STAR Mentors - Alphabetical Listing

STAR Mentors - Alphabetical Listing

Faculty from 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. While serving as mentors, they are expected to fulfill certain criteria.

If you are interested in becoming a STAR mentor, please contact or visit the STAR Mentor Requirements page for more information.

The list of faculty mentors is not all-inclusive - other eligible faculty can also be sought after as STAR mentors.  Also, some mentors may be listed under more than one research area.

To find a faculty mentor by research topic, please visit the STAR Mentors - Sorted by Research Topic page.

NOTE: Mentors with an * are affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego, through the Center for Veterinary Sciences and Comparative Medicine. Please contact Dr. Peter Ernst ( or Dr. Christina Sigurdson  ( ) before selecting a mentor at this location.

STARs Abroad

STAR students can complete projects in Dublin, Ireland!

Visit the STARs Abroad page for more information.

Ireland Exchange Notes and Photos

* 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.

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, etc.

  • Be available throughout the summer for the student and attend student/mentor activities, including the STARs in Science Poster Session

  • 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.

Iannis E Adamopoulos BSc(Hons), M.Phil, D.Phil

Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology
School of Medicine, University of California at Davis


Our laboratory studies the interface between the skeletal and immune systems, a newly emerging area of research called “osteoimmunology”. Haematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow give rise to both T cells which are important in inflammation and osteoclasts that regulate bone resorption. Differentiation and activation of osteoclasts from their precursors is tightly regulated by cytokines and growth factors such as receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa beta (RANKL), tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and various interleukins. Receptor engagement of these molecules results in signaling cascades and transcriptional changes that give rise to medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and osteopetrosis. Using in vivo gene transfer of immune cytokines IL-23 and IL-17, we have established new arthritis animal models that highlight the importance of these immune cytokines in arthritis initiation and bone homeostasis. Using in vitro assays, we continue our attempts to define the cellular and molecular mechanisms that take place in this fascinating interplay of the immune and skeletal systems.

For more information, please contact Dr IE Adamopoulos or visit visit his faculty profile page.


Tahmer Ahmed, MD, PhD

Department of Population Health & Reproduction

I am a geneticist/bioinformatician focused on making use of the immensely growing Next Generation Sequencing data to understand, diagnose and treat biological disorders. I have contributed to multiple genomic resources including the chicken genome and a tissue-specific equine transcriptome. Also, I participated in large-scale sequencing efforts for gene discovery, using multiple animal models, including the dog, horse and cow. In addition, I collaborated in the development of software algorithms and platforms to detect sequencing errors, visualize structural variants, detect gene fusions, and identify novel transcriptomic structures. I am eager to collaborate with one of our STAR students on using new bioinformatic approaches a creative analysis of publicly available. In this project, he/she should 1) Learn how to search for publicly available RNAseq data for a phenotype of interest. 2) Benchmark classical RNAseq expression analysis techniques against the new alignment free approaches. 3) identify possible novel transcriptomic structures associated with our phenotype.

Please email me at

Faculty Bio


Monica Aleman

Department of Medicine & Epidemiology; VMTH: Large Animal Clinic

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 or visit her faculty profile page.


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:

Faculty Bio


Melanie Ammersbach

Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Ammersbach is a veterinary clinical pathologist with a special interest in non-traditional species. The areas of expertise of clinical pathologists include clinical chemistry, hematology and cytology. Non-traditional species include exotic pets, zoo animals, wildlife and laboratory animals. There are many potential projects, including several collaborations with other faculty members, such as: 1. A collaboration with the primate center and Dr. Olstad to evaluate neutrophil morphology with inflammation (retrospective study), and cerebrospinal fluid analysis findings (retrospective and prospective) and their association with a number of diseases. 2. A collaboration with Dr. Van Hoy on a project validating and establishing normal reference intervals for blood gases and coagulation tests in pet minipigs and 3. A collaboration with Dr. Beaufrere documenting lipoproteins in birds (including cockatiels and flamingoes) using high resolution lipoprotein electrophoresis.

Feel free to reach out at for more information.

Faculty Bio


Keith Baar, PhD

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 contact Dr. Barr via email at

Faculty Bio


Melissa Bain

Companion Animal Behavior Program

I am a 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

Canine and Equine Genetics

Department of Population Health and Reproduction

The Bannasch laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular mechanism of inherited naturally occurring diseases in companion animals. Prior to genome assemblies, my group successfully positionally cloned the gene for hyperuricosuria in dogs, and HERDA in horses. We subsequently successfully utilized genome wide association as a technique to determine the chromosomal location of many Mendelian and non-Mendelian disorders. Positional candidate genes were interrogated to define causal variants (Addison’s disease, Alaskan Husky encephalopathy, hoof wall separation syndrome, spinal dysraphism, Saluki encephalopathy, cleft palate and cleft lip, palate and syndactyly). We more recently have utilized whole genome sequencing approaches to define disease causing variants following GWAS (DCM and sudden death, an animal model of Robinow syndrome and coat color variants). We have also identified an unusual structural variant, an FGF4 retrogene, underlying canine chondrodystrophy and intervertebral disc disease. We followed this research with a molecular and bioinformatic investigation of retrogenes in animals. We identified and cataloged over 2000 canine retrogenes which are much more common than human or equine retrogenes. We continue to pursue this research through investigation into canine transposable elements (LINE-1) that mediate retrogene formation.

I really enjoy having summer research students. Depending on the project, students will gain experience in both wet lab molecular genetics techniques and running genetic analysis programs.

Please contact Dr. Bannasch via email at

Faculty Bio


Chris Barker

VM: Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Mosquito-borne diseases, Epidemiology, Surveillance

My program focuses on the epidemiology and ecology of mosquito-borne diseases, primarily those caused by West Nile, chikungunya, and dengue viruses, and including other livestock diseases such as Rift Valley fever and bluetongue. My research combines laboratory studies and epidemiological methods to understand the environmental drivers of disease outbreaks, and I oversee the UC Davis component of the statewide surveillance program for mosquito-borne viruses.

STAR project opportunities in my lab include [1] development of laboratory assays to monitor feeding or determine age of individual mosquitoes (methods: MALDI-TOF, mosquito rearing and handling), [2] field studies on the ecology and control of West Nile virus (methods: epidemiological analysis, mosquito trapping, bird banding and tracking), or [3] analysis of the relationship between West Nile virus disease and demographic risk factors in California (methods: epidemiology, GIS).

Dr. Barker can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


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 for more information.


Hugues Beaufrère, DVM, PhD, DACZM, DABVP (Avian), DECZM (Avian)

Lipid disorders in birds and reptiles, clinical research in birds, reptiles, and small mammals

Dept of Medicine and Epidemiology – School of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Beaufrère main research area is on lipid disorders and lipid diagnostic tests in birds and reptiles such as studies on atherosclerosis, hepatic lipidosis, and plasma lipid biomarkers. Dr. Beaufrère is also very active in clinical research in companion zoological medicine on a variety of topics and has a special interest in applied biostatistics in zoological medicine.

Please email Dr. Beaufrere for more information.

Faculty Bio


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.


Charles L. Bevins MD, PhD

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine

Our laboratory is interested in innate immunity of mucosal tissues, and we are focused on key effector molecules 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 typically have a broad-spectrum of antimicrobial activity that includes bacteria, fungi and certain viruses.  Defensins are the major class of antimicrobial peptides in humans and other mammals.  Investigations from our laboratory have discovered that certain defensins are expressed in abundance by epithelial cells at wet mucosal surface.  Our studies support a model - antimicrobial peptide constitutes part of an active, early host defense response of challenged epithelial cells.  The long-range goal of our research is to understand the specific role that these epithelial antimicrobial peptides play in mucosal innate immunity, including maintaining homeostasis at baseline and responding to challenge by pathogenic microbes.  Our current collaborative studies include: (i) characterizing the primary structure and biological activity of the tissue forms defensins, (ii) defining the key regulatory steps for the expression of these molecules, (iii) exploring potential mechanisms of therapeutic modulation of these systems. The investigations include biochemical and molecular biological approaches and analysis of transgenic and other animal models.

Faculty Bio


Brian Bird DVM, MSPH, PhD

One Health Institute

Dr. Bird is a veterinarian and virologist with expertise in virus ecology and viral hemorrhagic fevers. He has an active research program in California and across Africa investigating zoonotic virus spillover and immunobiology from wildlife especially bats and rodents of high-consequence viruses, pathogen-detection, and the development of countermeasures ranging from vaccines for animal and human use to community-based risk mitigation. STAR student projects could range from laboratory analyses to field ecology depending on student interest and needs of currently funded projects.

Faculty Bio


Eliza Bliss-Moreau, PhD

Department of Psychology, College of Letters and Sciences

California National Primate Research Center

Dr. Bliss-Moreau’s multi-method, multi-level, multi-disciplinary, multi-species research program is focused on understanding the biological mechanisms that generate healthy and unhealthy emotions and social behavior, with the goal of developing new effective treatments and interventions for emotion-related psychopathology and understanding how and why emotions evolved.  Her research program adopts a lifespan approach, primarily studying nonhuman primates from infancy through old age – what the Bliss-Moreau Lab refers to as womb-to-tomb affective science.  The lab works at levels from cellular neurobiology to the study of social systems (and everything in between).  Additionally, the Bliss-Moreau Lab pursues topics related to variation in neural development, both during early development (following viral infection with Zika virus) and in the diseases of old age (namely Alzheimer’s disease).

Dr. Bliss-Moreau can be reached via email at or visit the lab website for more information. 


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.

