YEAR Faculty Mentors

Veterinary students interested in applying to the YEAR Program will be encouraged to seek out the program Director and/or Associate Director to answer any questions regarding the program. If possible, students are encouraged to visit and talk with faculty mentors about a research project that may be of interest to both. Although program administration will work closely with each enrolled YEAR Program student participant to choose their research themes, mentors, and laboratories for their four three-month block rotations, these early-on visits with faculty mentor participants will help the student decide with whom they may want to work.

Faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine and in other UCD colleges and schools who are available to act as mentors for YEAR students have been asked to provide a brief paragraph describing their background, research interests, and other pertinent information.

The list below is updated as new information is received.

Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, PhD, PhM

Professor Athanasiou's research is to understand and enhance the healing processes of cartilage. Successful cartilage regeneration continues to be the most vexing problem in musculoskeletal medicine. Following trauma (such as sports injuries) or pathologic affliction (such as osteoarthritis), cartilage is unable to heal itself in a way that would allow it to function properly under its strenuous and biomechanically difficult environment.

Of particular interest in our efforts are 1) hyaline articular cartilage, found in diarthrodial joints such as the knee, hip, and shoulder, 2) menisci, in the knee and temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and 3) fibrocartilage in the TMJ. Our approach entails the use of biodegradable scaffolds designed to incorporate suitable bioactive agents and signals to regenerate cartilage. We also place particular emphasis on certain aspects of scaffold design and overall approach. These include 1) biomechanical characterization of cartilage, 2) cell adhesion to substrata, and 3) attachment and effects of growth factors on chondrocytes


Danika Bannasch, DVM, PhD

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.


Peter Barry, PhD

Center for Comparative Medicine;  Herpesvirus

Dr. Barry is a molecular virologist with expertise in the natural history (i.e., virology and immunology) of herpesviruses in nonhuman primates.  His laboratory has optimized a model of rhesus cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) to investigate mechanisms of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) persistence and pathogenesis. RhCMV is a precise recapitulation of all aspects of HCMV.  In addition, his laboratory has optimized techniques for the detection of herpes B virus in rhesus macaques.


Nicole Baumgarth, DVM, Ph.D.

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.


Andreas J. Baumler, PhD

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.


Robert F. Berman, PhD

Dr. Berman, a neuroscientist whose research focuses on cellular mechanisms of brain injury, is currently examining the effects of neonatal toxin exposure on brain development and behavior.  This research is carried out in collaboration with the Center for Children’s Environmental Health.  His laboratory recently developed a set of behavioral testing procedures for evaluating social behaviors in rodents, an essential step in the development of useful models for the study of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism. Dr. Berman is also a member of the NeuroTherapeutics Research Institute (NTRI) at UC Davis that is studying the genetic disorder Fragile X-associated Tremor Ataxia (FXTAS).  Dr. Berman’s laboratory is using transgenic mice to model FXTAS in order to understand the underlying pathophysiology and to test novel therapeutics to improve neurological outcome in FXTAS.  Dr. Berman’s research and training activities have been funded by the NIH for the past 30 years, and his research is currently funded by NINDS and NIEHS.  He is currently Director of Research for the Neurotrauma Research Laboratories at UC Davis.


Donald M. Bers, PhD

Cellular and molecular factors involved in the control of cardiac muscle contraction

Much of his scientific work has focused on Ca regulation in the heart, but this includes fundamental quantitative mechanistic characterization of ion transporters and channels, electrophysiology, excitation-contraction coupling, myofilament activation, mitochondrial Ca/ energetics, cellular kinase signaling, systolic dysfunction and arrhythmogenesis (e.g. in hypertrophy and heart failure), always with an eye toward both integrative aspects of cardiac function/ clinical relevance and identification of novel therapeutic targets in cardiovascular disease. The experimental approaches used are multidisciplinary including physiology, biophysics, molecular biology, biochemistry, real-time dynamic confocal & TIRF imaging and computational modeling.


Charles L. Bevins, MD, PhD

Innate Immune Responses; Mucosal Immunology; Antimicrobial Peptides

Our laboratory is interested in innate immunity of mucosal tissues and we are focused on a key effector component of host defense: antimicrobial peptides. Antimicrobial peptides are endogenous antibiotics, isolated from diverse species throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. They represent an evolutionary ancient mechanism of host defense. These peptides have a broad-spectrum of antimicrobial activity that includes bacteria, fungi and certain viruses. Additional biological activities of many antimicrobial peptides (for example, chemotaxis) are a result of high affinity interactions with various cell surface receptors. Defensins are the major class of antimicrobial peptides in humans and other mammals. 

Recent work from our laboratory has discovered that certain defensins are expressed in abundance by epithelial cells at wet mucosal surface. The long-range goal of our research is to understand the specific role that these epithelial antimicrobial peptides play in mucosal host defense and to characterize the pathophysiology that characterizes altered expression of these peptides.


Kermit Carraway, PhD

Cancer biology and therapeutics

Research in the lab centers on elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying tumor formation and progression, and developing strategies and agents that could interfere with these processes. We are specifically interested in post-transcriptional regulatory pathways, such as cellular trafficking and degradation of growth factor receptors and disruption of cell polarity pathways, that contribute to cancer malignancy. We use biochemical and cell biological methods to elucidate these pathways in cultured tumor cells, genetically engineered mice to characterize dysregulated tumorigenic pathways in vivo, and drug development and characterization methods to inhibit these pathways.


Simon R. Cherry, PhD

Molecular Imaging, Technology Development

Simon Cherry’s research involves the rapidly growing field of molecular imaging. The basic concept behind molecular imaging is the use of non-invasive imaging technologies to visualize and characterize specific molecular events and targets in vivo. Areas of active research include the development of new and improved imaging technologies, the design of novel contrast agents and imaging probes and their application in molecular diagnostics and therapeutics. Professor Cherry and the members of his laboratory team are particularly interested in developing new technologies and techniques for in vivo molecular imaging. They focus on a nuclear imaging technique, positron emission tomography (PET), and its application in studying animal models of human disease. They are also exploring the integration of PET imaging technology with the highresolution anatomical imaging provided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or x-ray computed tomography (CT). The use of molecular imaging technologies for phenotyping and for the development and validation of new drugs and therapeutic approaches are among the applications they are pursuing. The research group has many active projects in the laboratory, ranging from the development of new detector technologies for imaging to the building of complete imaging systems for specific biological or medical applications. The research associated with these projects involves novel detector development; system simulation and design; the investigation of data acquisition and correction strategies; the study of three-dimensional image reconstruction algorithms; new software tools for the visualization, analysis, and quantification of imaging data; and the application of molecular imaging technologies to important problems in medicine and biology.


Gino Cortopassi, Ph.D

VM: 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:


Katherine W. Ferrara, PhD

Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group

Prior to her PhD, Dr. Ferrara was a project engineer for General Electric Medical Systems, involved in the development of early magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound systems.  Following an appointment as an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Dr. Ferrara served as the founding chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis. She is currently a Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis.  Her laboratory is known for early work in aspects of ultrasonics (e.g. radiation forces and phase inversion techniques) and has more recently expanded their focus to broadly investigate molecular imaging and drug delivery.  She is the Director of the Center for Content Rich Evaluation of Therapeutic Efficacy (cCRETE) as part of the UC Davis RISE program.  Dr. Ferrara received the Achievement Award from the IEEE Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control Society in 2012, which is the top honor of this society.  She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the IEEE, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Acoustical Society of America and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.  Her google scholar profile can be found at  


Oliver Fiehn, PhD



The Fiehn research laboratory develops improved methods in analytical chemistry and bioinformatics to capture and utilize metabolomic data. These tools are employed to understand, which parts of larger biochemical networks respond to genetic perturbation or environmental stress. Metabolomics applications follow a two-tiered approach: they can be used for sample discrimination and classification (e.g. for clinical diagnostics or GMO substantial equivalence), or for biochemical and mechanistic studies (e.g. for understanding the onset and progression of human diseases, or for detailing regulatory modules in cells or subcellular compartments). Therefore, the Fiehn research laboratory uses several biological models on organismal, tissue or cellular level which are detailed in the Projects page.


Fawaz George Haj, PhD

Dr. Haj´s laboratory studies the molecular basis of metabolic diseases, mainly obesity and type 2 diabetes. In particular, we are interested in the role of tyrosine phosphorylation and how dysregulation of this key signaling mechanism contributes to metabolic diseases and their complications. We investigate the role of protein-tyrosine phosphatases and their interacting partners in metabolic homeostasis. This is achieved using a combination of genetic, biochemical, proteomic and pharmacological approaches in various experimental platforms (cells, rodent models of disease and humans).


Peter Havel, DVM, PhD

Dr. Havel is investigating the regulation energy homeostasis and carbohydrate/lipid metabolism, and the involvement of endocrine systems in the pathophysiology of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. His laboratory is studying the mechanisms regulating the secretion of pancreatic and gastrointestinal hormones and the production of the adipocyte hormones, including leptin and adiponectin. Biochemical and molecular studies are conducted using in vitro systems and the role of endocrine, metabolic, and dietary factors in regulating energy balance, insulin action, and lipid/carbohydrate metabolism is examined in vivo in animals and humans. A major focus of the research is the interaction of diet composition (such as dietary fat and fructose) with the endocrine regulation of energy balance in the development and progression of obesity, diabetes, and dyslipidemia/atherosclerosis, including studies in animal models and clinical studies in humans. His research team is conducting studies on the prevention and treament of diabetes in a new rat model of type 2 diabetes developed in his laboratory. Dr. Havel and his collaborators are also investigating the effects of bariatric surgery procedures on gastrointestinal, pancreatic and adipocyte hormones and how these endocrine changes are involved in the improvements of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism observed after bariatiric surgery.


Bruce Hammock, PhD

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 therapeutic applications.  Broader studies in chemical mediation are described in the laboratory web site. 
See for additional information.


Wolf-Dietrich Heyer, PhD

Mechanism and regulation of recombinational DNA repair

Double-stranded DNA breaks (DSBs) are among the most genotoxic lesions and can be generated by ionizing radiation, drugs, or cellular processes. In eukaryotes, several pathways compete for the repair of such lesions. Homologous recombination is the critical DSB repair pathway in yeasts and an important DSB repair pathway in all eukaryotes studied. We are using primarily Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a model system and employ genetical, molecular, and biochemical methods to elucidate the molecular mechanism of homologous recombination and recombinational DNA repair and its regulation by the DNA damage checkpoints.


Paul Knoepfler, PhD

What controls stem and cancer cell biological behavior?  We are analyzing how the pluripotency control machinery goes awry during cancer. Our lab studies the molecular programming of embryonic and neural stem cells as well as cancer stem cells. We are studying the genomic and epigenomic events that inflence pluripotency and tumorigenicity. We are particularly interested in pediatric nervous system tumors, but also glioblastoma.

Our research is focused on the molecular mechanisms of genetic recombination, with the long-term objective being the reconstitution of in vitro systems that accurately reproduce the cellular processes. Present research is centered on the biochemical mechanism and biological function of protein-nucleic acid interactions. Currently the lab is studying proteins and DNA intermediates that are involved in the process of genetic recombination and recombinational DNA repair. The experimental approaches include molecular genetic, biochemical, biophysical, and single-molecule techniques. The recent development of both high-resolution fluorescence microscopy and microfluidic methods enables visualization of individual proteins functioning on single molecules of DNA in real-time, permitting "visual" biochemistry.

Biochemical mechanism of genetic recombination and DNA repair; DNA helicases and motor proteins; Physical and structural aspects of protein-nucleic acid interactions; Single-molecule biophysics; Nanotechnology; Cancer biology.

For more information please visit the Knoepfler lab homepage at: -- email:

Leah Krubitzer, PhD

Dr. Krubitzer is interested in how complex brains, such as those in humans, are built from simpler forms. Her work examines the anatomical connections and electrophysiological properties of neurons in the neocortex, the portion of the brain responsible for perception, cognition, learning, and memory. Through comparative studies, it is possible to determine which features of the neocortex are shared by all mammals, and how new features have been added during morphological or behavioral specialization. In this way, she can reconstruct the evolution of the neocortex and its relationship to functional changes. Her work accounts for the remarkable diversity in mammalian behavioral and perceptual abilities through the action of a few evolutionarily old developmental mechanisms. While constraining evolutionary change, these mechanisms have also provided the variation needed for such diversification.


Kit S. Lam, MD, PhD

Dr. Lam is an expert in combinatorial chemistry, chemical biology, drug development, molecular imaging, nanotherapeutics and medical oncology. His laboratory is engaged in the development and application of combinatorial library methods for basic research and drug discovery. In addition to cancer drug development, he is also interested in signal transduction, antibiotics development, molecular immunology, chemical microarray, and proteomics.

Dr. Lam is both a practicing medical oncologist and a laboratory investigator. He is acclaimed for his pioneering role in the field of combinatorial chemistry and developing the novel one-bead-one-compound technology, which rapidly screens millions of chemicals at one time to identify those that bind to diseased cells. The tool is advancing the early detection and precise delivery of treatments for brain, breast, prostate, pancreatic, lymphoma and other cancers. In addition, it is advancing the discovery of imaging agents that produce highly detailed molecular profiles of diseases for improved diagnosis and tracking medication effectiveness.


Nancy E. Lane, MD

School of Medicine/UCDMC

Nancy E. Lane, MD is an Endowed Professor of Medicine, Rheumatology, and Aging Research, Director for the Center for Musculoskeletal Health, Director of the K12 NIH Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH), and Principal Investigator of the NIH funded Program on Sex Differences in Musculoskeletal Diseases Across the Lifespan at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine where she has served for the past 8 years.  

Dr. Lane is an internationally recognized scientist in the fields of  both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.  Her translational research team has been instrumental in defining the role of glucocorticoids in bone fragility including their effects on cell stress and vulnerable cell populations including osteocytes.  As a faculty member at the University of California at San Francisco, she  pioneered a seminal clinical trial to demonstrate that daily injections of the hormone PTH could reverse glucocorticoid induced osteoporosis. After transitioning to U.C. Davis, she a developed a novel compound to direct stem cells to the bone to grow new bone and treat osteoporosis.   In addition she has uncovered novel genetic variations that predispose individuals to osteoarthritis and has studied novel treatments for osteoarthritis.  She organized and directs an NIH funded junior faculty grant writing workshop that has taught over 300 junior faculty in musculoskeletal medicine grant writing skills that has resulted in a 45% success rate in applicants receiving research grants (2006-present).  


Gregory Lanzaro, PhD

Vector biology, population genetics. My overall research interest is in the population genetics of insect vectors of human and animal disease. I have developed a program that pursues knowledge that may be applied to the control of vectorborne diseases but at the same time addresses critical issues in basic evolutionary genetics. An additional goal is the application of cutting edge molecular biological methods to problems at the level of populations. I am pursuing this interest within the context of four major avenues of research: 1) Population genetics of the human malaria vector, Anopheles gambiae in west and central Africa: This work deals with describing the genetic structure of populations, understanding the forces responsible for this structure and how patterns of gene flow influence the distribution of traits critical to understanding and managing malaria transmission. I have been working at field sites in Africa since 1991 and my current program has been supported continuously since 1996 with support in the form of a series of R01 grants from NIH on which I serve as P.I. 2)


Janine LaSalle, PhD

Epigenetics of autism-spectrum disorders

Our laboratory is interested in the role of epigenetics in human autism-spectrum disorders. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in chromosomes that are not encoded in the DNA sequence, including DNA methylation and chromatin organization. The clinical applications of our research include understanding the pathogenesis of the neurodevelopmental disorders autism, Rett syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Dup15q syndrome, and Angelman syndrome. We take a “Rosetta’s stone” approach to decoding the elusive etiology of autism by looking for clues in the epigenetic pathways disrupted in rare genetic disorders on the autism spectrum. Our laboratory focuses on understanding the neuronal methylome and a protein that binds to methylated DNA, methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2). The gene for MECP2 is on the X chromosome and is mutated in Rett syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders. In addition, we are interested in the functions of noncoding RNA at the heart of the Prader-Willi locus that are expressed in postnatal neurons. We also are investigating the impact common organic pollutants on DNA methylation and chromatin organization in 15q11-13 duplication syndrome. We have several ongoing collaborations that seek to integrate genetics with fields of Neuroscience, Nutrition, Toxicology, and Epidemiology.


Pamela Lein, PhD

Dr. Lein’s research focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurotoxicity with particular emphasis on mechanisms by which organophosphorus pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls or inflammatory mediators interfere with neuronal connectivity and contribute to childhood diseases such as autism and asthma.  She is also interested in the development of alternative models for developmental neurotoxicity testing (DNT) and is a member of the steering committee for TestSmart: DNT, a collaborative program between the U.S.E.P.A. and the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) that is focused on developing alternative models for developmental neurotoxicity testing. 


Su Hao Lao, PhD

Our overall research interests are to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie the structure and function of focal adhesions. Focal adhesions are integrin-mediated junctions that attach a variety of different cell types to their underlying substratum. They are signal transduction organelles and play a major role in diverse biological processes, including cell growth, attachment, migration, death, polarization, and differentiation. As such, focal adhesion dysfunction is known to have profound repercussions in embryogenesis, tissue development and repair, as well as in many pathological conditions including various forms of cancer.


Stephen McSorley, Ph.D.

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

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.


Christopher Miller, DVM, Ph.D.

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.  Please visit Dr. Miller's website here.


Lisa A. Miller, Ph.D.

VM: Anatomy, Physiology, & Cell Biology, 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.


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:


Isaac Pessah, PhD

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.


Kent Pinkerton, MS, Ph.D.

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

Issues Critical to Environmental Air Pollution  -Dr. Pinkerton's research efforts have focused on issues critical to environmental air pollution and their impact on the respiratory system. Three general areas that have been addressed include: (1) mechanisms by which particulates (dust, air pollution from vehicle emissions) produce toxic effects in the lung, (2) effects of oxidant gases on lung injury and repair, and (3) effects of exposure to environmental air pollutants that alter lung development and the formation of enzymes that are responsible for elimination of foreign chemicals from the body during childhood.


Jon Ramsey, Ph.D.

VM: Molecular Biosciences

Energy metabolism related to aging, obesity, and food intake. My research focuses on energy metabolism as it relates to aging and obesity. I currently have two studies underway. One study is investigating the effect of a 40% reduction in energy intake on mitochondrial proton leak and reactive oxygen species production. The goal of this project is to determine the role proton leak may play in the retardation of aging with energy restriction. Mitochondrial proton leak and hydrogen peroxide production are measured in rats following short- and long-term energy restriction. Dietary fat manipulations are used to mimic changes in mitochondrial membrane composition observed with energy restriction. Another study uses microarray technology to investigate gene expression differences in dogs with either a high or low resting energy expenditure or consuming either a high or low fat diet. The goal of this project is to identify genes that are responsible for regulating energy expenditure or determining energetic response to high fat feeding.


Helen Raybould, Ph.D.

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.


Robert B. Rebhun, DVM, PhD

The NIH funded grant is in the area of the biology and therapy of cancer metastasis.  Specifically, the proposed work will look at the interaction between epidermal growth factor signaling and hedgehog signaling pathways in human colon cancer.  Of course, my interests in comparative oncology are also leading me to examine the role of these signaling pathways in spontaneously arising veterinary cancers as well.  Tumor initiating cells (sometimes called cancer stem cells) have been shown to possess high metastatic potential and may be responsible for the systemic spread and treatment failure of several types of cancer.  My metastasis-related studies are complimented by examination of the role of stem-cell signaling pathways in veterinary cancers. 


Michael A. Rogawski, MD, PhD

Clinical Focus -Epilepsy, Headache

The goal of Dr. Rogawski's research is to discover and develop improved treatments for neurological disorders, including epilepsy, migraine, traumatic brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders.  Cellular neurophysiology of ion channels;  neurological therapeutics, with an emphasis on antiepileptic drugs and other epilepsy treatment approaches;  treatment of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic epilepsy. 


Paul Russell, PhD

The focus of my research is to determine how biophysical cues of topography and substrate stiffness contribute to the disease process. I work with cells from the anterior chamber of the eye as well as vascular endothelium. His seminal findings have revealed how extracellular matrix influences ocular outflow pathways essential for drainage of the eye. He has cleverly fabricated synthetic matrices that model the stiffness of the normal and glaucomic extracellular matrices, which are valuable for identifying new therapies.


Scott Simon, PhD


Inflammation & Neutrophil Biology, Atherosclerosis, Vascular and Leukocyte Adhesion Molecules, MechanoBiology & Signal Transduction. Technology development in fluorescence microscopy, flow cytometry, microfluidic devices to image leukocyte function on vascular mimetic models of vascular diseases.  We study the process of inflammation and its relation to acute infection and chronic diseases.  The onset of vascular inflammation is the interaction between circulating leukocytes and endothelial cells. In order to fight infection, leukocytes must attach to the wall of a blood vessel and migrate through the endothethial lining. This process is tightly regulated by adhesion molecules and molecular signals produced at the vascular endothelium. When leukocyte recruitment becomes chronically disregulated, a number of human diseases result including atherosclerosis, sepsis, and autoimmune diseases. We are currently exploring the mechanisms by which endothelial cells selectively produce adhesion molecules in response to specific inflammatory stimuli such as Staph-Aureus infection, and how leukocytes integrate these endothelial signals in order to arrest and migrate across the blood vessel wall.  Development of novel means of imaging the process of inflammation on cells and in animal models is also a focus of the lab.


Jay V. Solnick, MD, PhD

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.


Ellen Sparger, PhD

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).


Alice F. Tarantal, PhD

Research program includes the following areas of translational research:  Gene therapy; Stem and progenitor cell therapies; Pediatric models of human disease; Fetal:maternal microchimerism; In vivo imaging applications.  Projects focus on hematopoietic, mesenchymal, endothelial, and embryonic stem cells for tissue regeneration and repair and transplantation.  The Center for Fetal Gene Transfer for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases conducts research on crucial questions in gene therapy for the fetus and infant. The Center of Excellence in Translational Human Stem Cell Research consists of projects that encompass central themes of cell expansion and reconstitution, transplantation and cell fate, pediatric nonhuman primate models, and in vivo imaging.


James Trimmer, PhD

As neuroscience enters the post-genomic era, a major goal is the translation of genomic sequence information into a molecular understanding of the mechanisms of neuronal information processing and transfer. My laboratory’s research focuses on protein function, biochemical pathways and networks of protein-protein interactions regulating intra- and inter-cellular signaling in mammalian neurons. In particular, we are interested in dynamic regulation of voltage-sensitive ion channel abundance, localization and function through reversible protein phosphorylation. These proteins determine the intrinsic electrical properties of neurons and how these cells respond to external stimuli, integrate the encoded information and generate an appropriate response. Modern proteomic techniques have allowed for insights into protein networks, and post-translational modifications, that provide for both the generation and maintenance of complex cellular functions, but also their dynamic regulation that underlies functional plasticity. Our studies are aimed at a molecular understanding of how neuronal ion channels generate and maintain the fidelity of neuronal signaling, and how these processes can be dynamically regulated to generate neuronal plasticity.


Renee M. Tsolis, PhD

Her research is focused on two questions:  How are some pathogens able to cause persistent infections, despite induction of an immune response? We are using the bacterial pathogen Brucella abortus to study this topic. B. abortus causes a febrile illness in humans, and if inappropriately treated, bacteria can persist for years in tissues such as liver, spleen and bone marrow. We are currently studying a virulence factor called the Type IV secretion system that allows Brucella to survive intracelllularly in tissues of the reticuloendothelial system by injecting proteins into infected macrophages. Our laboratory uses bacterial genetics and molecular biology techniques to characterize the function of the Type IV secretion system in Brucella. We are using macrophage and animal models and immunological techniques to dissect the interactions between the bacterium and host cells. By defining molecular interactions between bacteria and host cells, we will also learn how these interactions can be disrupted to develop better vaccines and treatments for chronic bacterial infections.  (2) How does malaria affect the mucosal barrier to infection? The most frequent presentation of disease from nontyphoidal Salmonella serotypes (NTS) in developed countries such as the US is gastroenteritis, a localized infection with low mortality. In contrast, immunocompromised individuals are at risk of developing NTS bacteremia, which can lead to serious sequelae, including meningitis, osteomyelitis, and septic shock. While these complications are infrequent in developed countries, NTS serotypes have become a leading cause of bacteremia in sub-Saharan Africa. An important risk factor for children to develop invasive NTS infections is malaria.


Laura Van Winkle- BS, PhD

The role of sex-differences and xenobiotic metabolism in lung pathology and toxicology. Air pollution including tobacco smoke, particulates and ozone. Growth factors and cell-cell interactions in lung wound healing, in lung disease (lung cancer and asthma) and during lung development. Cell proliferation and progenitor cells. Microscopes and imaging methods.


Clare Yellowley, BSc, PhD.

Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

Dr Yellowley is an 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.