Volume 3.3 | April 2024

News from the SOM Office of Research

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Event Calendar

Message from the Vice Dean for Research

As the spring season unfolds, bringing with it renewal and growth, I am thrilled to report on a number of exciting new developments. First, I would like to extend a warm invitation to all of you to join us at the upcoming Research Convergence Celebration, which the School of Medicine is hosting in collaboration with the Clinical and Translational Science Center and the Office of Research. For this event, we will come together to honor and showcase the exceptional collaborative research efforts with other Schools and Colleges that define the spirit of innovation at UC Davis.

The celebration will feature interdisciplinary projects that highlight the convergence of medicine and other sciences to improve health and society. These projects not only exemplify the cutting-edge research being conducted at UC Davis but also underscore the importance of collaboration across diverse fields. Speakers from the College of Engineering, College of Biological Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the School of Nursing and the School of Veterinary Medicine will present the collaborative work they have undertaken with School of Medicine investigators. I encourage each one of you to participate in this celebration, attend the talks, engage in discussion and network with your colleagues from both sides of the causeway.

I was pleased to recently welcome our new Vice Chancellor of Research, Simon Atkinson, to the Sacramento campus, and conduct a brief tour with him. He also returned for a dialogue with our Vice Chairs for Research. Dr. Atkinson very much appreciates the impact and importance of School of Medicine research to the university. I am delighted to be working with him and grateful for the resources that the campus Office of Research provides.

In the meanwhile, development of Aggie Square continues on pace to complete the first phase of construction in first quarter 2025. This includes the Life Sciences and Engineering-East building in which a number of new research labs will be located. We are in the process of finalizing the wet lab faculty assignments as well as identifying faculty for dry lab assignments.

Additionally, I want to congratulate Rachel Whitmer on her recent elevation to co-director for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. She is extraordinarily well-suited for this leadership role. Dr. Whitmer’s work on Alzheimer’s disease and her extremely well-funded research on aging generally are a credit to UC Davis and a benefit to society overall. The recent Blue Ridge rankings report recognized her as the top NIH-funded public health researcher in the nation.

Finally, I am very excited to announce that the winners of this quarter’s Research Image Competition are the members of the Lieu Lab for their entry, “A Jackson Pollock-esque Heartscape.” This image very artistically demonstrates, in Deborah Lieu’s words, the “chaotic harmony that keeps all our hearts beating.” Lieu is an associate professor of cardiology in the internal medicine department whose research focus includes the development of bioengineered pacemakers by bioprinting hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (cells responsible for control of the rhythmic beating of the heart) and fibroblasts (cells that secrete collagen proteins used in connective tissues).

Again, I look forward to seeing you at our spring celebration. Let’s come together to celebrate the power of interdisciplinary research and the endless possibilities it brings.

Warmest regards,

Kim E. Barrett

Vice Dean for Research

Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Membrane Biology


School of Medicine Research Image Contest Winner

Congratulations to the winner of the first School of Medicine Research Image Competition! We received 17 images overall, so the selection process was very competitive. The winner is the Lieu Lab, which submitted a microscopy image titled “A Jackson Pollock-esque Heartscape.” Taken by graduate student Hillary Kao, this image very artistically illustrates pacemaking tissue in the heart that initiates heartbeats. The pacemaking cells are stained for the pacemaking HCN4 channel (red). The fibroblasts, the support cells, are stained for the cytoskeletal protein vimentin (white). The matrix environment is stained for elastin protein (green). Nuclei are stained by DAPI (blue). A chaotic harmony that keeps all our hearts beating.

The winner received a gift basket filled with UC Davis goodies. The sponsors of the gift baskets are listed below. The winners are also automatically eligible to win the annual prize of $1500, which will be awarded in the fall. Remember that this competition is quarterly and images for the next quarter are being accepted now through June 15! If you did not win this time, you may re-submit your image once more at any future competition. Submit your image here.

The winning entry; image by graduate student Hillary Kao. Submitted by Deborah Lieu on behalf of the Lieu Lab.

Hillary Kao received the prize as her picture was hung in the offices of the School of Medicine Office of Research.

School of Medicine Research Image Competition gift sponsors

If you are interested in sponsoring a future gift basket for this event, contact somor@ucdavis.edu

Convergence Research Celebration

The UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, in collaboration with the UC Davis Office of Research, are pleased to announce our first annual joint research celebration event. We will celebrate the incredible collaborative research efforts of UC Davis School of Medicine faculty and their colleagues in other UC Davis Schools and Colleges. In addition to speakers highlighting team research, the event will include fun, prizes, and a chance to meet with researchers from both sides of the causeway over wine and hors d'oeuvres.

When: May 1, 2024, from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Where: UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center


Reaching Across the Causeway Award

The Vice Dean for Research of the School of Medicine and Associate Dean of Research of the School of Veterinary Medicine are pleased to announce the second round of funding for the Reaching Across the Causeway Awards.

These awards will provide one year of support for six multi-school (SOM/SVM) department teams to fund planning, preparation and submission of team-based applications. At least one UCD School of Medicine department and one UCD School of Veterinary Medicine department must be represented on each proposed team. Recognizing that many of today’s most important problems are layered and complex, the inclusion of faculty from more than one department and colleagues in other schools and colleges is strongly encouraged. The budget should not exceed $50,000 per team. Staff and graduate student support is permitted as well as expenses related to eventual extramural submissions.

See full Request For Application here.

Submission Details

All proposals must be sent electronically as ONE single PDF file on UC Davis’ Internally Coordinated Programs powered by InfoReady. Link

Deadline for Applications: April 30, 2024, at 5 pm PT.

  • Awards announced: May/June 2024
  • Anticipated funding commences: June 2024


Shani Buggs

The Black and Brown Collective was launched last year by Shani Buggs, assistant professor at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. To date, the collective supports approximately thirty Black and Latino gun violence researchers, providing tools for navigating the field, as well as a sense of community. Recent recipient of a $3 million award from the Robert J Wood Foundation, on behalf of the collective, Buggs was also featured by The Trace, a publication on gun violence research and interventions, Philanthropy News Digest and a March 6 interview on NPR.

Aijun Wang

UC Davis bioengineer Aijun Wang has been inducted to The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows. AIMBE Fellows are among the nation’s most distinguished medical and biological engineers, belonging to the top two percent of engineers in their fields. Wang is the vice chair for translational research, innovation and entrepreneurship at the Department of Surgery. He co-directs the Center for Surgical Bioengineering at UC Davis and serves as the principal investigator at the Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine (IPRM) and Shriners Children’s Northern California.

Jessica Tang

UC Davis medical student Jessica Tang will spend the upcoming academic year with a neurological research team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Tang is one of 52 future doctors from across the country accepted into the NIH’s competitive Medical Research Scholars Program. Following this program, she will return to UC Davis to complete her final two years of medical school.

Laura Marcu

The UC Davis Department of Neurological Surgery is delighted to have become the new home of long-time collaborator Laura Marcu, Ph.D.,a world-renowned biomedical engineer and professor with expertise in the use of biophotonic technology to advance the way we diagnose and treat a variety of diseases, including malignant brain tumors. Marcu is director of the NIH-NIBIB National Center for Interventional Biophotonics Technologies (NCIBT) at UC Davis, which also now calls the UC Davis School of Medicine its home.

“Dr. Marcu exemplifies the true spirit of an engineer—someone who provides creative solutions to real world problems,” said Kim Barrett, Ph.D., vice dean for research and distinguished professor of physiology and membrane biology at UC Davis School of Medicine. “By relocating her primary home to the Department of Neurological Surgery and the School of Medicine, she will be positioned to accelerate and expand collaborations with our physician-scientists to bring hope to many patients.” Read More

Impactful Publications

A new study by researchers at UC Davis Health found that human brains are getting larger. Study participants born in the 1970s had 6.6% larger brain volumes and almost 15% larger brain surface area than those born in the 1930s. The researchers hypothesize the increased brain size may lead to an increased brain reserve, potentially reducing the overall risk of age-related dementias. The findings were published in JAMA Neurology. Charles DeCarli is first author of the study. DeCarli is a distinguished professor of neurology and director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Read More

Get to know SOMOR

Grants Facilitation Unit

The School of Medicine Office of Research Grants Facilitation Unit (GFU) is instrumental in supporting novel collaborative teams or expanding existing interdisciplinary teams to apply for various grant opportunities. The team navigates funding announcements, provides strategic advice and critically reviews drafts. By facilitating these collaborations, the unit enhances the School of Medicine research portfolio and infrastructure and promotes a culture of interdisciplinary cooperation. The GFU supports collaborative efforts for:

Early career investigators. The unit provides consultation for developing grounded teams and critical review of the mentoring plan and other necessary proposal components, ensuring that investigators are aware of School of Medicine resources and encourage them to strategically consider a variety of aspects as they develop competitive applications.

R-level investigators. GFU actively facilitates the formation of new collaborations between investigators from the SOM and other academic units, frequently leading to joint submissions by multi-PI teams.

Large center grant mechanisms. The team provides advice on establishing the strongest interdisciplinary research teams responsive to the funding mechanism at hand. This often involves complex collaborations between the School of Medicine and several other UC Davis colleges or schools, and, in some cases, other research institutions across the nation.

Institutional training grants. GFU consults in assembling diverse mentoring pools and supports collaborations between the School of Medicine and other colleges or schools. The team offers strategic planning support, assists PIs in assembling their faculty mentorship team, and provides extensive project management and critical review of proposal drafts. It helps to create documents outlining institutional facilities and resources available for the training program and provides Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion resources for recruitment and retention plans.

A notable example of the Grants Facilitation Unit’s work was the collaborative NHLBI R38 proposal developed for clinician-research training that aims to provide cardiopulmonary clinical research training funds for both MDs and DVMs. This represents a new partnership between the School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine. The R38 program is unique in that it brings together human and animal clinical researchers, bridging the two schools and capitalizing on the resources of both. This initiative is well aligned with the goals of both School of Medicine and School of Veterinary Medicine to develop collaborations that “reach across the causeway.”

Grant Writing Courses and Workshops. Part of the GFU mission is to provide mentoring and instruction in grant writing to faculty and scholars throughout the SOM. Members of the team serve as co-instructors or leaders of the following courses and workshops: the Grant Writing I and II Courses, the F Award Program (led by the Comprehensive Cancer Center), KOHORT, a GFU-led workshop for K-awards; and the R01 Award Program.

Grants Facilitation Unit: Jeffrey Engler, Hardeep Obhi, Erica Chédin, Heather Hughes

Erica Chédin, Ph.D.

Director of Grants Facilitation Unit


Hardeep Obhi, Ph.D.

Research Development Specialist


Jeffrey Engler, Ph.D.

Research Development Specialist


Heather Hughes, Ph.D.

Research Development Specialist


New Associate Director of School of Medicine Evaluation Unit Named

The School of Medicine Office of Research is pleased to announce the appointment of Amy Carrillo, Ph.D., as the new Associate Director of the Evaluation Unit. Having previously served as an integral part of the evaluation team, Amy brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new leadership position. In her capacity as Associate Director, Amy will play an important role in guiding the strategic direction of the unit while overseeing the coordination of both existing and new evaluations.

Amy earned her Ph.D. in Human Services Psychology from the University of Maryland. Her diverse skill set includes training in evaluation design, community psychology and engagement, applied social psychology, and qualitative and quantitative research methods. Her unique blend of skills will greatly contribute to the continued success and growth of the Evaluation Unit and the School of Medicine Office of Research. For any inquiries or collaborations, you can reach her at amycarrillo@ucdavis.edu.


For the past three decades, the UC Davis Division of Infectious Diseases has been known for its leading-edge research and treatment of HIV and AIDS. Their physicians and researchers were also at the forefront of COVID-19 treatment, vaccine development and clinical trials since beginning of the pandemic. The team continues to remain at the forefront of infectious diseases research, ranging from HIV/AIDS to fungal diseases.


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