Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Occasionally, faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine have research projects that accept undergraduate students to work as assistants and/or volunteers.

The list below includes SVM faculty who have expressed willingness to take undergraduate students into their laboratories and allow them to gain first-hand experience in a working research lab.

Lillian Cruz-Orengo, Ph.D.

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). 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. This study relies on the mouse model for MS called Experimental Autoimmune Encephalitis or EAE. Additionally, we are working on developing a model to assess BBB disruption resulting from environmental exposure using zebrafish.

Please contact Dr. Cruz-Orengo for more information: cruzorengo@ucdavis.edu

Carrie Finno, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM (Large Animal Internal Medicine)

Equine Genetics (Large Animal Internal Medicine)

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, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation, the American Quarter Horse Association and the Center for Equine Health at UC Davis.

Current projects for undergraduates: (1) Perform qRT-PCR on genes of interest in spinal cord samples from Ttpa-null mice maintained on vitamin E deficient diets (2) Validate a potential biomarker in cerebrospinal fluid from NAD-affected horses (3) Perform genome-wide association studies for equine neuromuscular diseases. These research projects will provide students with training in molecular techniques and provide insight into mechanisms of neurodegeneration.

Please contact Dr. Finno for more information: cjfinno@ucdavis.edu

Damian Genetos, PhD

Dr. Genetos is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology studying bone cell physiology and function in both normal and pathological skeletal states. One current project studies how HIF signaling, a major pathway in response to low oxygen conditions, integrates with the also very important TGF-beta signaling pathway in osteoblasts. Previous studies have also dealt with the genetic regulation of Sost, a Wnt and bone formation inhibitor. Students will be exposed to a variety of common molecular biology techniques such as RNA isolation, quantitative PCR, and Western blotting. Students will also participate in various aspects of cell culture.

Previous experience is not required, but helpful. For more information, interested applicants can email Professor Damian Genetos (dgenetos@ucdavis.edu) their CV/resume and a copy of their transcript.

Gregory Lanzaro

The Vector Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at UC Davis deals with research and training in the areas of population & molecular genetics, genomics and bioinformatics of insect vectors of human and animal disease. We have developed a program aimed at expanding knowledge that may be applied to improving control of vectorborne diseases and that addresses problems of interest in the field of evolutionary genetics. The Laboratory is directed by Drs. Gregory C. Lanzaro and Yoosook Lee in the Dept. of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Anthony Cornel in the Dept. of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis.


The VGL has a history of hosting well qualified undergraduate students who are interested in pursuing a career in biological/biomedical research. The lab offers students the opportunity of gaining experience working in an active research laboratory, to participate as author on papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and most importantly to gain hands-on experience working with cutting edge methods in molecular biology. We are committed to providing qualified undergraduates students an excellent research experience and we expect a similarly high level of commitment from our students.

For more information - download flyer (.pdf)

Pamela J. Lein

Dr. Lein is Professor of Neurotoxicology, Director of the CounterACT Center of Excellence, and Director of the NIEHS T32 graduate training program in environmental health Sciences. She has been a full-time faculty member of the School of Veterinary Medicine since 2009. Dr. Lein’s research interests are neurotoxicology, neuropharmacology and neuroimmunology.

Research studies in Dr. Lein’s laboratory include identifying novel therapeutic approaches for preventing brain damage following exposure to chemicals that cause seizures; understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which environmental factors interact with genetic factors to increase risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and determining how pesticides alter communication between nerves and immune cells in the lung to cause airway hyperreactivity, which is a major symptom of asthma. Research in Dr. Lein’s laboratory involves diverse model systems ranging from primary neuronal cell culture to zebrafish to rodent models, and multiple techniques ranging from cellular and molecular techniques to in vivo imaging to behavioral studies. Dr. Lein has mentored numerous undergraduate students in her laboratory, many of whom have earned co-authorship on research papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Contact Dr. Lein at pjlein@ucdavis.edu for more information!

Lisa A. Tell

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. 

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 wildlife avian species. 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 laboratory 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.

Contact Dr. Tell at latell@ucdavis.edu for more information!

More information coming soon