesthesia and analgesia of a variety of species. Dr Barter works out of a laboratory in Tupper shared by the anesthesia faculty and equipped with anesthesia and physiologic monitoring capabilities.

Please visit Dr. Barter's website at:


Nicole Baumgarth

Center for Comparative Medicine; Immunity to infectious diseases

Dr. Baumgarth is a veterinarian and research immunologist with broad interests in infectious disease immunology. An underlying theme of all research studies in her laboratory is the use of mouse models to dissect the complexity of host-pathogen interactions. For that she has developed new technologies that allow a precise assessment and analysis of in vivo immune events. A major focus of her research involves studies on the regulation of early antiviral B cell immune responses to influenza virus. Ongoing work is directed towards identifying mechanisms by which infection-induced innate cytokines regulate the earliest events that trigger antiviral B cells responses. Members of her lab are working on the concept that innate cytokines regulate the thresholds by which lymphocytes are activated to participate in immune responses in order to avoid the negative consequences of a potentially overshooting immune response (autoimmunity). She is also involved in studies to delineate the causes for the lack of protective immunity to the Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi. Using a mouse model established by her collaborator, Dr. Barthold, they are following their earlier observations that B. burgdorferi subverts the B cell response to this pathogen, with the long-term goal to find targets for therapeutic intervention that could bolster the immune response of an infected individual to clear this bacterial infection.

Please visit Dr. Baumgarth's website at:


Andreas J. Baumler

SOM: Medical Microbiology and Immunology

I am a microbiologist interested in Salmonella pathogenesis and host response. Our group has pioneered the use of a calf model to study Salmonella gastroenteritis and a rhesus macaque model to study co-infections with non-typhoidal Salmonella and HIV. In addition, we use the advantages of the mouse model to study host and bacterial factors involved in orchestrating intestinal inflammation. On the host side, we are interested in pattern recognition by the innate immune system (TLRs, NLRs and complement), pathways that amplify responses in tissue (the IL-23/IL-17 axis and the IL-18/IFNg axis) and effector responses induced in the intestinal epithelium (defensins, lipocalin-2, calprotectin, iNOS etc.). On the bacterial end, we study mechanisms that enable typhoidal Salmonella to evade innate immune recognition and mechanisms that enable non-typhoidal Salmonella to take advantage of the host inflammatory response to out-compete the microbiota in the gut.

Please visit Dr. Baumler's website at:


Rebecca Bellone

Equine genetics and genomics

Department of Population Health and Reproduction

Veterinary Genetics Laboratory

Dr. Bellone is a molecular geneticist whose research interests include elucidating the genetics of economically and medically important traits in the horse as well as traits that serve as models for other species.   Current projects in horses involve investigating the genetic and molecular basis of several pigmentation phenotypes and associated pathologies as well as investigating the genetics of the second most common tumor in the horse, limbal squamous cell carcinoma. The primary research goal is to develop tools that assist animal breeders in making informed mating decisions and work towards better management practices, by understanding the biological mechanisms behind complex heritable traits. Dr. Bellone is passionate about training and working closely with students in her laboratory to assist them in making significant contributions to these projects.

Please email Dr. Rebecca Bellone ( for more information.


Dori Borjesson, BA, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

Stem cells, regenerative medicine, translational research

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr Borjesson a board-certified veterinary clinical pathologist who has a broad interest in the field of regenerative medicine (mesenchymal stem cells), inflammation, cell-microbe interactions and hematopoietic progenitor cells. Currently our laboratory is actively engaged in research on equine and canine mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). We have developed methods to collect, isolate, expand, freeze, thaw and administer equine (bone marrow, fat, umbilical cord blood and umbilical cord tissue derived) and canine (fat and bone marrow derived) MSCs. We have developed mouse, canine and equine models to assess MSC safety and efficacy. Our current research expertise is in MSC biology and immunomodulation. We have recently completed a comparative analysis of the immunomodulatory properties of equine adult-derived MSC and have also begun to define the mechanisms by which MSC alter the immune response and interact with cells of the immune system.  Current projects include 1) using MSCs to treat chronic wounds in horses, 2) evaluating how feline MSCs interact with cells of the immune system to heal periodontal disease and 3) defining how microbes interact with canine MSCs in a model of inflammatory bowel disease.

Please visit Dr. Borjesson's website at:


Alexander Borowsky, MD

Center for Comparative Medicine

Dr. Borowsky is a surgical pathologist with expertise in diagnostic breast pathology. His research is focused on development of a mouse model of prostate cancer, focusing on the molecular pathways that are activated or disrupted in various genetically engineered mice, and correlating these findings with the tumor phenotype. Among genes of interest are tumor suppressor genes such as Nes1, which is down regulated by methylation during early breast and prostate cancer. Conditional targeted knockouts of these genes are being developed in mouse models. These findings are being validated and compared with data derived from human tumors, using microarrays, quantitative RNA and laser capture microscopy.

Please visit Dr. Borowsky's website at:


Jack Bui, M.D., PhD

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Bui’s laboratory studies the molecular basis of tumor rejection by the immune system.  His lab uses mouse models to elucidate pathways that activate appropriate anti-tumor immune responses while blocking pro-tumor inflammatory responses.  He has expertise in primary models of sarcoma and breast cancer, transplantable syngeneic models of various cancer cell lines, and xenogeneic transplantation models of human cancer cell lines.  He is especially interested in mobilizing innate immune cells such as natural killer cells and macrophages to destroy cancer cells.  Dr. Bui also studies human immune responses using flow cytometry assays and is the Director of the UCSD Clinical Flow Cytometry Laboratory.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Barbara Byrne, DVM

Clinical bacteriology


The Byrne laboratory focuses primarily on microbiological questions as they apply to clinical veterinary microbiology. Some research areas include:

  1. Evaluation of the marine health by detection of pathogens in marine mammals, their food sources, and the marine environment and appraisal of their connection with terrestrial sources.
  2. Environmental contamination by zoonotic fecal pathogens.
  3. Genotyping of clinical isolates to determine their relatedness
  4. Use of mass spectrometry for isolate and strain identification

Some possible project areas:

1)     Evaluation of marine mammal isolates for virulence factors
2)     Comparison of clinical isolates for genetic relatedness by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis
3)     Use of mass spectroscopy (MALDI-TOF) to identify and classify bacterial and/or fungal strains

Please visit Dr. Byrne's website at:


Chao-Yin Chen, PhD

Dept. of Pharmacology

Blood pressure and heart rate are regulated by CNS on a moment-to-moment bases. Depending on the interaction between the genetic and environmental factors, the CNS regulatory output can result in either a normal or a pathological outcome. My research focuses on central regulation of cardiovascular function and how this regulation is altered in response to environmental factors such as exercise, stress, exposure to air pollution, hypertension, and obesity. I am particularly interested in how the neurons in the baroreflex pathways change their intrinsic and/or synaptic properties as well as the neurotransmitter/neuromodulator and the receptors involved in the altered regulatory output. Possible summer research projects will be looking at mechanisms underlying obesity-induced hypertension or post-exercise hypotension.

Please visit Dr. Chao-Yin Chen's website at:

Please email Dr. Chen for more information at:


Xinbin Chen, BVM, PhD

VM: Veterinary Oncology, Surgical and Radiological Sciences; Med: Internal Medicine

The p53 family proteins are transcription factors and consist of p53, p63, and p73. Each member regulates a diverse array of both common and unique target genes. These target genes mediate various activities for the p53 family proteins, including the cell cycle control, apoptosis, differentiation, senescence, DNA repair, normal development and tumor suppression. p53 is a tumor suppressor and found to be mutated or inactivated in greater than 60% of all human cancers. Mutant p53 is not only defective in tumor suppression but also promotes tumor formation. However, p63 and p73 appear to be necessary for the development of various tissues and immune response. To address these diverse activities for the p53 family proteins, we focus on the following areas of research: (1) to identify both common and unique target genes for each p53 family member and their functions in tumor suppression and development; (2) to determine the mechanism by which the p53 family proteins differentially regulate gene expression; (3) to determine the mechanism by which mutant p53 obtains a gain of function in promoting tumor formation; and (4) to determine the mechanism by which the expression and activity for each p53 family protein is regulated.

Potential Projects for STAR Students:

  • The p53 pathway, including p53, p63, p73, Mdm2 and MdmX, in dog osteosarcoma, sarcomas, histocytic sarcomas, and melanoma

  • The p53 pathway in cat sarcomas and other cat tumors

Please visit Dr. Chen's website at:


Munashe Chigerwe, BVSc, MPH, PhD, DACVIM

VM: Medicine and Epidemiology

Dr. Chigerwe is a food animal medicine and surgery faculty member. His research interests focus on colostrum administration practices in dairy calves. The colostrum feeding practices include timing of feeding of colostrum, volume to be fed and frequency of colostrum feeding.

Expectations during research projects:
The STAR student will participate in framing of the research hypothesis and recognizing the objectives of the study. The STAR student will help with raising dairy calves (feeding, monitoring health) on UC Davis Campus facilities, collect research samples from the calves and help analyze the samples in the laboratory. The STAR student will participate in writing of the manuscript (first authorship) for peer-reviewed publication.

Possible research: Please send a request for possible research projects via Email.

Previous accomplished STAR projects:

Murphy J (STAR student), Hagey JV, Chigerwe M. Comparison of serum immunoglobulin G half-life in dairy calves fed colostrum, colostrum replacer or administered with intravenous bovine plasma. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology. 2014; 158:233-237.

Please contact Dr. Chigerwe at


Bruno Chomel, PhD, DVM

VM: Population Health & Reproduction

Dr. Chomel is a veterinary epidemiologist whose research is focused on the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases, especially Zoonoses transmitted by bites and scratches. Most of Dr. Chomel's recent work has focused on cat scratch disease in its feline reservoir and has expanded to wildlife infection by Bartonella as a potential source of animal and human infection.
Research is presently conducted on molecular epidemiology of feline and canine Bartonella, and more recently in bats and ruminants (deer and cattle). Dr. Chomel's laboratory is also interested in the vectors of Bartonella, including fleas, ticks and biting flies. Development of diagnostic tools for cat infection and potential vaccines for cat protection to prevent human infection are also conducted in his laboratory.
His group is also doing wildlife serological surveys for zoonotic infections, including grizzly bears from Alaska , black bears from Western USA ( California , Oregon , Washington ), polar bears and more recently wild carnivores (foxes, raccoons, gray foxes) from various parts in the world. His work also involves the epidemiology of rabies virus. Dr. Chomel maintains important linkage with the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the Lyon and Alfort's Veterinary Schools.

Please visit Dr. Chomel's website at:


Bruce W. Christensen, DVM, MS, DACT

Clinical Theriogenology


Dr. Christensen is a board-certified theriogenologist whose clinical work focuses on equine and canine reproduction. Dr. Christensen's research interests focus on endangered species reproduction. He has used domestic species as models for their endangered counterparts, such as using dogs as models for the Mexican gray wolf and horses and donkeys as models for Somali Wild Ass or Przewalski horses. Current research that may involve students includes use of the domestic stallion as a model for wild equids. We are testing the effects of a long-acting sedative, fluphenazine, on reproductive parameters in stallions. Fluphenazine is commonly used in zoo animals during introductions, during stressful events, or to make them a little more tractable over a short period of time. It is not known if the drug affects fertility. We want to evaluate its effects on testosterone concentrations, sperm parameters, and reproductive behaviors. Students would be involved with assessing reproductive behaviors, collecting semen and blood, and performing semenalysis.


Blaine Christiansen, MD, PhD

UCDMC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

My research primarily investigates bone adaptation to mechanical loading, injury, or disease. These projects primarily involve in vivo research in mice and rats, and investigate mechanisms and potential treatments for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. I regularly employ a multitude of research techniques for assessment of bone adaptation including imaging by micro-computed tomography, histological analysis of bone or articular cartilage, survival surgery in mice and rats, in vivo mechanical loading of animals, and multiple molecular biology techniques. Dr. Christiansen may be reached at 916-734-3974.

Please visit Dr. Christiansen's website at:


Lark Coffey, PhD

Mosquito-borne virus, RNA virus genetics, West Nile Virus

Department of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Coffey is a virologist whose research focuses on arthropod-borne virus ecology and evolution with a goal of understanding how arboviruses persist via continuous cycling, how they invade new areas, and how they cross-species to cause human and veterinary disease.

A summer 2015 STAR fellowship project will focus on genetically characterizing West Nile virus from the 2014 transmission season to: a) identify WNV circulating in California, b) determine whether viral genetic changes are present and how current viruses compare to previous WNV isolates, c) evaluate whether WNV genetic changes mediate altered mosquito infectivity or pathogenicity in birds and a murine model of human West Nile disease.

Please contact Dr. Coffey for more information:


Patricia A. Conrad DVM, PhD

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Conrad is a veterinary research parasitologist whose research focuses on protozoal parasites of animals (domestic and free-ranging) and humans, primarily those that infect the blood and/or neurologic tissues. Her research program includes projects that relate to the immunology, epidemiology/ecology and molecular biology of these parasites. At present, her program has a major focus on protozoal parasites that infect marine mammals and humans, many of which are shed in the feces of terrestrial animals, both wild and domestic. These links will help to illustrate Dr. Conrad's research emphases:


In 1998 my research group was invited by The Marine Mammal Center to participate in an investigation of protozoal brain disease in Southern sea otters and harbor seals in California. We isolated and characterized the protozoal parasites Sarcocystis neurona and Toxoplasma gondii from sea otters and harbor seals with protozoal myeloencephalitis in California. We also developed antibody detection to improve diagnosis, demonstrated the high prevalence of infection and mortality due to T. gondii in California sea otters and conducted epidemiologic studies to determine risk factors for transmission of T. gondii to sea otters in California. The results of our sea otter studies provided the basis for our current research which is focused on protozoal pathogen pollution in coastal ecosystems and the ecology of infectious diseases that are transmitted from terrestrial animals to marine wildlife. In this context, we are particularly interested in zoonotic parasites, like T. gondii and Cryptosporidium species, which are transmissible from domestic and wild animals to humans, as well as marine mammals. We are evaluating the ability of filter-feeding bivalves to serve as bioindicators of fecal contamination, providing clues to contributing sources of the fecal load into aquatic ecosystems. We developed quantitative molecular methods, including TaqMan PCR, for the detection and genotypic analysis of these protozoal parasites which are shed in the feces of animals and contaminate watersheds. Identification and characterization of protozoal parasites in bioindicator species and sentinel wild animals, such as sea otters, can provide valuable clues to the significance and sources of fecal pollution in our watersheds and marine environment. Some sources of fecal contamination are controllable, and as we identify contributing sources, we can take steps to better manage human and animal wastes so as to ensure a sustainable and healthy environment.

Our desire to further investigate the ecology of the zoonotic protozoan T. gondii as it is transmitted from the terrestrial hosts (wild and domestic felids) into the marine environment has been made possible with the recent award of an NSF-NIH Ecology of Infectious Disease Fogarty Grant Award in October 2005. In conjunction with these studies we have initiated an investigation into the ecology of S. neurona in coastal California. {Please email for more information}

Please visit Dr. Conrad's website at:


Gino Cortopassi

VM: Dept. of Molecular Biosciences

Humans and animals are susceptible to mitochondrial disease, which can result from toxic or inherited defects in mitochondrial genes and proteins. Signs include lactic acidosis, myopathy and neuropathy. Our research is focused on elucidating mechanisms of mitochondrial disease, and also on high-throughput screening for drug-like compounds that relieve mitochondrial defects in cell models and animals with the disease. Techniques employed include mitochondrial bioenergetics, molecular biology, microarray, mass spectrometry, immunoprecipitation and many others.

Our laboratory studies mitochondrial diseases. These are inherited, neurodegenerative diseases. We study them from the basic biochemical, cell biological, through organismal level. We are screening and identifying therapeutic small molecule drugs to combat these diseases.

Please visit Dr. Cortopassi's website at:


Sheila E. Crowe, M.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Crowe investigates mechanisms of epithelial cell damage in gastrointestinal inflammation to increase our understanding of inflammatory and malignant disorders of the digestive tract. In particular, she studies oxidative damage to epithelial cells by H. pylori, which has been shown to control the transcription of genes that regulate cell growth, repair and programmed death processes. Dr. Crowe was recruited to the Division of Gastroenterology as part of the major expansion of the Digestive Health Research program at UCSD.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Lillian Cruz-Orengo, Ph.D.

Neuroimmunology, sexual dimorphisms, blood-brain barrier

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a devastating disease and the second leading cause of neurologic deficits in young adults, characterized by the  pathological trafficking of autoreactive-leukocytes into the central nervous system (CNS). Sadly, MS exhibits a high sex-bias, affecting three times more women than men. Women commonly exhibit the relapsing-remitting (RRMS) form of the disease, suggesting a role for sex steroids in the neuropathogenesis of MS. The mechanisms underlying sex differences in MS and whether they predominately affect immune responses, CNS susceptibility to inflammation, or both, are unclear. Specifically, my research focuses on sexual dimorphism of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) microvasculature as a relevant contributor to MS neuropathogenesis with the purpose of developing sex-specific therapeutic targets. Towards this goal, we are dedicated to uncovering the molecular mechanism underlying changes in apicobasal polarity of the BBB. Using the chemokine ligand CXCL12, a key regulator of immune trafficking into the CNS as a biomarker we hope to understand how BBB polarity is differentially regulated in females during CNS autoimmunity aiming to the development of treatments that will improve the quality of life of women suffering from RRMS.

Dr. Cruz-Orengo can be reached at (530) 752-7318 or


Ravi Dasu, PhD

Med: Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Dr. Dasu's major research interest is in the role of inflammation in diabetes and understanding the mechanism of inflammatory cellular dysfunction and signaling, and delineating the pathobiology of diabetic complications. He is also interested in wound healing and diabetes. Dr.Dasu employs a wide variety of cell & molecular biology techniques and uses both in vitro and murine animal models for his work. Dr. Dasu's research is funded by the American Diabetes Association (Junior Faculty Award).

Please visit Dr. Dasu's website


Julie Dechant, DVM, MS, DACVS, DACVECC

Clinical Equine Surgical Emergency and Critical Care

Julie Dechant is a board-certified large animal surgeon with a clinical emphasis on equine surgical emergency and critical care. She is also board certified in the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.  Her research interests relate to equine colic and emergency/critical care. Secondarily, Dr. Dechant has developed a camelid-oriented research program, including studies in immunology and pharmacokinetics. If you are interested in these research areas or have ideas for a related project, please contact Dr. Dechant.

Please visit Dr. Dechant's website at:


Wenbin Deng, Ph.D.

Medicine: Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine

I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at School of Medicine. I obtained my postdoctoral fellowship training in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, received my Ph.D. from Rutgers University, and completed my medical education in China. My laboratory conducts basic and translational neuroscience and stem cell research. Emphasis is on molecular mechanisms of neuronal and glial cell death, excitotoxic, oxidative and inflammatory forms of injury to the developing brain, stem cell biology, and regenerative medicine. Potential research topics for STAR students include 1) modeling perinatal brain injury and cerebral palsy in mice to study disease pathogenesis and to evaluate drug efficacy, 2) neuron-glia co-culture to elucidate disease signaling pathways, and 3) embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, and their differentiation towards neural lineages for regenerative medicine.


Please visit Dr. Deng's website at:


Elva Diaz, PhD

Med: Pharmacology

Dr. Diaz is trained in molecular and cellular biochemistry and functional genomic approaches to understanding nervous system development. The two main areas of interest are neural proliferation and synaptic differentiation in rodent model systems. The Diaz lab uses genomic approaches such as DNA microarrays to identify genes differentially regulated in nervous system development. Individual candidates genes are studied with molecular and cellular techniques including primary neuronal culture, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology, and transgenic mouse models. Potential projects include: 1) understanding the role of transcription factors during neural proliferation in the cerebellum and potential implications for diseases such as brain tumors; 2) dissecting the role of a novel family of transmembrane proteins in synapse development and potential implications for neurological diseases such as mental retardation and schizophrenia.

Please visit Dr. Diaz's website at:


Peter Dickinson BVSc, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM

VM: Neurology

Dr Dickinson is a board certified neurologist/neurosurgeon with a 50% clinical appointment at the VMTH. His research focus is on brain tumors and covers 3 basic areas.

1) Molecular characterization of spontaneous small animal brain tumors.
2) Development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of brain tumors.
3) Translation of novel therapies into the veterinary clinic.

Dr Dickinson has a laboratory (Paul & Borghild Petersen Brain Tumor Research Laboratory) in Tupper Hall and collaborates closely with Dr Rick LeCouteur and Dr Robert Higgins.

Projects currently underway include:

  • Characterization of growth factor expression in canine spontaneous gliomas.
  • NF2-gene expression in canine meningiomas.
  • Characterization of 1p19q chromosomal deletions in canine oligodendrogliomas.
  • Adeno-associated viral vector delivery of VEGF-TRAP for the treatment of glioblastoma
  • Convection enhanced delivery (CED) of liposomal CPT-11 for the treatment of canine glioma. (clinical trial)

The laboratory utilizes core molecular biology techniques and has several rodent brain tumor models, including models of canine gliomas that are used to investigate novel therapies.

Please visit Dr. Dickinson's website at:


Sonja Dieterich, PhD

Department of Radiation Oncology

My Research interest: On the human side of Radiation Oncology, I have been working in the field of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for over a decade. SRS delivers very high doses of radiation with submillimeter precision to tumors; early results in local control far exceed traditional radiation regimens. While this treatment modality for cancer has gone from novel phase I trials to general clinical acceptance during this time, much is still unknown concerning the radiation biology and the treatment uncertainty. I believe much can be learned from studying naturally occuring cancers in companion animals vs. the xenografted  mouse models typically used in radiation research.

Potential Summer projects: While the uncertainty of calculating radiation dose and creating the required radiation fluence is well understood, the effect of patient positioning and motion on the accuracy of delivered dose is still relatively unknown for SRS. In-vivo dosimetry using Electronic Portal Imaging Detectors are one possible avenue to study in-vivo delivery accuracy. The summer student would work to implement in-vivo dosimetry, first using very straightforward field geometries on a phantom and progressing to more complex treatment plans in animals. The project would give the student both an insight into cancer treatments, as well as state of the art technology used for radiation treatment delivery.

Please visit Dr. Dieterich's website for more information:


Pieter Dorrestein, PhD

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Dorrestein’s research aims to develop new mass spectrometry based methods to link biological, including disease and health phenotypes to the underlying chemistry and genotypes. In short, he developed tools that translate the chemical language between cells. This research requires the understanding of (microbial) genomics, proteomics, imaging mass spectrometry, genome mining, enzymology, small molecules structure elucidation, bioactivity screening and an understanding of small molecule structure elucidation methods.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Lars Eckmann, M.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Eckmann investigates the cellular and molecular pathogenesis of infections with enteric pathogens and the mechanisms underlying the regulation of intestinal inflammation. His studies employ animal models of intestinal infection and inflammation and apply molecular, microbiological and histological approaches to elucidate the key genes and cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern intestinal host defenses against enteric pathogens and regulate inflammatory responses in the gastrointestinal tract. Current studies define host defense mechanisms against the protozoan pathogen Giardia and the bacterial pathogens Escherichia coli and Salmonella.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Peter Ernst, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Director of the Center of Veterinary Sciences and Comparative Medicine Director of the Division of Comparative Pathology and Medicine
Co-Director of UCVMC
Professor of Pathology, UC San Diego
Professor of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, UC Davis
Our general research interests are in the area of comparative (human to mouse) mucosal immunology with specific projects in immune-epithelial cell interactions involved in the microbial pathogenesis of acute and chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
Link to Dr. Ernst’s current publications
Link to Dr. Ernst’s website

Please contact Dr. Ernst for more information:


Carrie Finno, DVM, PhD

Equine Genetics

Dr. Finno investigates the molecular basis for genetic diseases in the horse and other companion animals. One of the strong translational focuses of Dr. Finno's laboratory is to investigate the role of vitamin E in neurodegeneration using a well-established mouse model and a naturally-occurring model of neuroaxonal dystrophy (NAD) in the horse. Dr. Finno's research is funded by the NIH.

Potential summer projects: (1) Genotyping Arabian horses for a putative mutation for occipitoatlantoaxial malformation (OAAM)   (2) Measuring vitamin E metabolites in blood and urine from NAD-affected horses (3) Genotyping a large population of horses for variants in a dysregulated gene associated with equine NAD (4) Performing genome-wide association studies for equine neuromuscular diseases. These research projects will provide students with training in molecular techniques and provide insight into mechanism of neurodegeneration.


Janet Foley, DVM, PHD

Center for Vectorborne Diseases

Tick-borne diseases

Summer veterinary students have several opportunities from which they can choose a summer project. The emphasis in the laboratory is disease ecology, epidemiology, and theory of infectious diseases, primarily in vector-host-pathogen systems although there are several non-vector transmitted diseases being studied as well. Students should expect to work every day all day, learn laboratory and/or field skills appropriate to their interests and project, and meet with Dr. Foley as early as possible (preferably in the spring) to confirm a project. Skills will be acquired through work with other students, technicians, and faculty in the laboratory; once a veterinary student is comfortable, they may expect to spend much of the rest of the summer obtaining data relevant to their project, analyzing the data with faculty supervision, and hopefully prepare it for publication.