Faculty Bio


Julie Bossuyt, DVM, PhD

Chair MCIP Graduate Group
Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine

Cardiovascular Biology/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 :

Faculty Bio


Terza Brostoff

Dr. Brostoff is a board-certified veterinary microbiologist with emphasis in immunology and virology. Her laboratory's current interests include:

  • Developing novel diagnostic tests for infectious diseases and cancer
  • Developing lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA vaccines
  • Understanding the contribution of extracellular vesicles to viral infection

Potential STAR projects include:

  • Validation of a novel diagnostic test for feline coronavirus
  • Measuring the T-cell responses to mRNA vaccines
  • Analyzing EVs from infected vs. uninfected animals to understand how they may contribute to disease progression

If interested, please email to discuss further.

Faculty Bio


Jennifer Cassano DVM, PhD

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Cassano is an equine field service clinician in the Department of Medicine & Epidemiology with a 50% clinical appointment in the VMTH. As the director of the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory part of the Veterinary Institute for Regenerative Cures, Dr. Cassano oversees the preparation of all the stem cells used in various clinical trials underway at UC Davis. Her research seeks to better understand how modulation of the immune response can be harnessed in therapeutic treatments, combining the areas of immunology and regenerative medicine. Potential projects include evaluating mesenchymal stem cells antibacterial and antifungal properties in feline, canine, and equine species as well as evaluating mitochondria as a regenerative medicine treatment in osteoarthritis and metabolic disorders. Dr. Cassano hopes to mentor highly motivated students interested in getting involved in clinically oriented research. Students will be involved with all phases of the project, including publication. 

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

Faculty Bio


Chao-Yin Chen, PhD

Cardiovascular regulation, 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:


Ching-Hsien (Jean) Chen, PhD

SOM: Nephrology/Internal Medicine

Dr. Chen’s research strives to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying cancer malignancy and thereby identify useful biomarkers and/or druggable targets. She seeks to develop peptide-based therapeutics to mitigate cancer metastasis and drug resistance by targeting aberrant oncogenic signaling. Research in her laboratory focuses on how the phospholipids such as PIP2 and PIP3 are regulated during the development of malignancies and inflammatory diseases.

Potential summer research projects: 1) examine the feasibility of phospholipid retention strategies for cancer immunotherapy. This project will use genetic manipulations and pharmacological approaches to elucidate mechanisms of tumor immune evasion and develop targeted therapies for increasing the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors; 2) characterize the mechanisms of cancer stemness in order to discover therapeutic targets for combating cancer progression and overcoming drug resistance. This study will help the development of novel treatments that destroy cancer stem-like cells without adversely affecting self-renewal of normal stem cells.

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


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

Dr. Chen can be reached at

Faculty Bio


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:

1. Sakai RR (STAR), Coons DM, Chigerwe M. Effect of single oroesophageal feeding of 3 L versus 4 L of colostrum on absorption of colostral IgG in Holstein bull calves. Livestock Sci 2012;148: 296-299.

2. Murphy JM (STAR), Hagey JV, Chigerwe M. Comparison of serum immunoglobulin G half-life in dairy calves fed colostrum, colostrum replacer or administered with intravenous bovine plasma. Vet Immunol Immunopath 2014;158: 233-237.

3. Pipkin KM (STAR), Hagey JV, Rayburn MC, Chigerwe M. A randomized clinical trial evaluating metabolism of colostral and plasma derived immunoglobulin G in Jersey Bull calves. J Vet Intern Med 2015;29:961-966.

4. Yang VC (STAR), Rayburn MC, Chigerwe M. Effect of intravenous plasma transfusion on granulocyte and monocyte oxidative and phagocytic activity in dairy calves with failure of passive immunity. Res Vet Sci. 2017;115:24-28.

Please contact Dr. Chigerwe at

Faculty Bio


Blaine Christiansen, PhD

Musculoskeletal adaptation, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, bone, biomechanics

UCDMC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Dr. Christiansen is a faculty member in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Biomedical Engineering Graduate Group. His research investigates the adaptation of musculoskeletal tissues, particularly bone and articular cartilage, to the mechanical environment, injury, aging, or disease using small animal models. The musculoskeletal system has an innate ability to repair and optimize itself based on the mechanical demands placed on it. By studying this adaptation, we are able to uncover the underlying mechanisms that contribute to diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Musculoskeletal adaptation is quantified in these models using advanced imaging techniques, histology, and mechanical testing. Current projects in the Christiansen lab include investigation of biomechanical and biological mechanisms contributing to the development of post-traumatic osteoarthritis, investigation of systemic bone loss following bone fracture or other musculoskeletal injury, and determining the effect of peripheral sensory nerve function on bone metabolism and bone adaptation to the mechanical environment.

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

Contact Dr. Christiansen at


Lark L. Coffey, Ph.D.

Davis Arbovirus Research and Training
Center for Vectorborne Diseases
Assistant Professor
Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology

Dr. Coffey  studies the ecology, evolution, and transmission dynamics of mosquito-borne viruses including chikungunya, Zika, West Nile, and St. Louis encephalitis that are significant causes of human disease with no licensed human vaccines or treatments beyond supportive care. The goal of her research is to understand patterns of viral molecular evolution and the viral genetic factors that promote arbovirus emergence and severe disease. Her work focuses on how intrahost viral genetic diversity generated by error-prone viral replication influences infectivity and transmissibility between mosquitoes and people or animals. She and her team also developing cheap and convenient improvements to surveillance in mosquitoes by detecting viral RNA in saliva expectorated by sugar-feeding West Nile virus vectors in California. They are also developing approaches to increase safety of candidate live-attenuated chikungunya virus vaccines by restricting their potential to develop revertant mutations that cause illness in vaccinees. Together with the California National Primate Research Center, the team is developing a non-human primate model of human Zika virus in pregnancy that is being used to define the roles of Zika virus mutations in fetal disease and for pre-clinical testing of therapies and vaccines. 

Please see for more information.


Gino Cortopassi

VM: Dept. of Molecular Biosciences

Mitochondrial disease results from inherited defects in mitochondrial genes or exposure to mitochondrial toxins. We investigate pathomechanism, including mitochondrial defect ->neuroinflamation->neurodegeneration. We screen for protective molecules for mitochondrial disease.  We are interested in canine distemper and its relationship to human multiple sclerosis.

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


Bethany Cummings, DVM, PhD

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine and in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine. My lab is interested in type 2 diabetes mellitus pathogenesis and treatment. We conduct studies in cells, rodent models and human samples to understand the molecular basis of metabolic disease, with a focus on bile acid metabolism by the gut microbiome and pancreatic islet biology. 

Please contact Dr. Cummings at  

Faculty Bio


Lillian Cruz-Orengo, Ph.D.

Neuroimmunology, sexual dimorphisms, blood-brain barrier

VM: Anatomy, Physiology & Cell Biology

My research focuses at the neuroimmune interactions at the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and its role in the neuropathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, like Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is the second leading cause of neurologic deficits in young adults and exhibits a high sex-bias affecting three times more women than men. MS is characterized by the pathologic trafficking of autoreactive-leukocytes into the central nervous system (CNS). We are interested in 1) assessing the contribution of IL-20 cytokine family signaling and 2) the role of sexual dimorphisms at the BBB using the murine MS model Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE). Likewise, we want to 3) assert if Canine Immune-Mediated Encephalitis (CIME) could be characterized as a natural MS model. CIME etiology is elusive but, but there is evidence to suggest that is due to autoimmunity. Lastly, we are in the developing a model 4) to assess changes in brain microvasculature as a result to pesticide exposure using zebrafish. This model will lead to better understanding of the role that environmental factors may play in of BBB disruption and consequently on neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders.

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

Faculty Bio


Jonathan Dear, DVM, MAS, DACVIM (SAIM)

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Jonathan Dear is a board-certified small animal internal medicine specialist at the University of California, Davis. A graduate of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Dear completed his residency at UC Davis. Dr. Dear also completed a master's degree in clinical research at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Dr. Dear's clinical interests include urinary and respiratory medicine, while his research interests also include small animal infectious diseases. Dr. Dear is the current president of the International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Disease.

Possible 10-week research projects:

Investigation of tick vectors in areas where Babesia conradae is endemic

-this project will focus on the epidemiology of B. conradae, a protozoal parasite of domestic and wild canids. Tick vectors have been identified most of the Babesia species affecting humans and small animals, however, a competent tick vector for B. conradae has not been identified. The aim of this project would be to trap and identify both soft and hard ticks in areas of California where B. conradae has been diagnosed. Additionally, the project will aim to identify tick species found on trapped coyotes and work to determine whether they harbor known pathogens of domestic dogs.

Validation of a point-of-care assay for disseminated, invasive aspergillosis

-Aspergillosis can be an invasive fungal disease of dogs and is generally associated with a grave prognosis. At present, diagnosis can be made by either identification of the organism via cytology or histopathology (which requires expertise and/or invasive techniques) or urine or serum tests which must be sent out for interpretation. In this project, a student would work to validate a point-of-care Aspergillus antigen test kit, comparing results to the current gold standard. 

Contact information: Jonathan Dear,, 530-752-7133

Faculty Bio


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 for more information. Email 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 for more information, or email to


Sonja Dieterich, PhD

Department of Radiation Oncology

Dr. Dieterich’s expertise is in the area of medical physics, specifically stereotactic radiosurgery, small field dosimetry and respiratory motion management.

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

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



Pouya Dini, DVM, PhD, PhD, Dipl. ECAR, Dipl. ACT

Assistant Professor in Equine Reproduction
Department of Population Health and Reproduction (PHR)

Research Interests: My research topics include parental gene expression in the placenta and the reciprocal paternal and maternal gene interaction in the equine's placental development and its pathologies, effects of assisted reproductive techniques on the epigenetic of the equine placenta, and host-pathogen interaction during equine placentitis. We use high-throughput sequencing along with classical molecular and cellular biology techniques to explore these topics.

Possible learning outcomes:

1- Culture cells and organoid from reproductive tract (mainly equine)

2- Extract nucleotides and PCR

3- Get familiar with next-generation Sequencing methods

4- Get familiar with in vitro embryo production in equine and bovine

Dr. Dini can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio



Ghislaine Dujovne, DVM, MS

Assistant Professor in Clinical Theriogenology


Dr. Dujovne is a theriogenologist whose clinical work focuses mainly in equine reproduction. Dr. Dujovne's research interests focus on reproductive problems of clinical relevance on mares and stallions. Dr Dujovne’s main interest is efficient clinical management of reproductive diseases and artificial reproductive techniques. She has participated in research related with estrus suppression in performance mares, endometritis treatment in mares, stallion semen quality, post-mortem sperm recovery in stallions and semen evaluation in canine semen.


Faculty Bio


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.

Faculty Bio


Peter Ernst, DVM, MSc, PhD

Affiliated with UC Veterinary Medical Center – San Diego

Director for the Division of Comparative Pathology and Medicine
Director for the Chiba University/UCSD Center for Mucosal Immunology, Allergy and Vaccine Development

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. Our current emphasis in on the role of adenosine as an anti-inflammatory mediator and how it protects from disruption in the microbiota that trigger disease. In addition, we are examining the role of bacteria in generating oxidative DNA damage in the digestive tract and its regulation by DNA repair enzymes.

Link to Dr. Ernst’s current publications
Link to Dr. Ernst’s website

Please contact Dr. Ernst for more information:


Andrea J. Fascetti, VMD, PhD, DACVIM (SAIM), DACVN

Veterinary Medicine Molecular Biology

My research focuses on omnivore nutrition, in particular dogs and cats. I enjoy evaluating problems on both a clinical and basic level, and many of our findings are immediately applicable to the nutritional management of dogs and cats.  My current research interests are trace mineral and amino acid metabolism, obesity, carnivore nutrition, nutritional idiosyncrasies of the cat, improvement of pet foods and clinical nutrition.  I am the Scientific Director of both Feline Research Laboratories and the Amino Acid Laboratory.

Through the Amino Acid Laboratory, we have analyzed thousands of whole blood and plasma samples from dogs eating grain-free diets suspected of developing dilated cardiomyopathy.  Detractors of this condition claim that it is a breed related problem, and in some breeds that may be the case.  That said, we saw numerous mixed breed dogs with this condition.  The other observation from our laboratory was that there was a preponderance of dogs eating grain-free diets developing cystine stones.  This investigator believes the sudden increase in cystine stones may be caused by the grain-free diets.  Once awareness of the association of taurine deficiency and grain-free diets was on the rise, I suspected that companies were increasing the amount of methionine and cystine in their foods, resulting in higher rates of cystine loss in the urine and the development of cystine stones.  We propose to review the thousands of data points we have collected and test the hypotheses regarding the relationship of grain-free diets and breed of dog, as well as the occurrence of cystine stones in dogs eating grain-free diets.  Note that students will not only get experience in working with data in a retrospective format, but also will have the opportunity to work in the Amino Acid Laboratory under the direction of our lead technician.

I can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


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 equine neuroaxonal dystrophy (eNAD) 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) and occipitoatlantoaxial malformation, among other diseases. Dr. Finno's research is funded by the NIH, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation and the Center for Equine Health at UC Davis. Her laboratory incorporates clinical research in the field with molecular tools in the laboratory.  Website:

Please contact Dr. Finno for more information:


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.

Dr. Foley can be reached at

Faculty Bio



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.

Faculty Bio


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.


Faculty Bio


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:

Faculty Bio


Angie Gelli, Ph.D.

Microbiology, molecular biology, host-pathogen interactions, blood-brain barrier, fungal pathogens

Dept. of Pharmacology, SOM

Over the past few years our research has focused on understanding how some pathogens are inherently capable of entering the brain, always with the underlying notion that these mechanismsmight be exploited for the development of drug-delivery systems across the blood-brain barrier for the treatment of brain disorders. My research has focused on the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans - the leading cause of a life-threatening fungal meningoencephalitis. Approximately 625,000 people die from this infection each year around the globe mostly due to the difficulties associated with destroying the pathogen once it gets into the brain. Most patients succumb to the infection because of increased intracranial pressure and lack of adequate fungicidal drug regime. Not only does this organism represent a medically relevant pathogen with fascinating mechanisms of pathogenesis but also it serves as an excellent model system for studying other fungal pathogens with central nervous system involvement. We use a multidisciplinary approach that includes proteomics and RNA-sequencing to examine the physical and molecular changes in the brain endothelium and to identify gene products in C. neoformans that elicit these changes during attachment to- and migration across the blood-brain barrier.

If interested, please contact Dr. Angie Gelli:

Visit our website for more information.  


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.

Dr. Genetos can be reached at

Faculty Bio


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 contact Dr. Gilardi at

Faculty Bio


Cecilia Giulivi, PhD

VM: Molecular Biosciences

My main research interest is to understand the mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction that contribute to the morbidity or start of neurodegeneration or neurodevelopmental deficits. As an extension of this work, and as aging is one of the main contributors to neurodegeneration, and life expectancy of pets is increasing worldwide, we realized that data on vitamins and antioxidant status of cats as they age are limited. This gap of knowledge undermines the resources needed by pet owners and clinicians to make informed decisions on (for instance) dietary supplements. This summer project seeks students to process and analyze data on vitamins B1 status in red blood cells of cats from the VMTH and compared them to reference stantards batined from the Cat Colony. A second project is related at finding biomarkers of aging in cats by the use of proteomics.

Dr. Giulivi can be reached at

Faculty Bio


Jenessa Gjeltema, DVM, Dipl. ACZM

Research Focus:  Effects of anthropogenic litter (plastic) pollution on animal, human, and ecosystem health.  Application, evaluation, and validation of clinical diagnostics and therapeutics in zoological species.

Affiliated departments:  UC Davis One Health Institute, Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, and Department of Medicine and Epidemiology

As Assistant Professor of Zoological Medicine and Head Veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo, Dr. Jenessa Gjeltema, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, a board-certified specialist in Zoological MedicineTM, provides both clinical veterinary service and engages in research in the field of Zoological/Wildlife Medicine.

Possible student research projects include:

  • Development, evaluation, and validation of research techniques for the study of environmental microplastic contamination
  • Investigation of the health effects of plastic pollution in animals and ecosystems
  • Application, evaluation, and validation of clinical diagnostics or therapeutics in zoological species
  • Other clinical research in the field of Zoological Medicine

To contact Dr. Gjeltema -

Faculty Bio


Stephanie Goldschmidt, BVM&S, DAVDC

Assistant Professor Dentistry and Oral Surgery

My research interests center on improving the diagnostic and care paradigm for oral cancer. Specifically, I am currently doing work establishing oral cancer cell lines, looking at EGFR expression in oral tumors, and running a clinical trial evaluating the use of fluorescence lifetime imaging to guide intraoperative decision making in oral cancer.

Please email for more information.

Faculty Bio


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 website for more information. 


Kristin Grimsrud, DVM, PhD

Assistant Clinical Professor, Dept of Pathology, School of Medicine 

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

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

Faculty Bio


Bruce Hammock

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

Dr. Hammock’s laboratory has a long collaboration with faculty and students in the school of veterinary medicine.  His laboratory develops mass spectral and biosensor analytical methods for environmental contaminants and drugs in companion animals.  The laboratory is working on a new branch of the arachidonic acid cascade and is developing drugs to block arthritic and laminitic inflammation in horses and inflammatory and post surgical pain in dogs and cats associated with injury, diabetes, age and other criteria.


Use of inhibitors of the soluble epoxide hydrolase to potential treat disease in companion animals such as dogs and cats as well as horses and livestock species.

Pharmacokinetic analysis in development of novel pharmaceuticals for veterinary use.

Fundamental mechanism of action of regulatory lipids.

Natural food additives to expand the efficacy of omega 3 fatty acid supplements in food of companion animal and livestock species.

Development of CNS acting drugs to treat disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease and depression.

See for additional information.


Michelle Hawkins, VMD Dipl. ABVP (Avian Practice)

Anesthesia, analgesia, wildlife

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.

Dr. Hawkins can be reached at

Faculty Bio


Meera Heller DVM, PhD, DACVIM

Immunology and Infectious Disease, Livestock Medicine

Dr Heller is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Livestock Medicine and Surgery.   Her expertise is in immunology and infectious disease.  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 bench-top projects working with bovine bacterial pathogens, clinical or field research on a novel approach to prevention of respiratory disease in cattle, and clinically important retrospective studies using the VMACS database.

Please contact Dr. Heller via email at

Faculty Bio


Matthias Hess, PhD

Department of Animal Science 

I am a microbiologist with a strong background in biotechnology. My research centers on the multi-scale (from molecule to cell to population to ecosystem) understanding of microbial systems through cultivation-independent as well as cultivation-based techniques. One of the ecosystems my group has been focusing on over the last years is the gut microbiome of ruminants and we have established an artificial rumen system in the laboratory to address questions related to gut and animal health and performance. More recently we have been expanding our work into other animal systems such as fish, pigs and poultry.  

For more information, please visit Dr. Hess’ website.


Tien-Chieh Hung, BS, MS, PhD

Fish Conservation and Culture Lab, Discovery Bay, CA

Prof. Hung works in the area of aquacultural engineering including computational fluid dynamics, biomimetic particle filtration system design, recirculating culture system design, cultural technique development, and fish behavior. He has been working with the endangered Delta Smelt since 2008 and is Director of the Fish Conservation and Culture Laboratory and manages the refuge population of the Delta Smelt. His current study is focusing on the behavior of Delta Smelt at various environment, culture technique improvement, fish marking, and the effect of domestication on the captive fish. In addition, Dr. Hung also has four year’s working experience as an R&D in a chemical pesticide company responsible for the formula and formulation design.    

For more information, please visit or

Prof. Hung can be reached at


Roslyn Rivkah Isseroff, MD

SOM: Dermatology 

Our lab studies wound repair and tissue regeneration. We use cell models (skin cell migration studies), ex vivo tissue models (wound healing in a piece of human skin in a petrie dish), animal models (wounds in mouse skin) and we also carry out translational research where we apply what we have learned at the bench to our clinic patients (Dr. Isseroff is also chief of dermatology at the VA hospital and directs the wound clinic there, where patients with diabetic non-healing wounds, and other wounds are treated). In addition, we have just established a pig wound model, that the FDA prefers for testing all new wound therapies. We plan on generating an impaired healing pig wound model, by using pigs that are diabetic, or by infecting the wound surface with pathogenic bacteria. In addition to the PI (Isseroff), our lab is staffed by MD and PhD postdocs, three PhD graduated students, junior specialists, a senior scientist. We interact closely with the Stem Cell program and we are funded to create a wound healing bioengineered tissue construct that is seeded with mesenchymal stem cells. We also study the effects of chronic stress on healing, and how it alters the immune response that impacts on healing. We offer bench or clinical (human patient) projects.

Please contact Dr. Isseroff at

Faculty Bio


Michele Jay-Russell, DVM, MPVM, PhD, Dipl., ACVPM

Foodborne pathogens, food safety, good agricultural practices, food policy and regulation, public health, zoonoses

Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS)

My research interests are in food safety and veterinary public health with an emphasis on the molecular epidemiology of zoonotic enteric foodborne pathogens. I currently manage the Western Center for Food Safety, an FDA Center of Excellence in partnership with UC Davis. Our mission is to research the interface between production agriculture and food protection to identify real-world solutions to food safety challenges in these systems. Prior to joining the university, I served as the State Public Health Veterinarian and was involved with numerous outbreak investigations at the state and county levels in California. My current research program continues work in the area of public health and food safety. My laboratory conducts on-farm and field trial studies with the aim to reduce the risk of foodborne pathogen transmission to the food supply from domesticated and wild animals, untreated biological soil amendments (raw manure), and other environmental sources. One of my key outreach goals is to work with stakeholders to develop co-management approaches to protect fruits, nuts, and vegetables from microbial contamination while at the same time promoting environmental stewardship on farms. Data generated by applied research and outreach activities in my program have been used to inform policy related to produce food safety and FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations.

Potential STAR Projects:

·         Validation of minimum application intervals for untreated biological soil amendments of animal origin (raw manure and other animal products)

·         Ability of poultry pellet fertilizers and other biological soil amendments to serve as pathogen harbors in fresh produce production

·         Mitigating food safety risks in aquaponics production

·         Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) of Salmonella in farm ponds used for fresh produce production

·         Development of educational and extension materials on microbial food safety and composting

 Please visit Dr. Jay-Russell’s website for more information.


Hong Ji, PhD

Epigenetics, respiratory, pediatric

California National Primate Research Center

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.



Eric G. Johnson, DVM

Associate Professor of Clinical Surgical & Radiological Sciences

My background research interests include mapping of lymphatic pathways with ultrasound, CT and MRI and novel disease descriptions using these cross sectional imaging modalities.

Contact information:

Faculty Bio


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.

Faculty Bio


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."

Faculty Bio


Krista A. Keller, DVM, Dipl ACZM

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

I am a board-certified specialist in zoological medicine and my research, focused on of mycotic infections of reptiles, allows me (and my mentees) to ask clinically relevant questions to drive hypothesis-based research. I am interested in understanding all aspects of the host-microbe-environmental triad as it relates to infectious disease development to drive meaningful recommendations on the diagnosis and treatment of reptiles infected with mycotic agents.

My mentoring philosophy involves handing students a spark (an idea), then allowing them to light the fire (research and develop a research question) and helping them to appreciate all components of research from ideation, hypothesis creation, methodological planning, material list development, data collection and analysis, through dissemination on the local and national level.

I can be reached at

Faculty Bio


Stefan Keller, DVM,, PhD, DECVP

Assistant Professor of Anatomic Pathology

I am an assistant professor of anatomic pathology at the School of Veterinary medicine. My research is focused on 1) improving methods to diagnose lymphoma in domestic animal species based on B- and T-cell receptor diversity; 2) developing algorithms to support clinical decision-making using machine learning/artificial intelligence. 

For the summer of 2023 the Keller lab would welcome a veterinary student interested in improving diagnostic methods to distinguish inflammatory bowel disease from lymphoma in cats with chronic enteropathy. More specifically the project will utilize next generation sequencing to characterize the hypervariable region of T-cell receptors from archived endoscopic samples of cats with a wide range of histological profiles and clinical disease severity. We expect this technique to outperform current methods to detect early emerging alimentary lymphoma and to differentiate it from inflammatory enteric disorders. The student will work with researchers from various fields such as pathology, internal medicine and computer science. The project is benchwork-centered and will involve contemporary molecular techniques such as PCR, capillary electrophoresis and next generation sequencing. Furthermore, the STAR student will be exposed to related research projects centered on assessing lymphocyte distribution in intestinal biopsies using artificial intelligence and extracting pertinent clinical information from VMACS. In addition to the mandatory STAR poster presentation, we encourage, and will support a poster presentation at the annual American College of Veterinary Pathology (ACVP) conference 2023. 

Dr. Keller can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


Soohyun Kim, DVM, PhD

Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences

I am a veterinary ophthalmologist and clinician-scientist at the Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California – Davis. I am particularly interested in the advanced ocular imaging of anterior and posterior segments. 

Potential projects for STAR students include: 

1) Advanced imaging before and after the EDTA chelating in patients with calcific corneal degeneration.

2) Assessment of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and optic nerve head in normal and glaucoma dogs.

3) Evaluation of retinal pathology in small animals.

4) Evaluation of corneal opacity using in vivo confocal biomicroscopy.

Contact information:

Faculty Bio


Hiroshi Kiyono, D.D.S., PhD

Professor of Medicine and-Director, CU-UCSD Center for Mucosal Immunology, Allergy and Vaccines

University of California, San Diego

Professor, Future Medicine Education and Research Organization

Chiba University, Chiba, Japan

Dr. Kiyono’s background as a dentist combined with extensive research experience in the field of Mucosal Immunology makes him exceptionally well qualified to provide the current and future directions of mucosal immunology and mucosal vaccine development. In the late 1970s, Dr. Kiyono has started his research career in the launch of the “Mucosal Immunology” under the guidance of his mentor. He consistently played an important role as a pioneer in this research area with his colleagues and collaborators. In particular, his research team explored in 1) Peyer’s patches, one of core members of gut-associated lymphoid tissues possess antigen-presenting cells and IgA isotype specific helper T cells (now classified in Th2 cells) for the induction of antigen-specific mucosal immunity; 2) intestinal mucosa, epithelial, mesenchymal, and immune cells form a multi-ecological system in concert with the gut microbiota to create and maintain homeostasis; and 3) the respiratory mucosal immune system with its unique immunobiological characteristics.

Based on the accumulated scientific foundation of the mucosal immune system, his research team has also actively facilitated the development of the next-generation of nasal and oral vaccines, namely needle-free cationic nanogel (cCHP) containing respiratory microbial antigens and cold chain-free rice transgenic MucoRice expressing intestinal pathogen antigen, which now are in critical pre-clinical and clinical trial stages.

He is the present Chairman of the Intestinal Microbiology Society, and he was the previous President of the Japanese Society for Immunology, the former President of Society for Mucosal Immunology, the former President of Japanese Society of Vaccinology and the former board member of International Society for Vaccines.

Dr. Kiyono can be reached by email.


Christine Kreuder Johnson, VMD, PhD

One Health Institute

(See also: Global Health, Wildlife/Zoonoses)

Dr. Kreuder Johnson is a Professor of Epidemiology and Ecosystem Health in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute at UC Davis. Her research focuses on wildlife population health and the impact of ecological processes on species at risk and patterns of disease transmission in marine and terrestrial wild animal populations. Recent activities investigate zoonotic disease spillover dynamics, viral host shifts, further characterization of the animal-human interface, and epidemiologic patterns facilitating zoonotic disease transmission and spread. She provides epidemiologic support to federal and state agencies during unusual outbreak events and directs global surveillance activities for the Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT program.

 Contact info:

Faculty Bio


Heather Knych, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVCP

Dr. Knych is a clinical veterinary pharmacologist with research interests in (1) pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic relationships of drugs in performance horses (2) pain management and treatment of inflammation in horses and (3) equine drug metabolism in horses, including the identification of polymorphisms leading to altered drug clearance and therapeutic effects.  The lab has a dedicated exercised (treadmill) research herd that is used for in vivo studies and a fully equipped analytical (mass spectrometry) and molecular pharmacology lab. 

Please contact Dr. Knych ( for potential projects.

Faculty Bio


Amir Kol, DVM, PhD

VM: Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and the Chief of Service of Clinical Pathology at the VMTH. My research focus is in comparative stem cell biology and its application to regenerative medicine and disease modeling. Our group is working in 3 main thematic areas: (1) Mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC) treatment for lymphoid tissue regeneration and immune recovery in chronic viral infections, (2) Intestinal stem cell-derived organoids for disease modeling and (3) canine induced pluripotent stem cell. We do a lot of cell culture, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, qRT-PCR, sequencing and informatics. Please contact Dr. Kol if you are interested in a STAR project.

Contact information:

Faculty Bio


Nancy E. Lane, MD

Professor of Medicine and Rheumatology
Director: UC Davis Center for Musculoskeletal Health
Director: Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (BIRCWH)

Dr. Lane is translational scientist in musculoskeletal diseases, specifically osteoporosis and osteoarthritis including laboratory base models for over 20 years.  Her research has included evaluating how agents to treat osteoporosis affect bone quality, performs proof of concept phase 2 on an NIH funded clinical trial to determine how treatment with PTH could stimulate new bone formation in glucocortioid induced osteoporosis and if an antibody to nerve growth factor could reduce pain in osteoarthritis.                                                                                                                                             

Dr. Lane also has performed epidemiologic studies of osteoarthritis of both the knee and hip in men and women. Dr. Lane has received mentoring awards and currently is the director of UC Davis's K12 program on Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health.  Dr. Lane has mentored over 30 trainees in her academic career and has published over 300 articles or chapter.

Currently, Dr. Lane performs preclinical laboratory based studies to determine how bone active agents are used to treat osteoporosis and change bone quality and bone strength; and how a novel hybrid compound, LLP2A-­‐Ale, can direct mesenchymal stem cells to the bone surface and augment bone formation in bone disease states including osteoporosis, osteonecrosis and fracture healing.

Mentees are welcome to work on all aspects of this on‐going research.

Please visit Dr. Lane’s website for more information.

Faculty Bio


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.



Pamela Lein

Neurodevelopment, neuroinflammation, neurodegeneration, neurotoxicology, seizures, asthma

VM: Molecular Biosciences

The overarching goal in the Lein laboratory is to determine how environmental stressors interact with genetic susceptibilities to influence the risk and severity of neurodevelopmental disorders, neurodegenerative disease, seizures and airway hyperreactivity. Altered patterns of connectivity are associated with functional deficits in the central and peripheral nervous systems; therefore, we are investigating how environmental contaminants, chemical convulsants and inflammation perturb neuronal connectivity as determined using biochemical, morphogenic, functional and electrophysiological endpoints. We are also developing biomarkers of OP neurotoxicity and testing novel therapeutic approaches for protecting against the neurodegenerative effects associated with chemical convulsants.

If interested, please contact Dr. Pamela Lein at

Visit our website:


Sarah le Jeune, DVM, DACVS, DACVSMR

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.

Dr. Le jeune can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


Brian Leonard

Department of Surgical & Radiological Sciences

My research focuses on ocular surface health and immunity. I am particularly interested in the factors that promote tear film stability and the pathologies that lead to destabilization and ocular surface disease. Additionally, I am interested in the innate immune system of the ocular surface and the potential for modulating host responses to limit microbial keratitis.

I can be reached at for questions.

Faculty Bio


Richard Levenson, MD, FCAP

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (see also: Global Health, Pathology/Virology)


Richard Levenson, MD, FCAP, is Professor and Vice Chair for Strategic Technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UC Davis. He trained in medicine at University of Michigan and pathology at Washington University, and is Board-certified in Anatomic Pathology. A faculty position at Duke was followed by an appointment at Carnegie Mellon University to explore multispectral imaging approaches for pathology and biology. In 1999, he joined Cambridge Research & Instrumentation (now part of PerkinElmer) to become VP of Research, and helped develop commercially successful multispectral microscopy systems and software for molecular pathology and diagnostics, multispectral and three-dimensional small-animal imaging systems, optical dynamic contrast techniques, and birefringence microscopy. He serves on NIH, NCI and NSF review panels, is section editor for Archives of Pathology, and is on the editorial boards of Laboratory Investigation. Current research includes mass-tagged enabled multiplexed immunohistochemistry, and novel slide-free microscopy.


How microscopes work in actual clinical pathology has not changed materially in well over a century. Microscopy with Ultraviolet Surface Excitation. MUSE is a novel approach for obtaining high-resolution, diagnostic-quality histological images from unsectioned thick tissue specimens, avoiding the need to perform extensive tissue processing and thin physical sectioning. MUSE is notable for its optical and mechanical simplicity. Micron-deep images of the specimen surface are generated with 280-nm UV excitation provided by off-axis light-emitting diodes (LEDs).  Excitation with such short-wavelength UV light excites a wide range of exogenous dyes, and the resulting visible-band fluorescence images can be captured using ordinary microscopic optics and standard CMOS or CCD cameras. These multicolor fluorescence images have novel contrast but can also be converted to resemble conventional hematoxylin- and eosin-staining. A sample can be prepared for MUSE in around a minute. Extended fields of view can be captured from whole organs with microscopic detail. This non-destructive process leaves the sample intact for subsequent downstream molecular or genetic analysis. In addition, images can include shading and depth cues that reveal surface profiles important in understanding the three-dimensional organization of complex specimens. This inexpensive, rapid, and slide-free, sample-sparing method has potential to replace frozen sections, and may have other applications in both high- and low-resource settings.


1.            Survey a suite of familiar and unfamiliar fluorescent stains to learn what work best for either recapitulating standard hematoxylin-and-eosin stain appearance, or for staining new tissue components that are not easily detected just with H&E, like collagen, elastin, amyloid, PAS, etc.

2.            One of the things we have not yet been quite successful with is getting immunofluorescence to work with MUSE. The problem may be inadequate excitation light power (so we would need different sources), or alternatively, we need brighter labels. There are ways of approaching both these things, but this may be a more difficult project without guarantee of success. Still, it’s very important, and a lot would be learned along the way.

3.            Application to vet path cases would be very relevant, as MUSE can both provide intra-operative guidance, as well as point-of-care histology in veterinarian offices, which could be very helpful in decreasing the need for return visits and accelerating care.

Contact  -

Faculty Bio


Xunde Li, PhD

Microbiology and Food Safety

Dr. Li is a researcher (research microbiologist) at the Department of PHR. His research interests are in the areas of microbiological food safety related to antimicrobial resistance. Potential research topics include prevalence of foodborne pathogens and antimicrobial resistance in retail food using conventional bacteriological methods and novel sequencing approaches.

Please contact Dr. Li via email at

Faculty Bio


Fabio Lima, DVM, MS, PhD, DACT

VM: Population Health & Reproduction

The overarching goal of my research program is to promote the sustainability of dairy farming and help safeguard the food supply for humankind. My research program has three areas of focus: 1) Regulation of ovarian and uterine function to improve reproductive programs in cattle. 2) Antimicrobial stewardship in livestock. 3) Genome microbiome interplay regulating cows' health and productivity.

Dr. Lima can be reached at

Faculty Bio


DaZhi Liu, PhD

Department of Neurology, SOM, UC Davis

Liu’s research leverages cancer elements (oncogene/kinase Src, tumor suppressor miR-122/125b) to develop new drugs for treatment of neurological disorders. Liu and colleagues developed a new concept “aberrant cell cycle diseasesthat reveals cancers and neurological disorders share common mechanism of aberrant cell cycle re-entry (

In this concept, oncogenes/kinases (e.g., Src, ERK, CDK, others) promote cell division in cancers, but the same genes drive neuron to re-enter the cell cycle which results in neuronal death in neurological disorders. Liu further enriched this concept with evidence that oncogenes/kinases promote cancer cells crossing from blood into tissue to cause metastasis in cancers, whereas the same genes mediate cell infiltration and blood brain barrier (BBB) disruption in neurological disorders. Therefore, numerous approaches that treat cancers can be repurposed to treat neurological disorders, as these two diseases share common mechanism.

These ideas are strongly supported by the pharmacological data that show oncogene/kinase inhibitors can not only treat cancers, but also treat neurological disorders. For example, several labs in the UCD Cancer Center reported that Src inhibitor PP2 blocks metastasis and kills cancer cells; while Liu and colleagues showed PP2 promotes neuronal survival and improves BBB integrity after stroke an traumatic brain injury (TBI). Based on these concept & ideas, Liu established his research program that consists of four ongoing projects:

Project 1: Inhibiting oncogene/kinase Src for treatment of TBI. This project studies Src mechanism of TBI.

Project 2: Elevating tumor suppressor miR-122/125b for treatment of stroke and TBI. This project explores new generation microRNA drugs to treat neurological disorders, such as stroke and TBI.

Project 3: Developing microRNA drugs for SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 associated brain injury in collaboration with local UCD animal biosafety level-3 (ABSL-3) facility.

Project 4: Repurposing FDA-approved cancer drugs (kinase inhibitors) to treat neurological disorders.

Student responsibility: Medical students must have experience of animal surgery and are interested in therapeutics for neurological disorders. Students working in the Liu team are expected to commit several hours per week to search literature, learn animal surgery, write a mini-review, and complete project design during the school year. The students should dedicate fixed time for research after year 1 to conduct bench work and write a grant if data and time are sufficient.

Training plan: The interested students are encouraged to participate in Project 4. Open below link for the rationale and examples of this project in a perspective entitled “Repurposing cancer drugs to treat neurological diseases–Src inhibitors as examples”

Under Dr. Liu’s instruction, the students working in the Liu team will learn to design and execute a project by: 1) searching literature; 2) selecting a drug from the 62 FDA approved kinase-targeted cancer drugs; 3) picking animal models of an interested neurological disorders, such as TBI, stroke, AD, autism, epilepsy, MS, PD, and others (Note: In the event that the Liu team does not have animal models of a neurological disorder that a student is interested in, the student will be referred to other faculty of interest); 4) testing the therapeutic efficacy of the selected drug using animal models; 5) analyzing data and writing grant.

The long-term goal is to advance experimentally effective cancer drugs to clinical trials for treatment of certain types of neurological disorders in collaboration with physicians, which allows the students to continuously involve this project if they join Medical Schools at the UCD after graduation.


Phone: (530) 754-5004

Faculty Bio


Gaby Maier, DVM, MPVM, PhD

Dr. Gaby Maier (DVM, MPVM, PhD) is an Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension for Beef Cattle Herd Health & Production where her research is focused on finding solutions to health challenges in California beef production units with a focus on cow-calf operations. Challenges in beef production include control of infectious diseases such as infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis, better known as pinkeye, anaplasmosis, trichomoniasis or bovine respiratory disease. With the increasing concern about antimicrobial resistance in both humans and animals, fresh approaches to the treatment and management of many infectious diseases in livestock will become more important. Her research using epidemiological study design and field work focuses on the quantification of common practices, and new or untested techniques to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. Trace mineral supplementation is another area where many beef producers struggle and research into effective trace mineral supplementation is a further research interest. Beyond her research, Dr. Maier is extending knowledge in the form of workshops and seminars for beef ranchers, hobby farmers and the public.

Potential 10-week projects:

Cross-sectional survey of antimicrobial resistance in fecal pathogens in cow-calf operations in California

Survey of anthelmintic usage on cow-calf operations in California

Please contact Dr. Maier via email at

Faculty Bio


Denis Marcellin-Little, DEDV

VM: Surgery & Radiology

Service Chief, Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery

Dr. Marcellin-Little is a veterinary orthopedic surgeon with experience in 3-D reconstruction and analysis of musculoskeletal structures. His clinical focus is on total joint replacement and on the management of bone deformities. He has mentored more than 30 DVM students in STAR and STAR-like programs. 

To contact Dr. Marcellin-Little, please email

Faculty Bio


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.

Dr. Marco can be reached via email at

Please visit Dr. Marco’s website for more information.


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 jejuni, Salmonella spp.) and protozoa (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Tritrichomonas foetus) associated with diarrhea in dogs and cats, and evaluating diagnostic tests and therapeutic strategies to eradicate the organisms. Dr. Marks is also actively involved in research involving esophageal motility disorders and gastroesophageal reflux (GER), using high-resolution manometry (HRM), esophageal pH/impedance, videofluoroscopy swallow assessment, and esophagoscopy. His laboratory has multiple ongoing studies evaluating the effects of motility modifiers, acid suppressants, and anti-inflammatories on esophageal motility and GER.

Potential STAR projects for 2024 include:

  • Evaluation of the effects of fecal microbiota transplantation for canine atopic dermatitis
  • Evaluation of Esophageal Transit of Radiopaque Capsules in Healthy Dogs and Dogs with Acquired Idiopathic Megaesophagus
  • Validation of a fecal scoring chart for kittens

Please contact Dr. Marks via email for more information.

Faculty Bio


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

VM: Medicine and Epidemiology

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:

Faculty Bio


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

Faculty Bio


Bianca Da Costa Martins, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVO, DCLOVE (hon)

VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences

Dr. Bianca Martins is a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and clinician-scientist at the Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California – Davis. Her overall focus are include ocular surface reconstruction with an emphasis on the use of biological and synthetic grafts. My research program has three focus area: 1) corneal banking for corneal transplantation; 2) the use of amniotic membrane for ocular surface reconstruction; 3) equine ocular surface health.

Contact information:

Faculty Bio


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 is an immunologist whose research is focused on understanding T and B cell responses to bacterial infections particularly in the intestine and female reproductive tract. The overall goal of these NIH-funded projects is to improve understanding of memory responses in order to develop new vaccines. Specific research projects include: developing a sub-unit vaccine against systemic Salmonella infection; visualizing T cell responses to Chlamydia infection in the reproductive tract; examining innate activation of T cells during bacterial infections. Dr. McSorley also has an ongoing collaborative project with the Center for Companion Animal Health that seeks to develop new biologic therapeutics for canine oncology.

Please email Dr. McSorley for more information or potential STAR projects.

Faculty Bio


Stuart Meyers, DVM, PhD

Reproduction, aging and sperm physiology and cryopreservation, male effects on embryo development, and germ cell transplantation in endangered fish

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 gamete cryopreservation and an understanding of the role of the paternal genome on embryo development and mortality. Our newest research area is germ cell transplantation of endangered fish into surrogate non-endangered species. Our study models are the rhesus monkey, stallion, dog, and endangered fish but we also have active research in several other species. Our goals are 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. 

Dr. Meyers can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


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 (inoculum carrier wheat seed) 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, 2014, and 2015. We also performed studies to expand the label of AF36 registration for almonds and figs. Registration was obtained for the atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus AF36 Prevail (inoculum carrier sorghum seed) in early August 2017. Funding and collaborations on these projects include the California Pistachio Research Board, the Almond Board of California, the California Fig Institute and other Agricultural Industries, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the USDA. In addition, there is a crew of 8 to 10 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:

Contact:; 559-646-6546; 559-273-8640


Mike Mienaltowski, DVM, PhD

College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

Tendon repair, tendon stem/progenitor cell biology; broiler muscle pathology; foal microbiome

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:


Christopher Miller, DVM, PhD

Center for Comparative Medicine

Christopher J. Miller, D.V.M., Ph.D. is a Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Veterinary Medicine and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine. Dr Miller is a veterinarian and virologist, a core faculty member of the Center for Comparative Medicine and a Staff Scientist at the California National Primate Research Center. His laboratory utilizes non-human primate models of AIDS, Herpes simplex virus, Zika virus and influenza A virus infection to define the pathogenesis of these viral infections, study the nature of protective antiviral immunity, and test vaccines and immunotherapeutic strategies to prevent infections with these agents.

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


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:


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

Faculty Bio


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.

Faculty Bio


Emmanuel Okello, BVM, MSc, PhD


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:


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:


Richard Pereira, DVM, PhD

SVM: Population Health & Reproduction (See also: Food Animal Medicine)

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.

Contac information:

Please visit Dr. Pereira'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/population situations such as shelters or free ranging wildlife populations in suburbia. 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 emerging viral pathogens (Red Panda Amdoparvovirus, Feline hepadnavirus, Feline gammaherpesvirus).

Previous projects accomplished include:

Tissue distribution of FcGHV
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 2019:
Is FcGHV associated with oronasal carcinomas of the cat?
What is the impact of amdoparvovirus infection on red pandas in zoologic collections?

Please visit Dr. Pesavento's website at:


Isaac Pessah

Neurodevelopment, cell signaling pathways, neurotoxicology

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.

Dr. Pessah can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


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).

Dr. Pinkerton can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


Alda Pires, DVM, MPVM, PhD

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

Faculty Bio


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.

Dr. Pitesky can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


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.

Dr. Ramsey can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


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.

Dr. Raybould can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


Krystle Reagan

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

Dr. Reagan is a small animal internal medicine specialist with a focus in infectious diseases and a 50% clinical appointment in the VMTH.  Her laboratory research focus includes:

  • Development and validation of infectious disease diagnostics
  • Integration of artificial intelligence into clinical decision making
  • Translation of novel therapeutics into clinical trials

Current projects include:

  • Development of CRISPR based molecular tools for detection of viral pathogens
  • Use of next generation sequencing for detection of bacterial infections
  • Validation of artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms for the prediction of diagnosis and patient outcome

Please feel free to reach out at to discuss possible STAR projects.

Faculty Bio


Colin Reardon, PhD

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

Faculty Bio


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.

Faculty Bio


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.

Faculty Bio


Michael Rogawski, MD, Ph.D.

Department of Neurology and Pharmacology

Dr. Rogawski is a neurologist and pharmacologist whose research focuses on new treatment approaches for seizures, epilepsy, headache and other neurological conditions. Many of the treatment approaches involve targeting of ion channels, including GABA-A receptors, glutamate receptors, voltage-gated sodium channels and voltage-gated potassium channel. 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 areas of interest to the group. Research in the laboratory utilizes animal models and also cellular electrophysiology (brain slice and tissue culture). Students have an opportunity to gain experience with animal surgery, EEG recording, and testing of novel treatments in various neurobehavioral and seizure paradigms. The laboratory also conducts pharmacokinetic studies and operates a UPLC-quadrapole mass spectrometer for the measurement of drug levels.  Some of the therapeutic strategies under investigation include: AMPA receptor antagonists, neuroactive steroids, dietary therapies, cannabinoids, and treatments for genetic epilepsies. Dr. Rogawski’s laboratory is a component of the UC Davis CounterACT Center of Excellence, which investigates treatments for nerve agent seizures. STAR program students may choose a project related to the activities of the CounterACT Center. 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:


Wilson Rumbeiha, DVM, PhD, DABVT, DABT

Department: Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine

Affiliations: Pharmacology and Toxicology; Forensic Science, Center for Food Animal Health

Dr. Wilson Rumbeiha’s lab in The department of Molecular Biosciences, SVM  has a research opportunity for a STAR student over the summer of 2023. Sulfuryl fluoride (SF) is a structural fumigant for killing wood termites. The brain is the most sensitive organ to SF intoxication by inhalation; it causes neurodegeneration in the basal ganglia in animals and humans. The underlying mechanisms remain unknown. The goal of the study is to establish a rodent model of SF induced-neurodegeneration as the foundation to study mechanisms of neurodegeneration and therapeutic countermeasures. If this is of interest to you please reach out to Dr. Rumbeiha by email at

Faculty Bio


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.

Dr. Sacks can be reached via email at, or you can visit his website for more information.

Faculty Bio


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:


Hannah Savage, DVM, PhD, DACVM

Assistant Professor of Microbiology
Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology

The Savage lab studies interactions between pathogens, the microbiota, and host. In particular, I currently focus on how the microbiota promotes a heathy colonocyte immunometabolism and how this interaction is altered during disease, putting the host at risk of infection with pathogens and pathobionts. My overall research goal is to understand the basis behind these host-microbiota interactions during health so that host health can be supported with therapeutics during microbial disruption to prevent a loss of colonization resistance.

Potential projects:

1) Investigate effects of chemotherapy in a mouse model and a potential treatment option to improve outcomes during chemotherapy, focusing on prevention of systemic Candida albicans infection and/or a pilot study looking at improving GI effects of chemotherapy on the intestines. We have previously shown that this treatment reduces the expansion of Candida in an antibiotic-treated mouse model, and we are expanding into cyclophosphamide-treated mice. Potential projects include mouse experiments looking at Candida expansion (necropsy, bacterial plating, tissue collection), RT-PCR analysis of Candida genes, staining/evaluation of histology slides (from mice).

2) Investigate whether high levels of commensal Candida albicans colonization can be protective against other facultative anaerobic infections (likely Salmonella Typhimurium but TBD). We have previously shown that expansion of other facultative anaerobes are protective against Candida albicans expansion. However, there is a genetic mutation in humans, maintained at a relatively high level in the population, that allows for higher Candida colonization, so we are interested in investigating the reverse of the former work. This project would require doing a pilot study in mice (necropsy, bacterial plating, tissue collection), with the potential for additional options such as PCR/RT-PCR, histology slides, or flow cytometry.

3) Investigate the effects of chemotherapy on dog microbiomes. This project would involve collection, Enterobacteriaceae/yeast plating, 16S sequencing, and metabolomic analysis of dog feces during chemotherapy treatment compared to controls. It would require working with collaborators/attending workshops/learning to analyze -omics data, as we have previously outsourced this analysis. Could be done in conjunction with the chemotherapy mouse model, particularly because ability to do 16S sequencing and metabolomics is pending additional funding (samples could still be collected, plated, and DNA isolated in preparation for funding if it is not yet acquired).

Please contact Dr. Savage for more information at

Faculty Bio


David J. Segal, Ph.D.

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

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:


Karen Shapiro, DVM, MPVM, PhD

Waterborne zoonoses

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. In addition to her research program, Dr. Shapiro also oversees the VMTH parasitology diagnostic laboratory and provides expertise on protozoan pathogens in small, large and exotic animal patients. STAR students could become involved with projects focusing on the detection and epidemiology of protozoan pathogens in domestic animals, wildlife and environmental matrices. Specific topics that we are likely to focus on in summer 2002 include Tritrichomonas infections in kittens, Sarcocystis in wildlife, and Toxoplasma in feral cats. 


Faculty Bio


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 prion aggregates spread from cell-to-cell within the brain, leading to fatal neurodegeneration.

A third area of interest is in understanding the molecular basis of the toxicity occurring in prion disease. Aggregates of prion protein lead to neuronal degeneration and inflammation, however the mechanisms are poorly understood.

We would welcome veterinary students to our laboratory at UC San Diego to participate in projects related to prion disease and neurodegeneration.

Please visit Dr. Sigurdson’s website for more information. 


Fauna L Smith

Assistant Professor of Livestock Reproduction and Herd Health
VM: Population Health and Reproduction

Dr Smith is an Assistant Professor of Livestock Herd Health and Reproduction.   Her expertise is in immunology and infectious disease.  Her research interests are in the areas of small ruminant emerging diseases, development and assessment of herd level preventative measures for infectious disease and immune development and sex differences in ruminants.  Dr. Smith is boarded in Large Animal Internal Medicine and her clinical focus is small ruminant herd health.  Potential research topics include immune characterization of sheep and goats, field research on a novel approach to prevention of gastrointestinal or respiratory diseases of sheep and goats, and bio-surveillance of California's small ruminant populations for emerging infectious diseases.

Dr. Smith can be reached at

Faculty Bio


Woutrina Smith, DVM, Ph.D.

Infectious disease epidemiology

VM: Medicine & Epidemiology

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.

Dr. Smith can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio 


Joao H. N. Soares, MV, MSc, DSc

Dr. Joao Soares is a veterinary anesthesiologist with a research interest in respiratory function during anesthesia, including the use of specialized monitoring such as respiratory mechanics, electrical impedance tomography and volumetric capnography. Current research projects are 1) Evaluation of methods to choose positive end-expiratory pressure during mechanical ventilation of anesthetized dogs; and 2) retrospective study on the occurrence of postanesthetic pulmonary complications in dogs and cats anesthetized at the VMTH. 

Potential STAR projects are: 1) Anatomic and alveolar dead space in anesthetized dogs of different breeds; or 2) Effects of blood sampling duration upon arterial blood gases in anesthetized horses in lateral and dorsal recumbency. Both projects will be performed in anesthetized patients of the UCDavis VMTH. Other projects in the area of respiratory physiology applied to anesthesia may be discussed depending on the student interest.

Dr. Soares can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio


Jay Solnick, MD, Ph.D.

MED: Infectious Diseases
Center for Comparative Medicine

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 for more information.


Esteban Soto-Martinez, MSc, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVM

VM: Medicine and Epidemiology (Aquatic Animal Health)

Dr. Esteban Soto is a board certified veterinary microbiologist who has an interest in aquatic animal health. Our laboratory main research interests are to understand the pathogenesis of important infectious diseases of wild and aquatic animals, and to develop strategies to protect animals from these diseases. Members in our laboratory study One Health, Aquatic Animal Disease, and Fish Disease through a combination of microbiological, molecular, and epidemiological methods. Current projects involve studying the ecology, diversity and host-pathogen interaction of Francisella noatunensis, Piscirickettsia salmonis, Veronaea botryosa, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, Flavobacterium spp., Saprolegnia ferax, Koi herpes virus and other fish pathogens; and studying the ecology, diversity and host-pathogen interaction of hypermucoid Klebsiella pneumoniae in marine mammals.

Email Dr. Soto-Martinez for more information -

Faculty Bio


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.

Contact information for Dr. Sparger:  e-mail:

Faculty Bio


Liz Stelow, DVM, DACVB

VMTH Behavior Service

Research interests: Companion Animal Behavior and Welfare

The Behavior Service does research on many aspects of companion animal behavior, welfare, and the human-animal bond. Current studies involve the role of environmental stressors and personality on the development of urolithiasis in cats and the transition of singly-housed colony Orange Winged Amazon (OWA) parrots into a co-housing setting.

The best opportunity for a STAR project is within the OWA study. Recent laboratory animal housing guidelines are driving the changes in housing for these birds and little existing research is available to educate the transition process. Those factors make this a groundbreaking research project, several aspects of which could be tailored to a stand-alone STAR project for the right student.

Other student-proposed research ideas in the area of animal behavior will be considered individually.

Please contact Dr. Stelow at


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:

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.

Dr. Teh can be reached via email at

Faculty Bio

Aquatic Health Program


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.


Faculty Bio


Sara Thomasy, DVM, PhD, DACVO

Corneal endothelial disease, large animal models of ocular disease, corneal wound healing, glaucoma, ocular pharmacology & toxiciology

VM: Surgical & Radiological Sciences

Dr. Sara Thomasy is a veterinary ophthalmologist and clinician-scientist with strong interests in advanced ocular imaging, large animal models of ocular diseae, corneal wound healing and glaucoma. She is co-PI with Dr. Brian Leonard of the Comparative Ophthalmology Vision Sciences Laboratory (COVSL), a large (approx 15 personnel) highly collaborative interdisciplinary laboratory which conducts research at the intersection of mechanobiology,  translational medicine 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:  Comparative Ophthalmology & Vision Sciences Lab: Tupper Hall, room 1220;


Faculty Bio 


Christine Toedebusch, DVM, PhD

VM: Veterinary Neurology/Neurosurgery, Surgical and Radiological Sciences

Dr. Toedebusch investigates microglial function in health and disease. While they comprise only ~10% of the brain in most species, they are essential for central nervous system (CNS) homeostasis. Microglia are dynamic cells, with a broad range of effector function. Microglia have been implicated in disease pathogenesis for many CNS diseases, including glioma tumorigenesis. The Toedebusch laboratory is focused on further understanding mechanisms of microglia phenotype determination in glioma models. Our goal is to modulate microglia activity for treatment of glioma in both canine and human patients. The laboratory currently works with the following models: microglial cell lines, mouse models, and canine tissue.

Potential summer projects include: 1) characterization of microglia response to genetic modification 2) isolation of microglia from mouse glioma model 3) further characterization of microglial response in canine glioma. These research projects will provide students with training in molecular techniques such as qRT-PCR, western blot and immunofluorescence microscopy.

Please contact Dr. Toedebusch for more information:

Faculty Bio


Nam K. Tran, PhD, MS, FACB

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

My expertise is in clinical chemistry and point-of-care testing for critical care and emergency settings. This includes 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 organ dysfunction (e.g., acute kidney injury, myocardial infarction, etc), 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 use of anti-fibrinolytic therapy in severe hemorrhage models (e.g., swine and sheep), and pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) modeling of drugs in both animal and human models of injury.


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 for more information.


Renée Tsolis

Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine

Dr. Tsolis is a microbiologist studying host-pathogen interactions leading to disease during infection. Her laboratory uses a variety of animal models to study how two groups of zoonotic pathogens, non-typhoidal Salmonella and zoonotic Brucella species, interact with the immune system to cause disease. For non-typhoidal Salmonella species, Dr. Tsolis' group is interested in learning why underlying co-morbidities such as malaria and malnutrition increase the incidence of death from systemic infection in the developing world, and her laboratory has developed mouse models to gain insight into immunomodulatory effects of Vitamin A deficiency and malaria. For Brucella, the laboratory has developed models to understand both chronic infection that this group of organisms causes within the mononuclear phagocyte system and to interrogate placental infections in pregnant animals that lead to abortion in domestic animals. Collaborations with UCD research Dr. Luckhart in the Medical Microbiology department, Dr. McSorley in the Center for Comparative Medicine and Dr. Stephensen in the USDA Western Human Nutrition Research Center have been instrumental in establishing this interdisciplinary research program. The long-term goal of Dr. Tsolis' work is to uncover basic principles of how bacterial pathogens manipulate the immune response to cause disease and ensure their transmission to the next host.

Please visit Dr. Tsolis' website for more information.


Marcela Uhart, DVM

Wildlife Health Center

Dr. Marcela Uhart, DVM, is Director of the Latin America Program, Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. Her focus is on free-ranging wildlife health research and conservation, especially in marine wildlife (particularly mammals and birds). She runs long-term projects with southern right whales in Argentina, and with penguins, albatrosses and petrels in several South American countries. Dr. Uhart also investigates disease outbreaks of conservation concern in native terrestrial wildlife. Her wildlife health research expands over a variety of topics, including infectious and parasitic diseases, zoonotic pathogens, pollutants including plastics, biotoxins, antimicrobial resistance, physiology, ecology and health risks from human interactions (e.g. whale entanglements). Uhart’s research aims for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem sustainability under a One Health approach that acknowledges the interconnections between wildlife, humans and the environment.

Please contact Dr. Uhart at

Faculty Bio


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 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 nanoparticles to understand ultrafine particle dosimetry.

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.


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

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


Austin K. Viall, DVM, MS, DACVP

Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology

Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology

Dr. Austin Viall is a clinical pathologist in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology.  His research interests are in the realms of immune-mediated hematologic disorders, anemia, and transfusion medicine in companion animals.  Laboratory group specifically studies the underlying pathophysiology of canine immune-mediated hemolytic anemia and immune thrombocytopenia, along with mechanisms of immunothrombosis in these and other conditions.  Additionally, Dr. Viall’s team is looking to develop better assays to diagnosis and monitor response to therapy in dogs with immune-mediated hematologic diseases.  Potential STAR program projects include development of anti-erythrocyte antibody testing for IMHA diagnosis, anti-platelet antibody testing for ITP diagnosis, assessment of novel transfusion combability tests, or validation of a flow cytometry assays for neutrophil extracellular traps.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Viall at or come by office in VM3A 4329.

Faculty Bio


Aijun Wang, PhD

UC Davis Medical Center, Department of Surgery (see also: Translational Research, Orthopedics, Surgery)

My name is Aijun Wang. I am an assistant professor at the Department of Surgery, School of Medicine. My research interests center on engineering stem cells and biomaterials to develop novel regenerative medical therapies, especially surgical treatments for congenital anomalies. Since my employment as Co-Director of the Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory and an Assistant Professor at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in 2012, my lab has successfully combined tissue-engineering technologies with the most advanced fetal intervention, and developed novel biomaterial and stem cell-based treatments (including nanofibrous materials, fetal membrane, decelluarized extracellular matrix, iPSC-derived stem cells, placenta-derived stem cells) for devastating structural and genetic birth defects, such as spina bifida, hemophilia and congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Currently, we are extensively using the mouse, rat, guinea pig, rabbit and sheep experimental models to develop novel regenerative therapies. We are also adapting these novel therapies we developed in the lab for the treatment of naturally occurring diseases in companion animals.

Please visit Dr. Wang’s website at or the  website  for  the  Surgical Bioengineering Laboratory at

Contact Dr. Wang:


Bart Weimer, PhD

Dr. Weimer is a microbiologist that combines genomics to study the intersection between the host and microbiome. This ranges from single organisms that are zoonotic to the complex microbiome communities of various tissues of animals and humans. He leads the 100K Pathogen Genome Project that is focused on population microbial genomics to understand genomic diversity of infectious microbes but also virulence, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic transmission dynamics, clinical diagnostics, and global traceability. This project also provides a basis for reference genomes for metagenomic studies that integrate metabolism and host association that impact health and disease.

His group studies problems that range from single gene and single organism disease impacts on disease and diagnostics to community interactions that impart host changes via small molecules between the epithelium and distant tissues. His work with bacterial/stem cell interactions is one model for movement of bacteria between different sites in the body. His group ranges from bench experiments to population bioinformatics to metabolomics of microbial systems.

Some focus areas for his lab are: Salmonella diversity, Campylobacter zoonoses between wildlife, animals and humans, as well as infectious organisms from horses, ruminants, and feed. He is also interested in respiratory diseases, gut/brain interactions, epithelial microbiome, and the molecular methods that the microbiome uses to alter the host response. He uses food and infection to also understand how bacteria persist in chronic infections as well as the environment.

Dr. Weimer can be reached via email.

Faculty Bio


Hiromi Wettersten, DVM, PhD, MPVM

Department of Pathology, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Sanford Consortium of Regenerative Medicine

Our laboratory studies:

1) Different pathways that cancer stem cells and the tumor microenvironment communicate utilizing various murine cancer models

2) Potential ways to exploit these different pathways of communication for developing cancer therapeutics.

We recently discovered that tumor associated macrophages (TAMs), known to promote cancer progression, are particularly enriched in tumors with positive expression of integrin αvβ3, a cancer stem cell marker, both in mice and humans with different cancers. We have also established that an anti-human αvβ3 antibody can specifically exploit TAMs to eliminate αvβ3-positive cancer cells via antibody-dependent cellular-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC), resulting in an increased duration that a cancer is responsive to standard chemotherapeutics and eradication of metastatic tumor cells in various epithelial cancer models.

Extending this study, we aim to determine how cancer stem cells manipulate the tumor microenvironment (such as TAM enrichment) during inflammation mediated tumorigenesis and acquisition of drug resistance.

Dr. Wettersten’s publication list

If you are interested, please contact Dr. Hiromi Wettersten via email.


Luke A. Wittenburg, DVM, PhD, DACVCP

Dr. Wittenburg is a veterinary clinical pharmacologist with basic research interests in cancer biology and investigational/developmental therapeutics for treatment of cancer in pets and people.  A better understanding of the biology and response to therapy in veterinary patients with cancer is crucial to translate discoveries in our pet populations to potential therapies in humans with cancer.  Dr. Wittenburg’s current projects involve aspects of clinical pharmacology (PK/PD modeling) and in vitro pharmacology (comparative metabolism of chemotherapeutic drugs across species). Much of our current focus is to study the importance of protein-protein interactions with regard to transcription factors in the development and survival of osteosarcoma.  Summer project options include those that are basic science/molecular biology based and involve the use of inhibitors of transcription factor protein-protein interactions in human and canine osteosarcoma as molecular probes for identification of potential novel therapeutic targets, or clinical pharmacology based involving development and implementation of high performance liquid chromatography tandem-mass spectrometry (LC/MS-MS) methods for quantitation of chemotherapeutic drugs in veterinary species.

Please contact Dr. Wittenburg ( for more information.


Kevin D. Woolard, DVM, PhD, Dipl, ACVP

Assistant Professor of Anatomic Pathology

The Woolard Laboratory is primarily focused on comparative biology of human and canine glioma brain tumors. These tumors have an aggressive biologic behavior, with median survival times of around 14 months in people, in spite of surgery, chemo-, and radiotherapy. Much of our efforts are focused on identifying how sub-populations within an individual patient’s tumor communicate with each other to establish a dominant population of tumor cells, as well as how cells re-grow following initial treatment. We are also examining how cellular metabolism in glioma may impact epigenetic dysregulation, with the goal of providing a druggable target to delay tumor progression. Finally, we also routinely isolate canine embryonic neural stem cells, which are used as physiologic comparisons to glioma tumor cells. Additionally, we are using these cells to model Zika virus infection in mammalian neural stem cells.

Please contact Dr. Woolard ( for more information.


Wei Yao, MD

Associate Director, Center for Musculoskeletal Health
Internal Medicine, University of California at Davis Medical Center

Dr. Yao is a distinguish bone biologist focus on translational research using animal models on bone diseases to evaluate bone active agents on bone metabolisms.  One of Dr. Yao’s research focuses for the past nine years is to investigate bone regenerative approaches using mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), including bone targeted delivery and activation of MSCs, use of genetic modified MSCs or novel bone specific, osteogenic peptides for bone regenerative medicine.  Dr. Yao’s research group has performed many studies to test this approach in animal models of primary osteoporosis, aging, glucocorticoid-induced bone fragility, fracture healing and in inflammatory arthritis.  Dr. Yao has been using bone seeking agent to delivery MSCs to bone in an IND-enabling study.  Dr. Yao has collaborated with many pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, Pfizer, P&G, Glaxo and Smith Kline and Amgen et al, in their bone - active drug developments over the past 20 years.

Please visit Dr. Yao's website for more information -


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:


Glenn Yiu, MD, PhD 

Med: Ophthalmology & Vision Science

Dr. Yiu is a clinician-scientist and vitreoretinal surgeon at the UC Davis Medical Center who uses advanced ocular imaging technologies to study diseases of the eye. Examples include optical coherence tomography (OCT), which allows visualization of retinal pathology in vivo with near-histological details. OCT imaging allows physicians to identify age-related or pathologic changes in the structure of the retina or vasculature, particularly in diseases such as age-related macular degeneration in humans, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Through collaborations with veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Sara Thomasy, they are now using OCT technology to study retinal anatomy in rhesus macaques at the California National Primate Research Center. Potential projects for STAR students include:

1) Comparison of normal retinal and vascular structure between humans and rhesus macaques

2) Evaluation of retinal pathology such as "drusen" deposits in geriatric rhesus macaques

3) Assessment of retinal nerve fiber layer thickness in relationship to intraocular pressures in rhesus macaques

More details about Dr. Yiu are available at:

Contact Dr. Yiu:


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 Executive Director of the One Health Institute, and Director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) and California Veterinary Emergency Team (CVET). His work focuses on global oiled wildlife preparedness, response, and research as well as statewide domestic animal and livestock disaster response. 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: