Marisa K. Ames DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology)


Dr. Marisa Ames is an associate professor of Cardiology in the VMTH.  Her primary research interest involves characterizing the ‘behavior’ of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) throughout the stages of common acquired heart diseases: myxomatous mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy.  Future projects include assessment of the local (tissue) RAAS in dogs by localizing (via immunohistochemistry) and quantifying the activity of key RAAS enzymes in the myocardium of dogs.  An improved understanding of RAAS will inform current and future drug therapy for common cardiovascular diseases.  Dr. Ames hopes to mentor students that would like to participate in clinical research and have a special interest in cardiovascular physiology.  

Dr. Ames can be reached via email:

Julie Bossuyt, DVM, PhD

Chair MCIP Graduate Group
Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine

(See also: Biochemistry & Cellular Biology)

The lab studies the molecular mechanisms that drive activation and function of the related kinases, protein kinase D (PKD) and calmodulin dependent protein kinase (CaMKII) in healthy and failing hearts. We focus on understanding the local regulatory mechanisms that control the myriad cellular outcomes for these multifunctional kinases. Hereto we apply cutting-edge high resolution fluorescence imaging techniques (such as FRET, TIRF, FRAP and confocal) and novel biosensors to obtain unique insight into the spatiotemporal dynamics of the local Ca-CaM, CaMKII and PKD signals.

Potential summer research projects:

  1. PKD regulation of actin dynamics in cardiac myocytes
  2. Role of  PKD in cardiac stress during pregnancy

Contact :

Chao-Yin Chen, PhD

Cardiovascular regulation (see also: Neurology/Neuroscience)

Dept. of Pharmacology

Blood pressure and heart rate are regulated by CNS on a moment-to-moment basis. 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 current research focuses on cigarette smoke (both conventional and e-cigarette)- induced changes in central regulation of cardiovascular function. 

Potential summer research projects: 

1.  Secondhand smoke- and vaping-induced cardiovascular consequences and their interaction with high fat diet. 

2.  Sex difference in secondhand smoke- and vaping-induced cardiovascular consequences.

Potential techniques involved: BP/ECG recordings using telemetry, heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity analysis, whole-cell patch clamp in brain slices.




Please email Dr. Chen for more information 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

Jessica Morgan, DVM, PhD, DACVSMR

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology, VMTH Equine Field Service 

Dr. Morgan is an equine practitioner board-certified in Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology with a 50% clinical appointment in the VMTH. Her laboratory focuses on the study of performance limitations in the horse with an emphasis in cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disease. Recent projects include evaluation of heart rate variability in horses with gastric ulcers and assessment of the effects of sedation on gait evaluation. Dr. Morgan hopes to mentor highly motivated students interested in getting involved in research related to equine performance and rehabilitation. Ongoing project in equine ECG, equine echocardiography, and equine exercise associated sudden death are examples of  Students will be involved with all phases of the project, including publication.

For more information and to discuss potential projects please contact Dr. Morgan and

Kent E. Pinkerton, Ph.D.

Professor of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

(see also: immunology, pathology/virology, pharmacology/toxicology, and pulmonary medicine)

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.

Crystal M. Ripplinger, Ph.D.

Cardiology, Arrhythmia, Imaging

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.

Daisuke Sato, PhD

SOM: Pharmacology

Research topics:  Computational biology, mathematical modeling, mechanisms of cardiac arrhythmias, excitation-contraction coupling, drug development

Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in the United States. Understanding the mechanisms of ventricular fibrillation is crucial to develop antiarrhythmic drugs and effective therapeutic strategies. The goal of my lab’s research is to understand how molecular level properties are linked to organ level phenomena using multiscale computational modeling of the heart. 

Desired qualifications: Experience in Matlab and C/C++ programming (ECS30 or equivalent). Knowledge and training for mathematical analysis, biological modeling, and simulations. Linear Algebra and Differential Equations.

My lab website is

Please email Dr. Sato for more information at:

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

Cardiac genetics and pharmacogenetics (see also: genetics/genomics)

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:

Nissi Varki, M.D.*

Comparative pathology, mouse models of human disease

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

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

(See also: Immunology/Infectious Diseases, Oncology, Pathology/Virology)

Dr. Nissi Varki's research interests include comparative histopathology analysis of genetically altered mice, and models of human diseases including cancer, inflammatory disorders and microbial infections. She is investigating the role of glycosylated molecules in tumor progression and metastasis, including evidence for a human-specific mechanism for diet and antibody-mediated inflammation in human carcinogenesis. Another area of recent exploration is the tissue and species-specific expression of sialic-acid binding lectin receptors known as Siglecs, which play an important role in regulating host innate immune responses and inflammation. Dr. Varki also has a longstanding interest in immunological mechanisms operating at the gastrointestinal mucosal epithelium and their role in chronic colitis and colon cancer development. Dr. Varki serves as Director of the Histopathology Core laboratories Mouse Phenotyping Services at UC San Diego and teaches in the histology and pathology laboratory sessions for medical students, mentors numerous undergraduate students and high school students and serves on the Recruitment and Admissions Committee for the UC San Diego School of Medicine.
Link to Dr. Varki’s current publications
Link to Dr. Varki’s website

*Please contact Peter Ernst or Christina Sigurdson first for more information

Lance Visser, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology)


VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Visser is a board-certified veterinary cardiologist in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology with a 50% clinical appointment in the VMTH. His clinical echocardiography laboratory focuses on the study of noninvasive assessment of cardiac structure and function in various cardiovascular disorders. Recent projects have involved characterizing right ventricular function in healthy dogs and studying a new echocardiographic index that estimates pulmonary arterial pressure in dogs. Dr. Visser hopes to mentor highly motivated students interested in getting involved in clinically oriented research related to cardiology. Students will be involved with all phases of the project, including publication.

For more information and to discuss potential projects please contact Dr. Visser at