Please visit Dr. Foley's website at:


Pascal Gagneux, Ph.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Gagneux is interested in primate molecular diversity. His lab investigates the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for the generation and maintenance of primate diversity, its potential roles in protecting populations from pathogens as well as potential consequences for reproductive compatibility. He is currently studying cell-surface molecules of sperm cells in closely related primate species. His focus is on glycans, the oligosaccharides attached to glycolipids and glycoproteins of the cell surface. The numerous parallels between the surface molecules of successful pathogens and those found on the surface of mammalian sperm, invite the analogy between internal fertilization and “extremely successful infection”. These interests examine the differences in sperm surface molecules  and sexual selection (via sperm competition and cryptic female choice) and whether such differences might contribute to reproductive incompatibility and speciation due to female immune rejection of sperm with incompatible glycoconjugates. Dr. Gagneux has studied the behavioral ecology of wild chimpanzees in the Taï Forest, Ivory Coast, population genetics of West African chimpanzees, and differences in sialic acid biology between humans and great apes with special consideration of their differing pathogen regimes. His great concern is that the current surge in interest for comparative genomics is not being translated into direct support for the conservation of primates in their endangered natural habitats.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Rodrigo Gallardo, DVM, PhD, dACPV

Poultry medicine, preventive veterinary medicine, virology

My research has been focused in poultry medicine specifically poultry viral diseases and immunology. One of my goals is to use of molecular and conventional virology and preventive veterinary medicine strategies to understand and control poultry diseases. Lately I have been focusing in international poultry work towards village poultry improvement controlling Newcastle disease virus in Central America and Africa.




Melanie Gareau, Ph.D.

Microbiota-gut-brain axis

VM: Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

Dr. Gareau is a physiologist primarily interested in studying the microbiota-gut-brain axis. It is increasingly being recognized that the microbes that live the gastrointestinal tract, collectively referred to as the intestinal microbiota, can contribute to modulating cognition and mood. The research focus of her laboratory is in determining how manipulating the microbiota within the gut, using models of infection with bacterial pathogens or administration of beneficial probiotic bacteria, can change cognitive function, anxiety, and depression-like behaviors in mouse models of disease. Dr. Gareau has a particular interest in how the microbiota-gut-brain axis responds to stimulation with psychological stressors and under conditions of intestinal inflammation, such as in models of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ongoing projects in the laboratory include studying behavior in mouse models of IBD and following pathogenic E. coli infection.

If interested, please contact Dr. Gareau:


Angie Gelli, Ph.D.

Dept. of Pharmacology, SOM

Dr. Gelli's research is focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms that mediate the interactions between the fungal pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans, and the host. The Gelli lab uses a multi-disciplinary approach that combines, cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and electrophysiology to identify and characterize the cell signaling proteins that promote the virulence of C. neoformans. Specific research projects include: Identification of fungal surface proteins that breach the brain endothelium and promote the invasion of C. neoformans into the CNS; molecular and functional analysis of brain endothelial proteins during cryptococcal infection; analysis of gene expression profiles of C. neoformans during CNS invasion; resolving the role of calcium channels in the intracellular survival mechanisms of C. neoformans; performing drug screens to identify small molecules with antifungal therapeutic potential.

Please visit Dr. Gelli's website at:


Damian Genetos, Ph.D

VM: Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

My research focuses upon the skeletal system, its development, and the mechanisms whereby it adapts to changes in the local microenvironment.

The skeleton responds to changes in applied loads. Under conditions of reduced use (as occurs during spaceflight or prolonged bed rest), bone is resorbed; when excess loads are applied, more bone is made, to reduce the stress placed upon them. Osteoblasts, the bone-forming cells, are responsive to a variety of stimuli, and we have begun to characterize the downstream signaling events involved in the conversion of an external load into a bone-forming response. This process is termed mechanotransduction. Current areas of research include purinergic signaling and epigenetic regulation in response to in vitro loading.

I also examine how pericellular oxygen tension affects bone cells bone turnover, and bone repair. The oxygen tension within bone can vary under certain circumstances; for example, fracture and limb unloading promotes hypoxia in osteocytes. In collaboration with a colleague at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, we are examining the influence of altered oxygen tension perception upon Wnt and BMP signaling in mice.

Additionally, we study how aberrant bone formation can cause pathologic conditions, such as vascular calcification.

Please visit Dr. Genetos's website at:


Laurel J. Gershwin, DVM, PhD

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Open Lab: October 17th, 25th, November 2nd (3336 VM3A)

Dr. Gershwin is a veterinary immunologist who studies immunopathogenesis of disease in several species.

1. Current work involves testing in vitro and in vivo anti-viral compounds on bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV), and testing in cattle a new potential RSV subunit vaccine in cattle. Human and bovine RSV are very similar and cause almost identical disease in their respective hosts. We are working with a company that has a prototype human RSV vaccine that will be tested in the bovine system prior to human trials.

2. After having developed IgE assays for the horse, the lab is studying the adverse allergic reactions of horses to vaccine components. We have identified horses at risk for anaphylactic responses after routine vaccination and are ultimately working to develop a platform of assays to predict potential reactors and thus avoid potentially fatal reactions. This project involves evaluation of the immune response of horses by cytokine luminex assays, flow cytometry, ELISA and Western Blot techniques.

STAR projects for summer can involve either of these research areas. Experimental BRSV infection to test a new prototype vaccine and to test anti-virals in vivo are planned and will provide an opportunity for hands on experience with bovine respiratory disease as well as laboratory assays.

Please visit Dr. Gershwin's website at:


Kirsten Gilardi, DVM, Dipl. ACZM

Wildlife Health Center

Dr. Kirsten Gilardi, DVM, Dipl. ACZM is Associate Director of the Wildlife Health Center (WHC). At the WHC, she serves as the Executive Director of the WHC's SeaDoc Society, a marine wildlife and ecosystem health program with on-the-ground operations in Washington state (under the leadership of Dr. Joe Gaydos) and in California, where SeaDoc runs the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. As well, Gilardi co-directs (with WHC veterinarian Dr. Mike Cranfield) the Gorilla Doctors program, a partnership with the non-profit Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project that provides in situ veterinary care to wild human-habituated mountain and Grauer's gorillas in east-central Africa. Gilardi's clinical and research areas of expertise are in free-ranging wildlife health, with a current emphasis on One Health approaches to great ape medicine and conservation, and on marine and aquatic species (population health assessments, impacts of lost fishing gear on marine wildlife).

Please visit Dr. Gilardi's website at:


Cecilia Giulivi

VM: Molecular Biosciences

Bioenergetics: changes in intermediary metabolism with diets deficient of essential amino acids. Role of mitochondria dysfunction in Huntington's disease. Fragile X, ataxia and tremor syndrome. Autism Neurodegeneration in Alaskan huskies Type 2 diabetes. Role of mitochondria in different organs during prediabetes and diabetes. Citrullinemia: changes in nitric oxide pathways in cerebellum. Aging and protein nitration, oxidative and nitrative stress pathways.

Research: My laboratory focuses at understanding the mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction in a variety of phisiopathologies such as triplet nucleotide diseases (Huntington's disease. Fragile X, ataxia and tremor syndrome), autism, and metabolic diseases (diabetes, essential amino acid deficiency, thiamine deficiency).  We use a variety of techniques ranging from biophysics and biochemistry to molecular biology including in silico modeling.

Please visit Dr. Giulivi's website at:


Aldrin Gomes, PhD

Striated muscle disease

Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology

The laboratory investigates cellular and molecular biochemistry and utilizes proteomic approaches to understanding cardiac and skeletal muscle diseases. The two main areas of interest are troponin related cardiomyopathies and proteasome related dysfunction in muscle diseases. The proteasome is investigated at the molecular and cellular level using PCR arrays, biochemical techniques and proteomics. Troponin related cardiomyopathies are investigated in rodent models of hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathies using several biochemical, biophysical and proteomic techniques. Possible summer research projects for veterinary students include 1) mechanisms underlying hyperglycemia-induced changes in cardiac proteasome and its role in diabetic cardiomyopathy, and 2) investigating the role of troponin mutations in a mouse model of restrictive cardiomyopathy.

Please visit Dr. Gomes's websites at: or


Leigh Griffiths, Associate Professor

Cardiovascular regenerative medicine

Department of Medicine & Epidemiology

The focus of my laboratory is to utilize principles of protein chemistry, immunology, cell biology, physiology and biomedical engineering in the formation of functional cardiovascular tissues. The specific tissue engineering approach investigated in the laboratory is to utilize animal derived tissues (xenogeneic), from which the antigenic and cellular components have been removed in order to provide a potentially ideal ECM based scaffold, into which recipient cells can grow to recapitulate the original functional tissue.

Use of xenogeneic ECM scaffolds has already achieved great success in clinical application. However, as noted by the national heart lung and blood institute xenotransplantation working group, antigenicity of the material represents the critical barrier to expanding the use of xenogeneic tissues and organs in clinical practice. Our group has developed methods for identification and removal of antigenic components from xenogeneic tissues and organs, while maintaining ECM structure, composition, functional properties and recellularization capacity.

Please visit Dr Griffiths’ website at:


Paul Hagerman, MD, PhD

Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine, SOM

We have had long-standing interest in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, with a principal focus on the family of disorders involving the FMR1 gene. The gene possesses a non-coding CGG repeat element (normally about 30 repeats) that, when expanded beyond 200 repeats, results in fragile X syndrome, the leading inherited form of intellectual impairment. In 2001, we discovered that smaller (premutation; 55-200 CGG repeats) expansions give rise to a hitherto unrecognized neurodegenerative disorder among older adult carriers; we later named this disorder fragile X-associated tremor/ataxia syndrome (FXTAS). We also identified the molecular trigger for FXTAS (RNA toxicity of the expanded-repeat FMR1 mRNA).
We recently developed the first quantitative assay for the protein product (FMRP) of the gene, and shortly thereafter discovered that there is substantial variation in the levels of that protein among the general population. We are initiating studies to try to alter the levels of both the FMR1 mRNA (reduce) and increase the levels of FMRP, the latter of importance since fragile X syndrome is caused by lowered FMRP levels. Our plan is to initiate such studies in vivo in mouse models. I am a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine (Tupper Hall) of the School of Medicine, and I am actively engaged in several lines of research that are supported by NIH. I would welcome the opportunity to have a Veterinary School student work in my laboratory this summer. 

Please visit Dr. Hagerman's website at:


Bruce Hammock

Pharmacology, analytical chemistry of chemical mediators, regulatory biology, pain

The Hammock laboratory collaborates with the laboratory of Alonso Guedes in the veterinary school to develop drugs to reduce inflammation and pain in companion animals.  Studies are ongoing in dogs, cats and horses.  The drugs work by a new mechanism of action based enhancing analgesic and anti inflammatory natural chemical mediators in a newly discovered branch of the arachidonate cascade.  About 70% of the world's drugs target this pathway.  Studies involve understanding the fundamental mechanisms by which pain and inflammation are reduced, pharmacokinetics of the novel drugs involved, and threapeutic applications.  Broader studies in chemical mediation are described in the laboratory web site.

See for additional information.


Michelle Hawkins, VMD Dipl. ABVP (Avian Practice)

Department of Medicine and Epidemiology School of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Hawkins current research area is in advancing clinical and research techniques aimed at improving the health of wild birds of prey during rehabilitation. Her areas of particular interest include pain management and other therapeutics as well as specific infectious and toxicologic diseases affecting these species. Dr. Hawkins has a number of active research projects, and would be interested in talking to students who have an interest in clinical or basic science research in these areas.

Please visit Dr. Hawkins' website for more information:


Meera Heller DVM, PhD, DACVIM

Large Animal

Dr Heller is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Livestock Medicine and Surgery.  Her research interests are in the areas of innate immunity and juvenile immunity, especially as they pertain to prevention and treatment of calfhood disease. Dr. Heller’s clinical expertise is in internal medicine and surgery of ruminants and swine, with a special interest in goats.  Potential research topics include clinical research or retrospective studies or bench top projects involving in-vitro work with bovine bacterial pathogens and cellular response to infection.

Please contact Dr. Heller via email at


Geraldine B. Hunt

Department of Surgery & Radiology

Geraldine B Hunt is a Professor of Small Animal Surgery, with many years of experience and a particular interest in congenital anomalies and reconstructive surgery. Geraldine Hunt has an active research program into all aspects of congenital portosystemic shunts in dogs and cats, with opportunities to participate in studies regarding diagnostic imaging, biomarkers, regenerative medicine and outcomes after different surgical procedures. Creation of knowledge through clinical discovery is one of the most satisfying aspects of Geraldine's career, and she would welcome the opportunity to share those experiences with her student colleagues.

Please visit Dr. Hunt's website at:


Kate F. Hurley, DVM, MPVM

VM: Dept. of Medicine and Epidemiology

I am the director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program, which is part of the Center for Companion Animal Health. My research interests include infectious disease emergence, prevalence, and prevention in shelters, with a particular emphasis on feline upper respiratory infection. I am also interested in the impact of shelter housing design on animal health, welfare and likelihood of adoption. Previous STAR project evaluated the effect of cage size on expression of normal behaviors in shelter cats.

Please visit Dr. Hurley's website at:


Lynelle Johnson DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM

VM: Department of Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Johnson is a small animal internist with a special focus in respiratory diagnostics and respiratory diseases of dogs and cats. She has a 50% clinic appointment in the VMTH and a research laboratory in Tupper Hall with capabilities for western blotting, polymerase chain reaction, microdissection, and vascular phyiosiology. Recent projects have focused on infectious and inflammatory nasal diseases of dogs and cats and respiratory endoscopy in dogs, cats, and rabbits. I would love to talk with students who have an interest in clinical medicine or in basic science research related to respiratory medicine.

STAR:  DA Kogan, LR Johnson, BK Sturges, KE Jandrey, RE Pollard. Etiology and clinical outcome in dogs with aspiration pneumonia:  88 cases (2004-2006). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 233(11): 1748-1755, 2008.
STAR:  DA Kogan, LR Johnson, KE Jandrey, RE Pollard.  Clinicopathologic and radiographic findings in dogs with aspiration pneumonia: 88 cases (2004-2006). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 233(11): 1642-1747, 2008.
RC Windsor, LR Johnson, JE Sykes, TL Drazenovich, CM Leutenegger, HEV De Cock.  Molecular detection of microbes in nasal biopsies of dogs with idiopathic lymphoplasmacytic rhinitis. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 20: 250-256, 2006.

Please visit Dr. Johnson's website at:


Sree Kanthaswamy, Ph.D.

California National Primate Research Center

My research focuses on primate genetics and forensic DNA analysis. My primate research uses genetic markers to define the population structures of captive and wild populations of non-human primates. I use comparative genomic methods to understand human and non-human primate biology. My forensic science research is based on the analyses of traces of human and animal blood, saliva and hair collected at crime scenes or from civil cases for DNA-typing. My research also focuses on establishing species-specific DNA markers for accurate and precise genetic identification and to enhance our population genetics database for each species. My research activities provide excellent educational opportunities for students.

Please contact Dr. Kanthaswamy at for further information.


Amy Kapatkin

VM: Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Amy Kapatkin is a board certified surgeon with a 50% clinical appointment at the VMTH. Her research focus is using gait parameters (EMG kinetic and kinematic analysis) to access if clinical outcomes are improved after surgery in orthopedic patients. Some of the studies in the laboratory use normal dogs to establish better baselines to study abnormal dogs. The gait laboratory is in the EAPL building. Dr. Kapatkin works closely with the VORL engineer Tanya Garcia- Nolan, Dr. Sue Stover who has an interest in gait in equine patients and Dr. Bev Sturges who is investigating gait for neurological patients.

Previous STAR student projects in the GAIT lab:

  • Effects of trial repetition, limb side, intra-day and inter-week variation on vertical and craniocaudal ground reaction forces in clinically normal Labrador Retrievers
  • Kinetic & kinematic analysis in clinically sound dogs: The effects of morphological parameters on gait
  • Reliability of marker placement in kinematic analysis of the canine pelvic limb

Please visit Dr. Kapatkin's website at:


Philip Kass

VM: Population Health & Reproduction

"My research falls in the realm of companion animal epidemiology: the study of causes of health and disease in populations of dogs and cats. The studies that I do are non-experimental (or observational), and generally (but not always) do not involve in handling animals and do not involve laboratory work. Examples of STAR projects that I have been involved with in the past include studying factors affecting survival in dogs and cats that underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation, factors affecting survival in dogs with peripheral nerve sheath tumors, predisposing factors to secondary glaucoma in dogs, determinants of patient outcome in cases of aortic thromboembolism, prognostic factors for recovery of function following intervertebral disk protrusion in Dachshunds, and evaluation of national trends in the submission of biopsies of suspected vaccine-associated sarcomas. These kinds of studies often begin with ideas formulated by students, and we figure out a way to study them in the time allotted for the STAR program.  I am currently trying to obtain funding to conduct epidemiologic studies into novel statistical approaches to studying possible adverse effects of vaccination on chronic diseases in companion animals."

Please visit Dr. Kass's website at:


Gregory Lanzaro, PhD

Vector Genetics Lab

Variation in maxadilan and its consequences

Maxadilan is a potent vsodilatory protein in the saliva of the sand fly, Lutzomyia longipalpis . Our observation that maxadilan is highly polymorphic was surprising. It would seem that the amino acid sequence of such a protein, with functions presumably vital to the sand fly, would be conserved. We hypothesize that hyper-variation in maxadilan has evolved as a mechanism for the avoidance of host immune response mounted against it. To test this hypothesis we propose studies aimed at determining amino acid sequence polymorphism in maxadilan from Lu. longipalpis (Aim #1). Population genetics studies will be conducted at field sites in Colombia , Nicaragua and Brazil . If variation in maxadilan does represent antigenic polymorphism and is adaptive, then it must be true that anti-maxadilan antibodies have a negative effect on vector fitness. In Aim #2 we propose a series of experiments to test this hypothesis. We will immunize hamsters with recombinant maxadilan. Flies will be fed on immunized and control animals and effects on sand fly fitness evaluated. In Aim #3 we will examine the impact of maxadilan on leishmanial infections. There is compelling evidence that the immunomodulatory activities of sand fly saliva, and maxadilan itself, enhances the establishment of parasite infections. The effects of vector saliva and specific maxadilan proteins on the pathogenesis of Leishmania chagasi will be evaluated by experimental infections (Aim #3). We have discovered that natural Lu. longipalpis populations differ dramatically in the amount of maxadilan present in their saliva. As part of Aim #3 we will conduct epidemiological field studies to determine the distribution of “high” and “low” maxadilan fly populations in relation to the distribution of visceral or atypical cutaneous disease caused by Le. chagasi . In Aim #4, we will study immunological specificity of maxadilan variants. The goal of these experiments is to determine if different maxadilan proteins illicit specific antibodies and to evaluate if these cross react (antigenic specificity).

Population genomics of the mosquito An. gambiae in Africa

Malaria control strategies based on genetic manipulation of vectors will require extensive knowledge of vector population genetics. Critical information includes: population size, patterns of gene flow, the breeding structure of populations and the effects of natural selection on individual gene loci. The overall goal of the proposed research is to provide such a background. We propose to address these questions by: (1) Characterizing spatial variation in the genetic structure of populations of Anopheles gambiae in continental Africa by determining the distribution of chromosomal and molecular polymorphisms. Representative locations will be studied in two countries: Mali in West Africa and Cameroon in Central Africa . The genetic markers we will use include chromosome arrangements, microsatellite DNA loci, and mitochondrial DNA loci. (2) Identifying physical/ecological features and relate these to spatial varoiation in population genetic structure, patterns of gene flow, and as selective forces on individual loci. Migration rates among sites will be established by measuring their genetic similarity, then inferring how much gene flow is required to maintain such observed similarity. Based on this information we will employ a GIS-based procedure termed "Wombling", which will identify areas with high and low levels of gene flow. These will be then be correlated with ecological features determined on the ground and from remote imaging. In this manner ecological features associated with high and low population densities, and also with high and low levels of gene flow can thus be identified. Such information should be helpful to vector control efforts that require an understanding of dispersal and gene flow, including genetic control and insecticide resistance management. The effects of natural selection on individual loci and segregating sites within loci will be studied by taking a population genomics approach. This approach provides the means to study the behavior of individual functional genes in nature, bridging the gap between population genetics and molecular biology.

Please visit Dr. Lanzaro's website at:


J. Kent Leach, Ph.D.

Tissue engineering, bone, biomaterials

Research in the Leach laboratory is primarily in the broad area of TISSUE ENGINEERING. Within our research program, we seek to engineer functional replacement and temporary bridge tissues while also developing model systems to study physiological and pathophysiological tissue formation. We initially develop many of our projects with an eye toward bone tissue engineering, and these findings are subsequently applied to other areas of tissue repair including cartilage and cardiovascular engineering, as well as wound healing.

All projects in the lab are linked by the hypothesis that combinatorial approaches to tissue formation are superior to individual stimulation. More specifically, successful tissue engineering approaches will be realized upon the proper spatial and temporal presentation of cells, signaling molecules, biomaterials, and mechanical stimulation.



Rance LeFebvre, PhD

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

My research interests are currently focused on equine recurrent uveitis (ERU). We were one of the first labs to demonstrate that leptospiral infection was primarily responsible for this chronic, debilitating disease. We successfully cultured leptospires from the aqueous and/or vitreous humor of affected horses. Two of six isolates were unique serovars. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) identified the presence of leptospiral DNA in other affected horses. Future research will entail trying to determine the route of infection (direct inoculation into the eye or systemic). We are also investigating if this is truly a recurrent inflammatory response from an initial infection that transits in and out of latency, or external re-exposure to the pathogen precipitating each event.

A successful STAR applicant will work closely with VMTH ophthalmologists in ERU cases admitted to the hospital. They will also be engaged in the molecular characterization of current and new ERU leptospiral isolates. They will also characterize antigenic profiles of our two unique isolates with a view toward naming two new serovars. Serum collected from ERU horses will be assayed for antibodies to leptospiral serovars as a step in determining if a systemic infection precedes infection of the equine eye.

Please visit Dr. LeFebvre's website at:


Sarah le Jeune, DVM, CVA, Diplomate ACVS

Clinical Equine Emergency Surgery and Critical Care

Dr. le Jeune is an equine emergency surgeon with a strong interest in acupuncture. Research interests include studies investigating the effectiveness of acupuncture and clinical studies on various facets of equine gastro-intestinal diseases and other equine surgical conditions.

Please visit Dr. le Jeune's website at:


Fu-Tong Liu, M.D., Ph.D.

SOM: Dermatology

Fu-Tong Liu, MD PhD, is a dermatologist/immunologist currently serving as Distinguished Professor and Chair Emeritus of the Department of Dermatology in the School of Medicine at UC Davis. His primary research interests encompass molecular and cellular mechanisms of allergic disorders and this includes the studies of IgE, IgE receptors, and mast cells. Current projects in his lab related to this area include the studies of mouse models of atopic dermatitis and the mechanism of anti-IgE therapy for allergy. In addition, his group is heavily involved in the investigation of expression, structure and function of a family of animal lectins, galectins. The research is focused on the roles of galectin-3, -7, -9, and -12 in inflammation, infection, skin diseases, and cancer. 

Please visit Dr. Liu website at:


Paul Luciw, PhD

Center for Comparative Medicine

Dr. Luciw is a molecular virologist who leads an internationally recognized research program that interdigitates with research programs all over campus. His group has expertise in virology, cell biology, and molecular virology. The main emphasis of his research is on molecular mechanisms that regulate replication and pathogenesis of viruses that establish chronic infections. Additionally, knowledge of virus/host relationships is being used to design and test live-attenuated viral vaccines and to develop novel DNA immunization strategies aimed at preventing viral infection. Dr. Luciw's group focuses on lentivirus models for AIDS, including SIV and SIV/HIV chimeras in macaques, and FIV in cats. As director of viral oncology research on campus, he works on herpesviruses in macaques as models for Kaposi's sarcoma. In addition, he is developing novel multiplex detection methods for serodiagnosis of infectious diseases of mice and non-human primates, analysis of cytokines and chemokines in various disease states in animal models and humans, and studies on cell signaling pathways in cell culture models for cancer.

Please visit Dr. Luciw's website at:


Shirley Luckhart, PhD

VM: Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Luckhart's research is focused on the molecular cell biology and biochemistry of the interaction between malaria parasites and their mosquito and mammalian hosts and the functional characterization of primitive orthologs of mammalian innate immune molecules and cell signaling proteins using the mosquito as an invertebrate model. Specific research projects include: identification of signal transduction pathways involved in parasite induction of mosquito innate immunity; analysis of expression, signaling, and regulation of anti-parasite genes in mosquitoes; molecular and functional analyses of immune factors that are conserved between mosquitoes and their mammalian hosts; immunological crosstalk between mosquitoes and mammals at the interface of bloodfeeding; and understanding the role of co-infection (HIV, non-typhoidal Salmonella) on malaria parasite infection and transmission in two animal models.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Luckhart at


N. James MacLachlan, DVM, PhD

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. MacLachlan is a veterinary pathologist and virologist whose research focuses on virus-host interactions in livestock, specifically ruminants and horses. These studies run the gamut of basic aspects of viral pathogenesis through the molecular characterization of the epidemiology and evolution of the causative viruses, and the development of new generation vaccines. The recruitment and training of the next generation of veterinary researchers is one of his highest priorities, thus he advises graduate and aspiring veterinarians working on projects as diverse as Rift Valley Fever (in conjunction with scientists at CDC) and the epidemiology of bluetongue in California.

Please visit Dr. MacLachlan's website at:


David J Maggs- BVSc

Veterinary Ophthalmology

VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences

David Maggs is a veterinary Ophthalmologist with a special interest in ocular surface disease – especially those associated with tear film deficiency and feline herpesvirus.  He has a 50% clinical appointment in the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital where he medically and surgically manages ocular disease in patients of all species. He teaches in the first and third year preclinical curriculum and extensively as a clinical teacher of DVM students and ophthalmology residents within the VMTH. He has a well-equipped research lab and a part time laboratory assistant extremely well versed in many virologic and molecular biology techniques. He frequently collaborates with vision science researchers and clinicians here at UCD and at other university and private practice settings across the world. A search of his publications on PubMed will provide further examples of his more specific clinical and research interests. He has mentored and co-mentored 18 residents in comparative ophthalmology, 2 PhD students, 2 research fellows, and 4 STAR students, and considers this one of the most critical and rewarding aspects of his job.

Visit Dr. Maggs' website for more information.


Maria Marco, Ph.D.

Microbiota, obesity, IBD, prebiotics, probiotics

Department of Food Science & Technology

My research focuses on the roles of dietary and intestinal microorganisms in obesity and inflammatory bowel diseases. We are employing pre- and probiotic components to study the interactions between bacteria and the host that influence immune and metabolic function. The overarching goal of the research is to define the ecological basis and molecular mechanisms by which beneficial microorganisms contribute to maintaining good health. Examples of research projects include: application of pre-clinical models to evaluate the benefits of pre/probiotics to prevent pre-diabetic states or IBDs,  the molecular analysis of host responses to probiotic bacteria and prebiotic fermentable dietary fiber; application of genetic analysis to investigate the function of specific probiotic Lactobacillus secreted factors in maintaining intestinal homeostasis; intestinal microbiome assessments using high-throughput DNA sequencing methods.

Please visit Dr. Marco’s website:


Stanley Marks , BVSc, PhD, Dip. ACVIM (Internal Medicine, Oncology), Dip. ACVN

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Marks is a veterinary gastroenterologist and nutritionist who runs the Companion Animal Gastrointestinal Laboratory. His research group have been characterizing enteric bacteria (Clostridial species, Campylobacter, Salmonella) and protozoa (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Tritrichomonas foetus) associated with diarrhea in dogs and cats, and evaluating diagnostic tests and therapeutic strategies to eradicate the organisms. His group has also studied antimicrobial susceptibilities of Clostridium isolates to commonly utilized antimicrobial drugs, and evaluated the incidence of antimicrobial resistance genes in canine Clostridium perfringens isolates. The GI laboratory is fully equipped for performing aerobic and anaerobic microbiology, parasitology examinations, DNA extraction and purification, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and immunoassays. The laboratory has several ongoing studies evaluating the protozoan, Tritrichomonas foetus, an important cause of bovine infertility and abortion, and a recently characterized cause of chronic diarrhea in cats.

Please visit Dr. Marks's website at:


Beatriz Martinez-Lopez, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

Quantitative epidemiology, risk assessment, spatial epidemiology, modeling

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Beatriz Martínez López (DVM, MPVM, PhD) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, Agricultural Experiment Station (20%) faculty and Director of the UC Davis Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance (CADMS). Her research is focused on the development and implementation of novel epidemiological methods to gain knowledge about the evolution, spread and economic impact of infectious diseases and to support policies. She uses risk assessment, spatial epidemiology methods, molecular epidemiology, modeling or social network analysis to identify individuals, areas and time periods at higher risk of becoming infected and to detect the most important factors contributing to such risk. She is also working in the integration of these and other methods (i.e. data mining, time-series analysis) in operational, web-based, platforms (i.e., Disease BioPortal, with the aim to provide a near real-time monitoring and early warning systems for better prevention and control of transboundary, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases at a global and local scale. She has been working with diseases affecting domestic and/or wild animal populations such as foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, classical swine fever, bovine tuberculosis, Aujeszky´s disease, African horse sickness, bluetongue, avian influenza, West Nile, Rift Valley Fever and diseases affecting aquatic organisms. Many of those diseases are considered to be emerging or re-emerging due to globalization, climate, land use and management changes. CADMS provides a coordinated, interdisciplinary, dynamic environment to develop methods, models and surveillance systems to better prevent, control and eradicate infectious diseases. Currently, CADMS, which accounts with approximately 16 personnel including faculty, analysts, programmers, veterinarians, administrative staff and graduate students, is a FAO Reference Center for modeling and epidemiology and offers diverse opportunities for collaborations in research activities both locally and internationally.

Contact Dr. Martinez-Lopez at


Brenda McCowan, PhD

VM: Population Health and Reproduction, California National Primate Research Center

Building on principles of evolutionary theory and animal behavior, the goal of our research group is to apply current understanding of animal behavior to animal welfare, management and conservation issues, while continuing to expand on this knowledge base. Applied research includes the use of bioacoustics as a conservation and management tool, effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife behavior and communication, effects of social behavior on disease transmission in livestock and wildlife and the use of complexity theory and mathematical modeling as a social management tool for captive exotics, wildlife, laboratory animals and domesticated species.

Please visit Dr. McCowan's website at:


Stephen McSorley, PhD


Dr. McSorley's research is focused on understanding innate and adaptive immunity to bacterial infections particularly at mucosal surfaces. Specific research projects include: examining the role of TLR5 in innate and adaptive immunity to bacterial flagellin; developing a sub-unit vaccine against Salmonella infections; visualizing T cell responses to Salmonella and Chlamydia infection; examining innate activation of T cells during bacterial infections; the role of B cells in immunity to intracellular bacteria. Dr. McSorley's web site:


Matt Mellema, DVM, PhD

VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences

Research interests:

My research program these days is predominantly focused on the recognition and characterization of endothelial dysfunction in naturally-occurring animal models. The predominant models we are exploring at present are obstructive sleep apnea in brachycephalic dogs, ageing in dogs, and reversible endothelial dysfunction in dogs with periodontal disease. We also explore the other systemic effects of sleep apnea in dogs and projects involving coagulation, endocrine function, and obesity would all fit well with our ongoing studies. STAR student projects would likely be incorporated into larger projects within the Bulldog Health Initiative (BHI) run through my lab and/or the comparative sleep medicine program we have started with our colleagues at UCDMC.

Please visit Dr. Mellema's website at:


Stuart Meyers, DVM, PhD

Reproduction, sperm cryopreservation, early embryo development

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

Dr. Meyers is a veterinarian, professor, and researcher in the SVM with special interest in reproduction. Research in our laboratory has centered on optimization of gamete cryopreservation and an understanding of the role of the paternal genome on embryo deveopment and mortality. Our study model is primarily the rhesus monkey and stallion but we also have active research in several other species. Our goals are to first to develop an understanding of fundamental mechanisms of cellular damage caused by low temperature storage, and then to use this knowledge to develop new methods for gamete preservation and subsequent fertility. We use a variety of techniques including flow cytometry and confocal, fluorescence, and electron microscopy to evaluate the integrity of sperm cell organization and cell function. 

Please visit Dr. Meyers's website at:


Themis J. Michailides

Plant pathology, fungal disease, epidemiology, latent infection, disease management, fungicide resistance, mycotoxins, aflatoxins

Plant Pathology, Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center (KARE), Parlier, CA

Dr. Michailides is a leading authority in fungal fruit tree pathology and is nationally and internationally recognized for his innovative ecological, epidemiological and plant disease management studies of devastating diseases of fruit crops such as the brown rot of stone fruit (pre-harvest and post-harvest), Botrytis gray mold of kiwifruit, pomegranate, and pistachio, fig endosepsis and smut of figs, black heart of pomegranate, Botryosphaeria blight and canker of pistachio, almond, and walnut, and aflatoxin contamination of nut crops and figs. We are doing pioneering work on resistance mechanisms of Alternaria alternata and Botrytis cinerea to various fungicides. Our studies also involve the phylogenetic analysis and taxonomy of plant pathogens attacking fruit and nut tree crops and determination of resistance of various tree cultivars to plant diseases.  We focused on detection of pathogens’ latent infections; these studies helped develop practical techniques that are used now commercially by private laboratories to help pest control advisers, California growers, and growers worldwide to make wise decisions regarding disease management. A very recent major accomplishment was the registration of an atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus strain AF36 in pistachio to reduce aflatoxin contamination of pistachio. About 77,000 acres of pistachios were treated with AF36 in 2012 for the first time and about 150,000 to 200,000 acres in 2013 and 2014. We are doing now studies to expand the label of AF36 registration for almonds and figs. Funding and collaborations on these projects include Agricultural Industries in California, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the ARS of the USDA. In addition, there are 9 people doing research in my plant pathology projects at the KARE Center, so there is ample opportunity for interaction with a variety of individuals in an area of fundamental and traditional plant pathology.

Please visit Dr. Michailides's website at:


Mike Mienaltowski, DVM, Ph.D.

Tendon repair, stem/progenitor cell biology

College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

My primary research interests are based in the development, maturation, and repair of musculoskeletal tissues like articular cartilage and tendon. I am particularly interested in how differences in niche affect cells within the environment, especially for bone marrow stromal cells and tendon stem/progenitor cells. Moreover, I am interested in the physiology of usage and elite performance as well as pathophysiology from over-usage, acute and chronic injury for all musculoskeletal tissues on all species as they might be related to use, environment, or genetics, and as they might be related to the manipulation of niche and collagen regulation genes. More information can be found at:

Contact information for Dr. Mienaltowski:  e-mail:


Christopher Miller, DVM, PhD

Center for Comparative Medicine

Dr Miller is a veterinarian, experimental pathologist and virologist who studies viral diseases and viral vaccines of humans.  His lab seeks to define the mechanisms of sexual transmission of lentiviruses and generate critical data on early events in HIV infection that will clarify the biology of transmission and inform vaccine development.

They recently found SIV can be transmitted by penile inoculation and that a full set of immune cells (B cells, plasma cells, T cells, DC) in the foreskin of male rhesus macaques and IgG and antiviral antibodies in the foreskin secretions.  They would like to know if the antiviral immune responses they found in the foreskins of SIV-infected rhesus macaques are also present in men.  Thus, they have secured IRB approval and have begun collecting foreskin secretions from HIV-infected men. Eventually they will determine how best to elicit antiviral immunity in the foreskin by vaccination.

A second current line of investigation is to characterize the initial target cells and dissemination pathways of SIV after penile inoculation using in-situ hybridization and PCR to detect viral RNA in cells and tissues.

A third current line of investigation based on the fact that semen and cervicovaginal fluids from HIV-infected men or women contain antibodies directed against the envelope glycoprotein. Although not formally proven, it is highly likely that virus resident in genital tract fluid is coated with such antibodies to form infectious immune complexes.  They want to know if these antibodies that coat virus in genital tract secretions could facilitate mucosal transmission of HIV.  Thus, they will determine the impact of pH and low concentrations of antibody on transmission efficiency following penile exposure of rhesus macaques to SIV and delineate the role of antibody in selecting transmitter/founder strains of SIV following penile exposure.

Projects for summer STAR students could potentially involve assisting conduct the laboratory assays associated with any of the 3 projects discussed above.  Please contact Dr. Miller about joining his lab meetings on Fridays at 9:30 at the CCM for more in depth discussion about possible STAR projects.

Please visit Dr. Miller's website at:


Lisa Miller, PhD

Immunology, respiratory, pediatric

California National Primate Research Center

Dr. Miller's research program is focused on understanding the relationship between early life environmental exposures, immunity and chronic disease.  We study how mucosal and systemic immunity is established during infancy, and determine the impact of air pollutants, allergens, and infectious disease on childhood health.  A major emphasis has been in the elucidation of mechanisms for immune susceptibility that lead to pediatric airways dysfunction, which may ultimately lead to generation of new diagnostics and preventative medicine.  Current research projects that use both in vivo and in vitro approaches include investigation of the airways microbiome during development, epigenetic mechanisms of air pollutants in chronic lung disease, and maturation of innate immune function in airway epithelium.

Please visit Dr. Miller's website at:


Brian Murphy, DVM, PhD

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

I am an anatomical pathologist with an interest in retroviral pathogenesis.   My laboratory has a feline model of lentiviral latency that we have developed over that last four years and are currently planning an in vivo reactivation strategy in latent FIV-infected cats.    I am also interested in retroviral promoter function and how specific promoter sequences relate to viral tropism an pathogenesis.  Many of these studies involve caprine arthritis encephalitis virus-infected goats or caprine tissues. 

I have a long-standing interest in gene therapy and am developing a method of delivering recombinant feline erythropoietin to chronic renal failure cats affected with nonregenerative anemia. 

Please visit Dr. Murphy's website at:


Christopher Murphy, DVM, PhD

VM: Ophthalmology, Biomedical Engineering, Glaucoma, Corneal Diseases, Wound Healing, Comparative Ocular Anatomy and Physiological Optics

Dr. Christopher Murphy is a clinician-scientist and practicing veterinary ophthalmologist whose laboratories are focused on discovery and translational research. He co-manages a large (approx 30 personnel) highly collaborative interdisciplinary laboratory with Dr Paul Russell, an expert in the biology of glaucoma. The laboratory conducts research at the intersection of biomaterials, cell biology,  biomedical engineering, interfacial science and clinical need. Their laboratories are fully equipped for cell and molecular biology studies as well as in vivo studies. The lab has a fully equipped suite for advanced ocular imaging of the anterior and posterior segment. There are several active areas of research including cell-biomaterial interactions, use of engineering inspired approaches for accelerating wound healing, development of an improved artificial cornea, development of improved surgical approaches for corneal transplantation, biophysical attributes of the extracellular matrix and their relevance to health and disease of the eye, and finally, comparative ocular anatomy and physiological optics. He also has clinical areas of expertise in exotic animal ophthalmology and diseases and surgery of the cornea.

With the breath of projects available, the 1st task for a Star student working in our labs is to identify a project that the student is motivated by and that is accomplishable within the time frame provided.  Murphy Russell Vision Science Lab: Tupper Hall, room 1220.

Please visit Dr. Murphy's website at:


Victor Nizet, M.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Nizet is a Pediatric Physician-Scientist, Infectious Diseases Specialist and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Pharmacology & Drug Discovery at UCSD School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr. Nizet leads a large and productive basic and translational research program focused upon the innate immune system, bacterial pathogenesis and the development of new immune-based infectious disease treatment strategies including novel antibiotics, targeted neutralization of bacterial virulence phenotypes, and pharmacologic augmentation of host phagocyte function.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Sean Owens, DVM

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Owens, DVM, Diplomate ACVP, Assistant Professor, is a veterinary graduate of Colorado State University. Following an internship in small animal medicine and surgery, he completed a fellowship in small animal transfusion medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Animal Blood Bank. Dr. Owens completed his residency training in clinical pathology at UC Davis in 2004, and worked as a clinical pathologist with IDEXX Reference Laboratories, Inc., for two years prior to returning to UC Davis. His research interests include stem cell cell compatibility issues as they relate to the development of cell-derived therapeutics, veterinary blood banking, and equine transfusion medicine.

Dr. Owens may be reached via emial at

Please visist Dr. Owens's website at


Pramod Pandey, PhD

Department of Population Health and Reproduction

My research focuses on understanding of pathogen transport at watershed-scale. I am interested in developing models capable of predicting pathogen influx from crop land and confined feeding operations to surface and ground water. My research is highly interdisciplinary, which involves the basics of fluid dynamics, hydrology, sediment transport, pathogen growth and decay, waste treatment, and water resources management. I use hydrological model such as Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to understand the fate and transport of contaminants. In addition to bacterial analysis in stream water column and streambed sediment, animal waste contamination testing, greenhouse gas analysis, volatile organic compound analysis, and hormone transport, my lab will train students on exploiting GIS and SWAT models for understanding the water quality and quantity problems at large scale. I am particularly interested in research that will directly lead to controlling bacteria transport from dairy waste to ambient water. 

Please visit Dr. Pandey’s website at:


Peter Pascoe

VM: Dept. of Surgical & Radiological Science

My primary research focus is related to opioid analgesics and pain management. I am also interested in gathering data on clinical patients related to anesthetic management.

Potential projects:
Evaluation of analgesics in a clinical setting – this would entail assessing pain in animal in the peri-operative period.
Retrospective evaluation of anesthetic management of certain types of patients
Evaluation of nerve block techniques in dentistry

Please visit Dr. Pascoe's website at:


Joanne Paul-Murphy, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ACAW

Comparative Zoological Animal Research Laboratory

Vet Med: Medicine & Epidemiology

Area of Expertise: Avian and small mammal analgesia, avian and small mammal welfare. This summer’s project may be evaluation of deslorelin implants in rats with mammary tumors.

Please visit Dr. Paul-Murphy's website at:


Niels Pedersen, DVM, PhD

Genetic and infectious and immunologic diseases of cats and dogs

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Pedersen's projects within the Center for Companion Animal Health (CCAH) revolve mainly around infectious and genetic disorders of dogs and cats. 

A list of his research publications, which will provide an overview of his varied interests, can be found at:

Dr. Pedersen prefers students that are committed to spending all of their available time in the laboratory. His laboratory is small, but is well instrumented and managed by an excellent SRA researcher/mentor. His research tends to be of a highly applied or translational nature. A number of small and highly focused projects have been identified during the course of major studies, each involving a number of important research techniques. Projects are designed to be completed in the very limited time period provided for STAR projects and lead to a meaningful scientific publication.

Students interested in any of these areas should contact Dr. Pedersen via e-mailing or phoning (530) 752-7402 to discuss projects that can provide a meaningful summer's research experience.

Please visit Dr. Pedersen's website at:


Patricia Pesavento, DVM, PhD, dip ACVP

Pathology, Viral Diseases

Vet Med: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

The Pesavento laboratory is interested in pathogens that emerge from intensive housing situations such as shelters, or from free ranging wildlife populations. The approach is one of translational research; from examination of the clinical disease and pathology of outbreaks of infectious disease, to molecular and cellular analysis of the causative pathogen/pathogens and their particular virulence.  We extend studies by using cell culture models of primary host target tissues, with the overall aim of the laboratory to form a basic understanding of the pathogen: host relationship. Our laboratory has projects in viral oncogenesis (Raccoon neuroglial tumors) and on emerging viral pathogens (Canine circovirus).

Previous projects accomplished include:
Polarity of Feline Caliciviral invasion of epithelium
Expression of the capsid protein VP1 of Raccoon Polyomavirus
Monoclonal antibodies to the oncogenic Tag protein of the Raccoon polyomavirus

Potential 10 week projects for Summer 2015:
Polyomavirus and brain tumors: identifying proteins that interact with Tag  
Serologic prevalence of exposure to Canine circovirus: a comparison between owned and intensively housed (shelter) dogs

Please visit Dr. Pesavento's website at:


Isaac Pessah

Neurodevelopment, cell signaling pathways, neurotoxicology

Assoc. Dean of Research and Graduate Education

Research focuses investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which neuromodulators, neurotoxicants, and natural products influence Ca2+ signaling pathways in excitable cells (muscle and neurons). The approaches available are highly interdisciplinary and use cutting-edge in vivo and in vitro methods with transgenic and knock-in mice and cells isolated from them. The major disorders currently being studied include malignant hyperthermia (MH) susceptibility conferred by mutations in RYR1 and CACNA1S, FMR1 related disorders, Rett syndrome, and most recently development of model of Timothy Syndrome mutation CACNA1C. Students will be trained basic biophysical, chemical, and cellular physiological methods to answer important questions about etiological factors contributing to neurological and muscle disorders.

Please visit Dr. Pessah's website.


Kent E. Pinkerton, Ph.D.

Professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

1) To take an innovative approach in addressing air quality issues in dairy and cattle operations by the examination of direct health effects on the cardiopulmonary systems of mice and rats exposed to ambient particles using a concentrator system at the Tulare Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center.

2) To examine the effects of environmental factors (gases and particles in the air) on peri-natal development to affect lung anatomy and pulmonary function in the rat. From conception to adulthood in the rats takes approximately 6 weeks, an easy fit for one summer!

3) To measure heart rate variability as an indicator of change in autonomic control in the mouse exposed to Davis, CA summer particulates.

4) To take a comparative biology approach to elucidate mechanistic environmental pathways leading to increased susceptibility (fetal onset of adult disease).

5) To examine the role of secondhand smoke on increased susceptibility to infection (influenza).

6) To explore the role of metabolomics as an early indicator of disease (asthma, altered immune function, increased susceptibility to infection).

Please visit Dr. Pinkerton's website for more information.


Alda Pires, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

Food Safety, Foodborne and Zoonotic Diseases, Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases

VM:  Population Health and Reproduction; Urban Agriculture and Food Safety

Dr. Pires focuses on quantitative methods to identify strategies that improve animal health and control infectious diseases in livestock on small-scale farms. The goals of her research and extension programs are to identify mitigation strategies to reduce the dissemination of foodborne pathogens in pre-harvest small farm environment. She is interested in applying and developing epidemiological tools such as temporal-spatial, molecular analysis and risk assessment in order to support risk-based surveillance and infectious disease control strategies, and the improvement of animal health and food safety.

Potential summer projects: (1) Needs assessment in small-scale farms and urban animal agriculture; (2) Prevalence of foodborne pathogens in livestock in small-scale farms; (3) Foodborne pathogens and risk factors in milk and dairy products in farms with direct-marketing. These research projects will provide students training in field and laboratory work, and introduction to epidemiological quantitative methods.

Contact Dr. Pires at


Maurice Pitesky, DVM

Department of Poultry Health and Food Safety Epidemiology

My focus is on poultry health and food safety epidemiology.   From a poultry health perspective we work on GIS based approaches toward understanding how diseases move in space and time in order to better mitigate the spread of zoonotic and epizoonitic diseases.   

From a food safety perspective my interests are primarily associated with Salmonella.  Specifically from a molecular perspective we are exploring the use of next generation sequencing technologies to better understand the virulence and pathogenicity of Salmonella Heidelberg. 

California is a national and global leader in sustainable agriculture.  Because of this, the development of ‘micro-commercial’ poultry facilities (smaller than 3,000 hens/broilers) has mushroomed.  Due to their relatively small size they are largely ignored with respect to food safety and poultry health.  Our group is interested in learning more about these type of producers in order to understand their practices from a sustainability perspective and food safety perspective.

Possible 10-week introductory research projects include:

  1. Researching the ‘transcriptome’ (i.e. gene expression) of Salmonella Heidelberg.  Student would learn Next Generation Sequencing laboratory based techniques and data analysis tools. 
  2. GIS based tools for monitoring avian diseases.  Student would use ArcGIS based software coupled with other data analysis tools to analyze avian diseases (some background in GIS preferred).
  3. Student would help develop, administer, and analyze data related to micro-commerical poultry production in California.

Please visit Dr. Pitesky's website for more information:


David Pleasure, MD

Dept. of Neurology and Pediatrics, Director, IPRM

School of Medicine:  Neurology and Pediatrics

I am a clinical neurologist (20% time) and neurobiologist (80% time) interested in the pathogenesis and treatment of disorders affecting central nervous system (CNS) white matter, including multiple sclerosis, the leukodystrophies, and cerebral palsy.  Most of the work in my laboratory involves the use of genetically modified mice.  Current projects focus on:  a) the immunological basis for axon loss in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE); b) the use of pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) to enhance remyelination; and c) perturbations in N-acetyl-L-aspartate (NAA) metabolism in Canavan leukodystrophy.  Our laboratory occupies 1000 square feet on the 6th floor of the Shriners Hospital for Children, in the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine (IPRM), on the UC Davis Sacramento Biomedical Campus. I also append my NIH BioSketch.

Click here for more information about Dr. Pleasure

Please visit the IPRM website for more details.

Dr. Pleasure's email


Jon Ramsey, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

My research focuses on energy metabolism as it relates to obesity and aging. Calorie restriction, without malnutrition, is the only intervention that has consistently been shown to increase maximum life span in mammalian species. My research is investigating possible mechanisms for the retardation of aging with calorie restriction. In the area of obesity, my research focuses on the role alterations in energy expenditure play in either assisting or opposing weight loss. Also, I am interested in preventing obesity in companion animals by better determining the energy requirements of cats and dogs.

Please visit Dr. Ramsey's website at:


Helen Raybould

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

My research interest focuses on neurobiology of the gastrointestinal tract. The overall goal of the research is aimed at understanding that mechanism by which neurons that innervate the gut are activated in response to luminal stimuli such as nutrients and how these mechanisms may be altered in disease such as obesity, inflammation and irritable bowel disease. We use a number of different techniques including integrative physiological measurement of GI function, neurotransmitter receptor expression and localization, cell culture and measurement of secretion from endocrine cells, electrophysiological experiments to record nerve activity.

Please visit Dr. Raybould's website at:


Colin Reardon, Ph.D.

Immunology, IBD, T1D

VM: Anatomy, Physiology, & Cell Biology

Dr. Reardon is an immunologist specializing in the regulation of immunology. He is particularly interested in the mechanisms of communication between the nervous and immune systems. Although thought of as disparate fields of study, these two systems have co-evolved and are now appreciated to influence each other. Dr. Reardon’s research focuses on the modification of immune outcomes by neurotransmitters, and on the recently discovered production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (Ach) by B- and T-cells. Dr. Reardon’s research has previously identified that the commensal microbiota is involved in the regulation of Ach production by these immune cells. . Various projects are currently ongoing in the laboratory that will seek to establish the role of specific neurons in modulating immunopathologies, including inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Based on this, testing of small molecule agonists, and neurostimulator devices (in collaboration with biomedical engineers) to modulate immunopathologies will be performed in the laboratory. To accomplish this a variety of complementary techniques will be used including flow cytometry, confocal and intravital microscopy.

If interested, please contact Dr. Reardon


Christopher M. Reilly, DVM, MAS, DACVP

Spontaneous ocular disease, canine glaucoma, ocular neoplasia diagnostics

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology, VMTH

Dr. Reilly is an ocular pathologist, whose research focuses on spontaneous ocular disease in companion animals, glaucoma research (humans and dogs), and ocular oncology/tumor diagnostics. He was trained in ocular pathology at the Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory in Wisconsin, with Anatomic Pathology training at UC Davis, and master's degree in clinical research.

Visit Dr. Reilly's website for more information.  Contact Dr. Reilly at


Sam Ridgway, D.V.M., Ph.D., D.A.C.Z.M.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

President of the National Marine Mammal Foundation
Dr. Ridgway is one of the founders of the Navy Marine Mammal program starting in 1961 and has 48 years of experience in marine mammal medicine and research.
Link to Dr. Ridgway’s current publications
Link to Dr. Ridgway’s website

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Crystal M. Ripplinger, Ph.D.

MED: Pharmacology

Dr. Ripplinger has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and advanced training in imaging and physiology. The focus of her research is on using high-speed and molecular imaging techniques to study basic mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias. Her lab develops and studies pathologic arrhythmias in rodent and rabbit models of cardiovascular disease including healed myocardial infarction, acute ischemia, and heart failure. In vivo and ex vivo imaging on hearts of these animals is then performed to elucidate arrhythmia triggers and discover new anti-arrhythmic strategies. Possible summer research projects for veterinary students include 1) investigating mechanisms of triggered arrhythmias in a rabbit model of heart failure; and 2) investigating the role of inflammation in mediating arrhythmia following myocardial infarction. Both projects involve rodent and rabbit surgery, in vivo and ex vivo imaging, and image analysis.

Please email Dr. Ripplinger for more information at: or call (530) 752-1569.


Jesus Rivera-Nieves, M.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Rivera-Nieves works on the pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease. Leukocytes of the granulocytic, monocytic and lymphocytic lineages are active participants in the chronic inflammatory process. Their recruitment from the circulation is regulated by adhesion molecules and chemokine receptors interacting with their respective ligands expressed or presented by intestinal endothelia cells. These adhesive interactions represent attractive therapeutic targets for the modulation of the destructive chronic inflammatory process. Proof of concept for the viability of this strategy has been provided by the efficacy of natalizumab, which interferes with integrin alpha-4-VCAM-1, MAdCAM-1 interactions. Using novel murine models of Crohn’s-like ileitis, Dr. Rivera-Nieves has continued to explore potential molecules that may be targeted, within the leukocyte recruitment cascade.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Duane A. Robinson, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl ACVS

Orthopedic Infections/bacterial biofilms

VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences, Orthopedic Surgery

Current research is related to implant associated infections and bacterial biofilms. I also have interest in clinical orthopedic research and implant use/testing. I have a 50% appointment within the VMTH where I work on the Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery service. I am a member of the J D Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory ( collaborating with Drs. Kapatkin, Stover and Arzi as well as Tanya Garcia-Nolen who is the VORL engineer. 

Potential projects include those related to mechanical testing of orthopedic implants/constructs to molecular methods of diagnosing/characterizing implant associated infections. 

Please contact Dr. Robinson at:


Carlos O. Rodriguez, Jr., DVM Ph.D. DACVIM


VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences, VMTH

Dr. Rodriguez is one of four medical oncologists working out of the VMTH. His main focus in the laboratory is on the cellular pharmacology (pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics) of nucleoside analogues in vitro. Experiments are designed to better understand these drugs, how they work, and how to make them more efficacious in tumors of veterinary importance. Data obtained in these in vitro studies directly translate to applications in the clinic. Techniques used are cell culture, clonogenic assay, MTS/MTT assay, flow cytometry, HPLC, Western blotting, PCR. Clinical samples are assayed by HPLC. There are bladder tumor and osteosarcoma projects that could be accomplished by STAR students during the summer.

Email Dr. Rodriguez for more information:


Michael Rogawski, MD, Ph.D.

Department of Neurology

Dr. Rogawski is a neurologist and pharmacologist whose research focuses on new treatment approaches for epilepsy, headache and other neurological conditions. Students in the STAR program will work with a senior researcher in Dr. Rogawski's laboratory on an independent project related to one of the diverse projects of interest to the group. Research in the laboratory utilizes animal models and also cellular electrophysiology (brain slice and tissue culture) as well as molecular approaches. Students have an opportunity to gain experience with animal surgery and testing in various neurobehavioral and seizure paradigms. The laboratory operates a UPLC-quadrapole mass spectrometer for pharmacokinetic studies.  Some of the therapeutic strategies under investigation include: AMPA receptor antagonists, neuroactive steroids, inhaled anticonvulsants, and local delivery of anticonvulsants (convection-enhanced delivery). Students successfully completing a summer project may have an opportunity to present their research at a national meeting.

Please visit Dr. Rogawski's website at: or


Benjamin Sacks, Ph.D.

Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Canid Genetics & Population Health

The Canid Diversity and Conservation Laboratory specializes on ecology and conservation of wild canids and other carnivores, including the application of genetic techniques, disease surveillance, and field methods (see web site below). STAR students will initially learn necessary skills from students, technicians, and faculty, and will spend most of the summer collecting data for their project under faculty supervision.

Please visit Dr. Sacks's website at:

For the laboratory and projects, visit


Karen Shapiro, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

Waterborne zoonoses

VM: Pathology, Microbiology, & Immunology

Dr. Shapiro is an infectious disease researcher focusing on transmission of zoonotic pathogens that pose a health risk to wildlife populations and people through water or food. Her research program targets the transport and fate of zoonotic pathogens in watersheds and coastal ecosystems; effects of landscape change and climate variability on disease transmission; impacts of water scarcity and impaired quality on human and animal population health, and food safety. Specific projects where STAR students could become involved with include molecular characterization of Toxoplasma gondii and transport dynamics of fecal pathogens in kelp forest ecosystems. 




Christina Sigurdson, DVM, Ph.D., DACVP

Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology, UC Davis

Department of Pathology, UC San Diego

Our laboratory investigates the spread of prion diseases. We are focused on understanding the molecular basis for prion transmission between species, for example, human and animal susceptibility to prions of deer and elk, known as chronic wasting disease. To this end, we have identified a  loop region in the prion protein that has a major impact on the cross-species transmission of prions. We also study how the biophysical properties of the prion aggregate enable or prevent prion spread into the brain, leading to fatal neurodegeneration.

A second area of interest is in understanding the molecular basis of a highly prevalent amyloid disease that is occurring in island foxes off the coast of southern California.

We would welcome veterinary students to our laboratory at UC San Diego to participate in projects related to either prion disease or island fox amyloidosis.

Please visit Dr. Sigurdson’s website at:


Woutrina Smith, DVM, Ph.D.

Infectious disease epidemiology

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Smith is an infectious disease epidemiologist with a special interest in One Health and the molecular epidemiology of zoonotic diseases. She works at local and global study sites where interactions among humans, animals and their environments lead to research questions that can be addressed using laboratory and fieldwork approaches to characterize and manage health at an inidividual, population, and ecosystem level. Her research involves zoonotic protozoa such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and Toxoplasma, as well as bacteria that include Mycobacterium, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.

Please visit Dr. Smith at:


Jay Solnick, MD, Ph.D.

MED: Infectious Diseases

Dr. Solnick is a microbiologist and infectious disease physician whose research seeks to understand the pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes peptic ulcers and gastric cancer. There are two major lines of investigation in his laboratory. First, how does the bacterium modify outer membrane proteins and other surface structures to avoid host immunity and persistently colonize the gastric epithelium? Second, what is the role of defensins and other innate immune effectors in the chronic colonization by H. pylori? These and related questions are addressed using a wide range of molecular and biochemical methods, as well as primate and murine animal models.

Please visit Dr. Solnick's website at:


Ellen E. Sparger DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM

VM: Department VM Medicine and Epidemiology

Research Interests:
SIV vaccine development using attenuated rhesus CMV vaccine vectors with TLR 5 ligands as adjuvants.
Assessment of antiviral cellular immune responses in the prevention of FIP in cats infected with feline infectious peritonitis coronaviruses.
Assessment of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) as targets for cancer therapeutics in feline oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC).

Project Appropriate for a Star Student Summer Project:
A feasible project for a Star Student would involve examination of tumor biopsies from clinical cases of feline OSCC for expression and mutation of specific RTKs. This project would include extraction of DNA and/or RNA from tumor tissues followed by PCR amplification of sequences specific to RTKs, including epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and cKit and possibly other RTKs. PCR products would next be sequenced for detection of possible mutations involving activation domains of these proteins. The student involved in this project would perform research in the laboratory of Dr. Sparger but also work with Dr. Katherine Skorupski in the Veterinary Oncology Service to facilitate the collection of biopsies from clinical patients as well as become familiar with this significant cancer entity in cats for which there is no effective therapeutic protocol. Assimilation of clinical data with correlation of RTK expression and sequence will require the student to work closely with both Drs. Sparger and Korupski. Assessment of RTKs in feline OSCC will be critical for determination of which tyrosine kinase inhibitors currently in use for human OSCC, might be effective for feline OSCC as well. This project is part of a larger effort by Drs. Sparger, Korupski, Michael Kent, Boaz Arzi, and Brian Murphy to characterize feline OSCC as a model for human head and neck cancer.

Please visit Dr. Sparger's website at:


Michelle Steffey

VM: Center for Companion Animal Health

Dr. Steffey is an Assistant Professor of Small Animal Soft Tissue Surgery, with a 50% clinic appointment in the VMTH. Her areas of particular interest include surgical oncology, minimally invasive surgery, and interventional radiology. Dr. Steffey has a number of active research projects, and would be interested in talking to students who have an interest in clinical or basic science research in these areas.

Please visit Dr. Steffey's website at:


Joshua Stern, DVM, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology)

Cardiac genetics and pharmacogenetics

VM: Department of Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Stern is a cardiologist and geneticist in the department of Medicine and Epidemiology.  His lab investigates inherited heart disease in companion animals and pharmacogenomics.  Currently Dr. Stern is working on projects related to the inheritance of valvular degeneration in Whippets and Cavaliers, congenital heart defects in Golden Retrievers and the effect of genetic variation on the ways that common cardiac medications are metabolized. 

In addition to the benefit of identifying genetic defects associated with heart disease in companion animals, many of these projects may overlap and provide continued research opportunities on a comparative medicine basis. 

Please visit Dr. Stern’s website at:


Susan Stover, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl ACVS

JD Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory 

Dr. Stover's research focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, predominantly in horses, but also in small animals. She specialized in equine surgery and lameness until devoting full time to research on musculoskeletal biomechanics and on the causes (epidemiology), development (pathology), and prevention (biomechanics) of musculoskeletal injuries in equine athletes. Current research focuses include 1) the effects of race surface and horseshoes on limb biomechanics (and thus risk for injury), 2) Racing Injury Prevention Program, and 3) investigating a systemic bone fragility syndrome that causes pathologic fractures in horses.

Her laboratory supports the research of undergraduate, professional (DVM), graduate, and postdoctoral students, as well as, clinical residents.  LAB:  Rm 1305 VM3A

Please visit Dr. Stover's website at:


Jane Sykes BVSc(Hons), Ph.D.

VM: Dept. of Medicine and Epidemiology

Dr. Sykes is board-certified in small animal medicine and has a 50% clinical appointment in the VMTH. Her specific research interests are in small animal infectious diseases, and she has a research laboratory in Tupper Hall. She also has an interest in immune-mediated diseases of dogs and cats.

Projects currently underway include research on the following diseases of dogs and cats:

  • Canine and feline hemoplasmas; these are bacteria that infect red blood cells and are associated with anemia in dogs and cats
  • Infections with invasive streptococci (‘flesh-eating' bacteria)
  • Bacterial endocarditis in dogs
  • Canine immune-mediated polyarthritis

Examples of projects for STAR students include these as well as projects on:

  • Chlamydiosis, a cause of conjunctivitis in cats
  • Cryptococcosis, a fungal infection of dogs and cats
  • Leptospirosis, a bacterial zoonosis that causes liver and kidney failure in dogs
  • Immunosuppression and infectious diseases
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus and other immune-mediated diseases

Tools used in her laboratory include polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, Western blotting, cell culture, cloning, sequencing, and statistical analysis software. Her laboratory interacts frequently with other infectious disease researchers on campus.

Please visit Dr. Sykes's website at:


Fern Tablin, BA, Ph.D., VMD

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

The Tablin laboratory is interested in all things “platelet”. The two main foci of the laboratory are the effects of air pollution and particulate matter on thrombosis and hemostasis in a rodent model system, and platelets in health and disease of small animals.

 Opportunities for STAR projects involve our current studies in platelet activation in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and in animals with bacterial infections use biochemical and flow cytometric analysis to evaluate blood cell interactions and inflammatory cytokine release. 


Swee Teh, Ph.D.

Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology

Independent research in the fields of developmental biology, nutrition, pathology, and ecotoxicology. Special emphasis on adverse effects of environmental endocrine disruptors and other contaminants in the embryonic development, growth, and reproduction of invertebrates, fish and shellfish populations. Development of biomarkers of exposure and deleterious effects in aquatic organisms. Development of a screening assay for endocrine disrupting chemicals utilizing microarray technology.

Research will include:

1. The culture of native (salmon, delta smelt, and splittail) and surrogate (Medaka) fish models for use in carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and toxicants testing;
2. Design QA/QC & safety protocols for animal care & exposure experiment. Acute and chronic toxicity testing of contaminants and toxicants using native and non-native fish;
3. The long-term, sublethal growth and reproductive effects of fish exposed to contaminant-laden diets (metals, and organic chemicals including endocrine disruptors and pesticides);
4. Development and use of biochemical, molecular, and histopathologic indicators (biomarkers) of exposure to determine the sublethal deleterious effects of environmental pollutants on fish and aquatic invertebrate populations;
5. Development and the application of toxicogenomics in aquatic toxicology testing;
6. Effects of toxicants on quality and quantity of food chain organisms and resultant consequences on the higher trophic organisms.
7. Integrate growth, biochemical, molecular, histopathologic, and reproductive indicators into an individual and population health effects and extrapolation of population level effects to ecosystem health effects.

