Genetics and Genomics

Monica Aleman

Department of Medicine & Epidemiology; VMTH: Large Animal Clinic (see also: Internal Medicine, Neurology)

Dr. Monica Aleman obtained her veterinary degree at the University UNAM-Mexico. She completed residencies in large animal internal medicine (equine emphasis) and neurology and neurosurgery at UC Davis; and achieved board certification for both specialties by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. She completed a PhD in comparative pathology of neuromuscular diseases at UC Davis. Her research and clinical interest has focused in neurology, neuromuscular and muscle disorders in all species with equine emphasis. Currently, she is a faculty member of the equine internal medicine and neurology services, and Director of the Neuromuscular Disease Laboratory at UC Davis. Dr. Aleman is one of the founding members of the Comparative Neurology Research Group, and is affiliated with the Clinical Neurophysiology Laboratory at UC Davis. Dr. Aleman is author of over 90 peer reviewed medical publications, over 100 proceedings and abstracts, and over 25 book chapters; and is a regular speaker in national and international meetings. Currently, she works in the investigation of neuromuscular disorders in multiple species including humans.

For more information, please contact Dr. Aleman at

Danika Bannasch

Canine and Equine Genetics

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 chronic progressive lymphedema in horses and susceptibility to pneumonia in horses.  In dogs we are working on the molecular basis of Addison’s disease, cleft palate, Intervertebral disc disease, myopia, vertebral spinal malformations and longevity.  My laboratory has identified the mutations responsible for lethal white foal syndrome (LWFS), HERDA, and Hoof wall separation syndrome (HWSS) in horses and hyperuricosuria (HUU), spinal disraphism (SD), Juvenile Addison’s disease (JADD), Alaskan Husky encephalopathy, Saluki encephalopathy, chondrodystrophy, glioma susceptibility, cleft lip, palate and syndactyly (CLPS) and cleft palate (CP1).

I welcome STAR students interested in genetic diseases.

Please visit Dr. Bannasch'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 ocular disorders and in some cases associated pigmentation phenotypes.  Recently her laboratory discovered the genetic risk factor for the second most common tumor of horses, ocular squamous cell carcinoma.  Other findings include identifying the genetic mechanisms for congenital stationary night blindness in multiple horse breeds, as well as distichiasis in Friesian horses. Currently her collaborative research team is trying to identify the genetic risk factor for equine recurrent uveitis, the leading cause of blindness in horses, among other projects. The primary research goal is to develop DNA diagnostic tests that assist animal breeders in making informed mating decisions and work towards better clinical 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.

For more information please visit Dr. Bellone’s website at

Please email Dr. Rebecca Bellone ( for more information.

Elva Diaz, PhD

Med: Pharmacology (see also: biochemistry, neuroscience and pharmacology/toxicology)

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:

Cecilia Giulivi, PhD

VM: Molecular Biosciences

(see also: Biochemistry & Cell Biology, Neurology/Neurobiology)

Given the diversity of pathologies for which mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated, transformative approaches are needed to investigate disease pathogenesis, improve diagnosis, identify prognostic biomarkers, and generate novel treatment strategies. For the first time, we aim at creating a database in VetMed by leveraging our own clinical and research as well as those published in peer-reviewed Journals to consolidate a broad range of mixed phenotypes associated with mitochondrial disorders and dysfunction. The complete, thorough mitochondrial phenotyping platform will include datasets composed of available data (e.g., multi-omics data, mitochondrial function readouts, genetics, and quantitative imaging mitochondrial morphology descriptors) from different species to promote knowledge among clinicians and faciliate diagnosis of mitochondrial disorders in animals.

Please visit Dr. Giulivi's website at:

Kristin Grimsrud, DVM, PhD

Assistant Clinical Professor, Dept of Pathology, School of Medicine 

Associate Director of Vivaria and Veterinary Care, Mouse Biology Program (MBP)

(See also: Anesthesia/Pain Management, Pharmacology/Toxicology, Translational Research)

Dr. Grimsrud is a laboratory animal veterinarian and her research focuses on translational medicine and animal model optimization and development. Her current major research efforts are in collaboration with the Knockout Mouse Project, Metabolic Mouse Phenotyping Center and Mutant Mouse Resource and Research Center. Additionally, she is involved in a variety of microbiota bariatric surgery research projects that utilize mouse models. Lastly, Dr. Grimsrud has a strong interest in translational clinical pharmacology where she investigates variation in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in special populations (e.g. burn patients, pediatrics) and assess the influences of polymorphisms on drug efficacy.

Research projects that students could be involved with relate to studies to optimize anesthesia and analgesia protocols, optimizing superovulation techniques in rodents and a variety of other projects related to the genetically engineered rodent models and microbiota/gnotobiotic research.

Contact Information:


Office Phone: 530-757-3220

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

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. The laboratory also focuses on the inherited bases of many genetic diseases in the horse including juvenile idiopathic epilepsy (in conjunction with Dr. Monica Aleman), atypical equine thrombasthenia (in conjunction with Dr. Fern Tablin), idiopathic hypocalcemia of Thoroughbred foals (in conjunction with Dr. Gary Magdesian), elevated serum GGT concentrations in Thoroughbred racehorses, equine melanoma (with Dr. Alain Theon), occipitoatlantoaxial malformation, equine shivers (with Drs. Stephanie Valberg and Jessica Petersen) and myofibrillar myopathy (with Dr. Stephanie Valberg). Dr. Finno's research is funded by the NIH, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation and the Center for Equine Health at UC Davis. Our laboratory incorporates clinical research in the field with molecular tools in the laboratory.  Website:

Potential summer projects: (1) Perform an injectable vitamin E trial in horses (2) Validate a potential antemortem test for eNAD (3) Perform genome-wide association studies for equine neuromuscular diseases. These research projects will provide students with training in both clinical research along with molecular techniques and provide insight into mechanisms of neurodegeneration.

Please contact Dr. Finno for more information:

Cecilia Giulivi

VM: Molecular Biosciences (see also: biochemistry and neuroscience)

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:

Hong Ji, PhD

California National Primate Research Center

(See also: Pulmonary Medicine)

The main interest of Dr. Ji’s research group is to elucidate the epigenetic basis of chronic diseases and examine the impact of environmental exposures. We utilize an integrative approach combining methylome, chromatin, gene expression and gene network analysis to identify genes and pathways that may contribute to disease pathogenesis. We perform our research in animal models (rodent and rhesus monkey), cell culture, and human biological specimen. Our current research focuses on understanding the epigenetic regulation of heterogeneous asthma phenotypes and how the epigenome mediate the impact of environmental exposures on disease risk.


Faculty webpage

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.

Sina Marsilio, Dr. med. vet., PhD, DACVIM (SAIM), DECVIM-CA

VM: Medicine and Epidemiology

(see also: GI Physiology/Gastroenterology, Microbiology/Parasitology)

I am a small animal internist with a special clinical and research focus in small animal gastrointestinal diseases. My current research focuses on the intestinal microbiome and its disruption during acute and chronic intestinal diseases. In addition, I am currently launching several projects on the use of fecal microbiota transplantation as a therapeutic tool for intestinal disease. I am also actively involved in translational research using stem cells in animals with gastrointestinal disease. I am looking forward to mentor students with an active interest in small animal gastrointestinal and translational research and who would like to be involved in clinical research projects.

Please email Dr. Marsilio for more information:

Mike Mienaltowski, DVM, Ph.D.

Tendon repair, stem/progenitor cell biology

College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (See also: Orthopaedics/Biomechanical Engineering, Biochemistry/Cellular Biology, and Translational Research)

My primary research interests include:

(1) the development, maturation, and repair of musculoskeletal connective tissues like tendon and ligament

(2) cellular mechanisms behind broiler muscle pathology

(3) the roles of the microbiome in proper gut transition in foals from birth to weaning.

In my musculoskeletal research projects, I am particularly interested in how differences in niche affect cells within the environment in growth and repair. 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. Furthermore, because the proper development of the musculoskeletal system  depends greatly upon proper foal growth and foal growth subsequently depends upon appropriate nutrition, I am interested in understanding how gut microbes facilitate healthy gut transitions in the foal.More information can be found at:

Contact information for Dr. Mienaltowski:  e-mail:

Emmanuel Okello, BVM, MSc, PhD


(see also: Microbiology/Parasitology, Epidemiology)

Dr. Emmanuel Okello is an Assistant CE Specialist in Antimicrobial Stewardship at UC Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. The goal of his research and extension program is to develop antimicrobial stewardship guidelines and best management practices that reduce antimicrobial resistance while maintaining the health and welfare of the herds and flocks. Okello’s specific areas of interest include the use of alternatives to antibiotics to control infectious diseases in livestock, development and evaluation of vaccines and rapid diagnostics tests, and improved management practices for disease prevention.

Please contact Dr. Okello for prospective STAR projects ( Website:

Richard Pereira, DVM, PhD

SVM: Population Health and Reproduction

(See also: Epidemiology, Food Animal Medicine/Food Safety, Microbiology/Parasitology)

Dr. Pereira research focuses on evidence based medicine on antimicrobial resistance in livestock and judicious use of antimicrobials through interventions that promote livestock health and well-being. Maintaining the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs to treat infections is of relevance to the health of both animal and human populations. Recent project investigated enteric microbiota of calves using metagenomic sequencing approaches, and herd management impacts on prevalence of resistant enteric bacteria, including evaluation of drug use, feeding practices, and housing management of dairy calves and heifers.

Epidemiology is the foundation of his research which also employs statistics, microbiology, and molecular and genomic approaches. Using these tools, some current research projects include investigating and identifying risk factors for selection and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella from livestock, and investigating impacts on drug resistance and animal health from feeding pre-weaned calves waste milk (milk containing drug residues) with the aim of identifying interventions to reduce unwanted impacts from this practice.

Previous projects accomplished include:
Spatial-temporal trends in antimicrobial resistant Salmonella isolates recovered from Northern California dairy cattle at a veterinary microbiology laboratory between 2002 and 2017.

Potential 10 week projects for Summer 2018:
Antimicrobial resistance in bacteria causing metritis in dairy cows.

Evaluation of on-farm factors affecting antimicrobial drug on the dairy farms.

Contact information:

Please visit Dr. Pereira's website at:

Benjamin Sacks, Ph.D.

Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Canid Genetics & Population Health

(See also: Wildlife/Exotic Animal Medicine/Zoonoses)

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

David J. Segal, Ph.D.

Genome Center, Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Pharmacology, and MIND Institute

(See also: Neurology/Neurobiology, Translational Research, Biochemistry/Cellular Biology)

Research in the Segal Lab revolves around engineering zinc finger, TALE, and CRISPR/Cas nucleases and transcription factors. Almost every disease has a genetic component. Often this information is used only to determine how condemned a person is to develop disease. We would like to use the genetic information to fix the disease. A guiding principle for our work has been to study how nature does what it does, then attempt to use that knowledge to make useful tools to improve public health. We continue to develop new methodologies for genome editing. Our most recent efforts focus on creating epigenomic editing tools that can precisely manipulate epigenetic information at specific loci. Such tools can be used for the long-term control of gene expression for both research and therapeutic applications. Angelman syndrome is a rare neurogenetic disease that is the textbook example of an imprinting disorder. We are using artificial transcription factors to activate the epigenetically silenced gene in in the brains of mice and other animal models. 

Please visit Dr. Segal's website at:

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

Cardiac genetics and pharmacogenetics (see also: cardiology)

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:

Joshua Wood, PhD, MBA, PMP

Associate Director of Laboratory Operations, Mouse Biology Program (MBP)

(See also: Biochemistry/Cellular Biology, Translational Research/Regenerative Medicine)

My research focuses on optimizing genetic engineering techniques to generate novel animal models. STAR Students in my labs will get an opportunity to work on projects encompassing animal husbandry, genetic engineering and design, pronuclear injection & electroporation, embryo transfer, cryopreservation and recovery, as well as genotyping and sequencing. STAR students will also get an opportunity to learn the business operations and the challenges faced by a large research and production laboratory. In addition to developing new and complex animal models, we are also actively researching previously unmanipulated regions of the genome including enhancers and long noncoding RNAs. As a members of the Knockout Mouse Project, Mutant Mouse Resource and Research Center, Mutant Metabolomic Phenotyping Center, Cancer Center Shared Resource, and Designated Campus Core Facility we offer the opportunity to do fast paced, high throughput research on novel animal models.

Contact Information: