(Photo: JC with lab mascot Morgan)


Joanna C. Chiu, Ph.D., Primary Investigator

Associate Professor
Department of Entomology and Nematology
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Center Affiliations:
      UC Davis Genome Center

UC Davis Graduate Group Affliliations:
      Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
      Integrative Genetics and Genomics
      Animal Behavior

I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, M.A., with double majors in Biology and Music. After college, I proceeded to pursue graduate studies under the guidance of Dr. Gloria Coruzzi, Carroll & Milton Petrie Professor and Chair of Biology at New York University. I received a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the Department of Biology at NYU. The overall goal of my thesis research was to understand the function of glutamate receptor genes (GLR) in plants by using Arabidopsis thaliana as a model organism. Even though I enjoyed my career in plant research as a graduate student, I realized that my real passion is to study how genes and proteins regulate and control animal behavior. Of particular interest is the field of circadian biology. Circadian rhythms are endogenously driven, and exist in life forms ranging from bacteria to mammals. It drives daily oscillations of physiological states and activities including sleep and feeding, and allows organisms to perform necessary tasks at biologically advantageous times of day. To study the inner workings of circadian rhythms, I joined the lab of Dr. Isaac Edery at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine in Rutgers University, NJ, as a postdoctoral fellow to study how posttranslational mechanisms of clock proteins regulate circadian rhythms. I am now continuing to investigate the regulation of animal circadian rhythms in my own lab in UC Davis by using a combination of molecular genetics, biochemical, and proteomic approaches.

My UCD Entomology page

Antoine Abrieux, Postdoctoral Fellow

I received my BSc in Biology in 2009 and pursued a MSc from Pierre and Marie Curie University (France). In 2014, I finished my PhD with Dr. Line Duportets and Dr. Christophe Gadenne at Angers University where I investigated the role of hormones and biogenic amines in the behavioral response to the sex pheromone in the noctuid Agrotis ipsilon. I am particularly interested in developing integrative approaches to better understand how physiological state and behavior could be modulate at both transcriptional and translational levels and facilitate insect adaptability to changing environments. In spring 2016 I joined the Chiu Lab as postdoctoral fellow to explore interactions between the clock and endocrine system underlying seasonal adaptation in Drosophila suzukii.

   Yao Cai, Graduate Student (Entomology Graduate Group)

I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Plant Protection from China Agricultural University (CAU). I then pursued and received a Master’s Degree majoring in Agricultural Entomology and Pest Control from CAU. For my MS thesis, I performed comparative mitochondrial genomic analysis of Reduviidae and Psocoptera. To explore new aspects of biological research, I joined the Chiu Lab as a PhD student in the Fall of 2016 to study the genetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of organismal behavior. Perpetually motivated by my interest in biology, I hope I can contribute to this field.

Adam Contreras, Graduate Student (BMCDB Graduate Group)

I am part of the BMCDB Graduate Program (Biochemistry, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology), and I am with the DEB Program (Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology). I graduated from Texas State University in 2013 with a Bachelor Degree in Biochemistry and a minor in Biology. I had my 3rd rotation (out of 4) in the Chiu Lab, and I found circadian regulation to be a fascinating and important topic. So, I joined the lab in the Spring of 2014. I am interested in molecular processes that affect organismal physiology and behavior. To pursue these interests, I will study posttranscriptional modifications in the circadian clock protein network to try to understand how they regulate circadian rhythm and subsequently alter metabolic physiology and behavior. I plan to use my training and development at UC Davis and in the Chiu Lab to obtain a career in Research and Development for the biotechnology industry after I graduate.



Vu Lam, Graduate Student (Entomology Graduate Group)

I recently graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor of science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and have been working in Joanna's lab since summer of 2010. I am interested in the molecular underpinning of circadian rhythm regulations, specifically the effects of phosphorylation of core clock proteins. Currently, I am trying to ascertain the functional relevance of a novel kinase in regulation of circadian rhythm in Drosophila Melanogaster.

Ying Li, Graduate Student (Entomology Graduate Group)

I graduated with a B.S. in Biotechnology in June 2010 from the University of California, Davis. As an undergraduate, I had an opportunity to assist Dr. Chistoph Lossin on the study of potential medicinal therapies to stabilize seizures and periodic paralysis for patients with epilepsy. My internship experience specialized in maintaining cell cultures, and I was able to learn how to work independently and develop a higher understanding of how research takes place in the lab. After I graduated, I had two different career choices in my mind: doing research for a company or going into graduate school for a Master’s program in Pharmocology. I discovered circadian biology research when I joined the Chiu lab as a technician. Previous studies have shown that dominant familial advanced sleep phase disorder (FASP) is caused by mutating one copy of human period2 (hPER2) at a phosphorylation site, Serine 662. Phosphorylation events on hPER2, which is homologous to Drosophila PER (dPER), is a key element in maintaining a sleep-wake cycle with a clock running at ~24hr.  However, the function of all phosphorylation sites on PER proteins have not been fully characterized and the mechanisms of how these phosphorylation events work together to generate a ~24hr period is unknown. Currently, I am a graduate student in the lab, studying how Drosophila PER posttranslational regulation plays a role in generating a functional biological clock.


Xian-Hui (Nitrol) Liu, Graduate Student (Entomology Graduate Group)

I graduated from Beijing Forestry University in 2014 with a Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences, and studied the morphology and evolution of antennae in Calyptratae for the past 3 years. During my research experience, I became interested in studying insect behaviors, and found myself interested in the molecular mechanisms that regulate various behaviors. So I joined the Chiu lab as a graduate student in fall 2014. Although four decades of genetics and molecular biology applied to the dissection of circadian clock have generated a good understanding of this timekeeping system, including regulation of clock genes through transcription-translation feedback loop, our understanding on circadian rhythm generation still remains incomplete and require more mechanistic work. I hope I can make my own contribution to this research area in the future.


Christine Tabuloc, Junior Specialist

I graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis in 2015. I joined the lab as an undergraduate research assistant in 2012 and am currently a technician. Much of my work in the lab has involved different agricultural pests and investigating the molecular aspects contributing to the insect’s ability to be an effective pest. My current focus is to investigate the effects of climatic change on gene expression of an invasive pest and determine whether there is a correlation to resistance and survival. In addition to pest management research, I am also studying a kinase of a core clock protein in Drosophila melanogaster and hoping to dissect its functional contribution to the molecular oscillator.

Derek Wilson, Junior Specialist

I graduated with a B.S. in biology from Susquehanna University in 2016. At Susquehanna I worked in Dr. Matt Persons’ lab studying the behavior and ecology of wolf spiders. I joined the Chiu lab in the summer of 2016 with the hopes of learning about the molecular mechanisms governing circadian rhythms as well as learning techniques in the field of molecular biology. In the future I would like to attend graduate school and do research combining the fields of animal behavior and molecular biology.

Helen Capewell
, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am currently a third year biochemical engineering major. I joined Joanna's lab in Fall 2016 as part of the Research Program in Insect Biology. Through this experience I hope to learn more about circadian biology while gaining hands-on experience. With the assistance of my peers in the lab, I want to learn important research skills and in the future begin to work on my own research project. Even though I'm an engineering major, I want to use this experience to enhance my knowledge and better prepare myself for a career in the biotechnology industry.

Khine Lin, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a junior majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Through this opportunity, I would like to enhance my undergraduate learning experience by applying concepts from my courses to hands-on research on how such timing of activities in animals can affect various human diseases. With the help from my supervisors in the lab, I want understand the molecular biology and mechanism that control animal circadian rhythms and learn relevant lab techniques. In the future, I would like to go to graduate school, but I am still exploring what I should major in. 

Thu (Tammy) Pham, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am currently a second year Animal Biology major with a Global Disease Biology minor. I joined the lab January of 2016 in hopes of gaining more hands-on experience and acquiring more understanding of the molecular components of circadian biology. I hope to contribute to projects within the lab and use this experience to develop my own project under the supervision of Dr. Joanna Chiu. For the future, I'd like to either go to veterinary school or graduate school.


Lab Alumni

Vickie Chung (UG, 2011-2012)

Diana Teng (UG, 2011-2012)
UCSF Master's Program in Nursing

Jessica Chan (UG, 2012-2013)
Counselor at Sacramento Children's Home
Anna Lei (UG, 2010-2012)
Research scientist at Theranos
Ivy (Yu) Zhong (UG, 2014-2015)
Scientist at Novogene

Lisa Soyeon Baik (UG and Junior Specialist, 2012-2014)
Graduate student at UC Irvine

Axelle Weeger (UG, 2013-2014)
Pursuing a career in genetics or veterinary medicine

Jonathan Diehl (M.S. in BMCDB, 2012-2014)
High school teacher in Washington, USA
Kevin Cervantes (UG, 2014-2015)
Pursuing a career in Medicine

Elizabeth Chan (UG, 2015-2016)
Pursuing career in veterinary medicine
Jessica West (UG, 2013-2016)
Graduate student at Cornell
Pedro Gutierrez Tamayo (UG, 2014-2016)
Technician at UCD MCB Dept 

Tientien Hsieh (UG, 2014-2016)
Scientist at Thermo Fisher
Ran Bi (UG, 2015-2016)
Pharmacy student at CSU
Katherine Murphy (UG and Research Associate, 2011-2016)
Research scientist at REG Life Sciences
Rosanna Kwok (Junior Specialist, 2010-2012; PhD, 2012-2016)
Research scientist at OncoMed Pharmaceuticals