Active Projects's

1. Groundwater ambient monitoring and assessment program - Hexavalent chromium and endocrine disrupting chemicals.
2. Using a Sensitive Japanese Medaka (Oryzias Latipes) Fish Model for Endocrine Disruptors Screening.
3. Histopathological examinations of larval and juvenile pelagic fish.
4. Biomass and Toxicity of a Newly Established Bloom of the Cyanobacteria Microcystis Aeruginosa and its Potential Impact on Beneficial Use in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Please visit Dr. Teh's website at:


Lisa A. Tell, DVM

Department of Medicine and Epidemiology

Dr. Tell is the Director of the Veterinary Drug Residue Laboratory and serves as the Regional Director for the Minor Use Animal Drug and the Food Animal Avoidance Database Programs. She has been a full-time faculty member of the School of Veterinary Medicine since 1994. Dr. Tell's research interests are veterinary drug pharmacokinetic studies for zoological and food animal species. She has a particular interest in treatment options for fungal diseases in birds.

Research studies in Dr. Tell's laboratory vary from pivotal data studies seeking label claims for minor food animal species (particularly goats) to clinically related pharmacokinetic studies for companion birds. Many of the food animal related studies focus on drug residues and residue avoidance in the interest of protecting public health. Research experience gained from working in Dr. Tell's laboratory varies from the in life phase of the pharmacokinetic study to the good laboratory practice bench-top research activities.

Dr. Tell is also the lead investigator for the UC Davis Hummingbird Health program that investigates diseases in free ranging hummingbirds in California.  This program bands the birds, takes biometric measurements, and evaluates birds for infectious diseases.



Sara Thomasy, Dip. ACVO, DVM, Ph.D.

Corneal endothelial disease, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), corneal wound healing, glaucoma

VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences

Dr. Sara Thomasy is a veterinary ophthalmologist and clinician-scientist with strong interests in advanced ocular imaging, corneal disease and glaucoma. She is a member of the Murphy-Russell laboratory, a large (approx 15 personnel) highly collaborative interdisciplinary laboratory which conducts research at the intersection of biomaterials, cell biology,  biomedical engineering, interfacial science and clinical need. Their laboratories are fully equipped for cell and molecular biology studies as well as in vivo studies. The lab has a fully equipped suite for advanced ocular imaging of the anterior and posterior segment.  With the breath of projects available, the initial task for a STAR student working in our labs is to identify a project that the student is motivated by and that is accomplishable within the time frame provided.  

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Murphy Russell Vision Science Lab: Tupper Hall, room 1220;

Faculty website pg:


Nam K. Tran, PhD, MS, FACB

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

My research focuses on the development and implementation of innovative biomedical devices and technologies for improving the quality of patient care. These technologies include molecular pathogen detection methods for early detection of sepsis, novel biomarkers of acute kidney injury, and point-of-care devices (i.e., medical testing at or near the site of patient care) for testing in emergency medicine and critically ill populations. Our team works closely with Biomedical Engineering, as well as the Divisions of Burn Surgery, and Trauma/Emergency Surgery from the School of Medicine. We are also heavily involved with clinical trials including a large multicenter randomized controlled study evaluating the impact of quantitative, PCR-based detection of Staphylococcus aureus in burn sepsis patients. Translational studies with the veterinary medicine involve the development of innovative “virtual autopsy (necropsy)” methods and post-mortem visualization techniques, and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) modeling of drugs in both animal and human models of injury.

Potential projects for STAR Students include:

(1) Development of a translational virtual autopsy/necropsy tools for enhancing post-mortem analysis and medical education.

(2) PK/PD modeling of ketamine in critically ill patients (potential work with Primate Center)

(3) PK/PD modeling of antimicrobial therapy in severely burned patients

(4) Clinical utility of biomarkers for predicting perioperative coagulopathy in severely burned patients

(5) Validation of high-performance point-of-care glucose, beta-hydroxybutyrate, and lactate testing in veterinary populations


Please visit Dr. Tran's website at:


James S. Trimmer, Ph.D.

Director, UC Davis/NIH NeuroMab Facility

James S. Trimmer studies how voltage-gated ion channels are modulated in response to physiological and pathophysiological alterations in hippocampal neuronal activity. His primary experimental approach is to manipulate hippocampal neuronal activity, in either animals in vivo, in organotypic slice cultures or in dissociated neuronal cultures, and analyze effects on phosphorylation as a regulator of ion channel expression, localization and function. These studies use time-lapse and confocal imaging, patch-clamp recording, analyses of phosphorylation state employing phospho-specific antibodies and mass spectrometry, immunohistochemistry, and immuno-electron microscopy. Much of our recent work involves the colocalization of ion channels proteins to specific sub cellular domains, a subject that would be greatly enhanced by studies at the ultra structural level. Access to this highly specialized technology is absolutely essential for our future research plans.

Please visit Dr. Trimmer's website at:


Laura S. Van Winkle, Ph.D., DABT

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

My research focus is on toxicology and pulmonary cell biology. I study cellular responses in the lung.. Airways are a key site for many human lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis and lung cancer. Exposure to toxic air pollutants contributes to development of these diseases in humans and animals. We utilize unique in vivo and in vitro models to study conducting airway epithelial injury and repair in diverse species from mice to monkeys. We have a substantial archive of tissue sections.  My laboratories are located at the Center for Health and the Environment. Projects available include studies of: 1) The effect of inhaled particles on airway toxicology and histopathology in rats 2) Effect of inhaled toxic vapors, such as naphthalene on cytotoxicity in the nose and lung 3) using molecular approaches to define how bisphenol A disrupts lung development and 4) the influence of inhaled nanoparticle shape on toxic outcomes.

Students are invited to participate in any of these ongoing projects. Students may also conduct an original project of special interest to be completed during the summer session. Ongoing research is supported by funding from several grants from NIH.

Please visit Dr. Van Winkle's website for more information.


Ajit Varki, M.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Dr. Varki’s research interests are focused on a family of sugars called sialic acids and their roles in biology, evolution and disease. Sialic acids are found at the outermost position on the glycan chains of all vertebrate cell surfaces and glycoproteins and the highest levels are found in the nervous system. Currently, active projects are relevant to the roles of sialic acids in microbial infection; the regulation of the immune response; the progression of cancer and unique aspects of human evolution. Dr. Varki is particularly interested in understanding the multiple differences in sialic acid biology between humans and the closest evolutionary cousins, the great apes. These differences are a signature of the events that occurred during the last few million years of human evolution and may be relevant to understanding aspects of the current human condition, both in health and disease.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Nissi Varki, M.D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Director of Histopathology Resources, Cancer and Mouse Histopathology
Professor of Pathology

Our research interests are to define the role of selectins in tumor metastasis. We are working toward an understanding of the uniqueness of human carcinogenesis. We also study the histopathology of antiangiogenic agents in mouse models and the immunological mechanisms of gastrointestinal mucosal epithelia.
Link to Dr. Varki’s current publications
Link to Dr. Varki’s website

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Frank J.M. Verstraete, DrMed Vet, MMed Vet, DAVDC, DECVS, DEVDC

VM: Surgical and Radiological Sciences

My primary research interest is comparative oral pathology: the study of oral and dental diseases, as well as temporomandibular joint problems, in various species, including the similarities and differences in nature and occurrence of these diseases.

The examination of mammalian skull collections for dental and temporomandibular lesions is an established method of determining the nature and prevalence of oral pathology in a particular species. If performed correctly, such studies can reveal valuable information pertaining not only to the dental diseases occurring in the species, but also to systemic diseases, diet, and behavior. Such studies may also contribute to the understanding of oral diseases in related domestic species.

The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco houses a treasure-trove of skulls and is within driving distance from Davis. Its Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy is eager to make its collection available for studies in comparative dental and temporomandibular joint pathology.

Potential projects for STAR Students in 2015 are:

The dental pathology of the mountain lion (Puma concolor)
The dental pathology of the black bear (Ursus americanus), grizzly bear (U. arctos spp.) and polar bear (U. maritimus)
The dental pathology of the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
The dental pathology of the coyote (Canis latrans)
The dental pathology of the gray wolf (Canis lupus)
The dental pathology of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

 Please visit Dr. Verstraete's website at:


Stephanie Venn-Watson, DVM, MPH

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Director of the Translational Medicine & Research Program

National Marine Mammal Foundation
Dr. Venn-Watson has served as a veterinary epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and since 2001, has studied marine mammal health and disease with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, and the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Dr. Venn-Watson's current One Health & translational research focuses on finding common ways to detect, prevent, treat, and cure diabetes, aging-associated diseases, and infectious diseases in human and marine mammal patient populations.

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information


Martin Vidal, BVSc, MS, PhD, MRCVS, Dipl ACVS

Vet Med: Surgical and Radiological Sciences

Dr. Martin Vidal is a board-certified equine surgeon with a 50% clinical appointment at the UC Davis VMTH.

Dr. Vidal's primary research interests are equine orthopedic diseases with a focus on the comparative biology and application of equine somatic stem cells from different tissue sources for regenerative tissue repair of equine tendons and ligaments. Dr. Vidal's laboratory focuses on cell and molecular biology and is housed within the JD Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory in VM3A.

Current projects in Dr. Vidal's laboratory include (1) the investigation of tenogenic differentiation potential of human and equine somatic stem cells, (2) functional enhancement of sinew in response to growth factor supplementation in an in vitro ligament model, (3) matrix improvement of sinew through scaffolding in stem cell cultures, (4) clinical delivery, distribution and homing of labeled stem cells through intravascular perfusion in horses.

Please visit Dr. Vidal's website at:


Joseph Vinetz, M. D.

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Department of Medicine, UC San Diego

Dr. Joe Vinetz is an infectious disease clinician and scientist investigating brucellosis, malaria, and leptospirosis. One student summer project would be to assess the public health effect of goat vaccination on human brucellosis in Peru.  Brucellosis due to Brucellosis melitensis has long been endemic in Peru.  From 2005-2010, the human brucellosis incidence markedly declined, which seems to be due to vaccination of goats with the Rev-1 vaccine.  Dr. Vinetz has high level contacts in the Peruvian Office of General Epidemiology, the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture and the Peruvian National Institute of Health, which, in combination with faculty contacts based at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and the University of California San Diego, will allow a motivated student to obtain country-wide data towards analyzing the human and animal brucellosis trends in Peru.

Note: Student must be fluent in Spanish

Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information

Please visit Dr. Vinetz's website for more information:


Dennis Wilson, DVM, Ph.D.

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Dr. Wilson is a veterinary pathologist whose research area is cardiopulmonary pathology. His laboratory investigates the anatomic manifestations of vascular remodeling in pulmonary hypertension and atherosclerosis using fluorescence microscopy and immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy and ultrastructural analysis. These studies are done in concert with investigations in endothelial cell biology including signal transduction, cell cycle analysis, mechanisms of microvascular permeability and proteomic evaluations of targets for endothelial cell toxins. A developing area in his laboratory is the effect of environmental particulates on cardiovascular disease using mouse models of atherosclerosis.

Please visit Dr. Wilson's website at:


Clare Yellowley

Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

Dr Yellowley is a orthopedic cell biologist in the department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology in the Vet School. We are focused on normal bone physiology, bone pathology (fracture) and bone tissue regeneration. We employ both in vitro cell culture models and in vivo fracture models. Our current projects involve assessing the influence of mechanical load and oxygen availability on bone cell signaling and the ability of stem cells to enhance fracture healing.

Please visit Dr. Yellowley's website at:


Michael Ziccardi, DVM, Ph.D.

Wildlife health, epidemiology, ecotoxicology

VM: Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Michael Ziccardi DVM MPVM PhD is Associate Director of the Wildlife Health Center (WHC). At the WHC, he serves as the Director of the WHC's Oiled Wildlife Care Network, an extensive oil spill preparedness, response, and research program responsible for animal care throughout California, but also participating in emergencies and contingency planning worldwide. Ziccard's clinical and research areas of expertise are in free-ranging wildlife health, with an emphasis on epidemiology. His current research focus is on the effects of petroleum on marine species.

Please email Dr. Ziccardi for more information at:


Chengji Zhou, Ph.D.

Med: Cell Biology & Human Anatomy

Chengji Zhou is Associate Professor at the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine and the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy, School of Medicine. The Zhou lab studies birth defects and regeneration using genetically modified Wnt signaling mutant mouse models. Potential research projects for STAR students include the studies of Wnt signaling in organogenesis and related disorders, stem cell functions, and tissue injuries and repairs. Please visit the website of the Zhou laboratory at  Please contact Dr. Zhou for further information.

Please email Dr. Zhou for more information at: