(Photo: JC with lab mascot Morgan)

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


Department of Entomology and Nematology

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Center Affiliations:

  • UC Davis Genome Center

Graduate Group Affliliations:

  • Entomology

  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics

  • Animal Behavior

  • Neuroscience

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

Gary Chow, Postdoctoral Fellow

I received my BSc in Chemistry from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2013. In September 2020, I completed my PhD with Dr. R. David Britt at University of California, Davis. During my PhD, I explored the utility of electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy in quantifying protein-protein interactions using the posttranslational cyanobacterial circadian clock in Synechococcus elongatus as a model system in collaboration with Dr. Andy LiWang at University of California, Merced. The inner workings of this system piqued my interest in circadian clocks in general and made me wonder how circadian clocks function in organisms with extensive transcriptional and translational control. I am interested in relating biochemical properties on the molecular level to phenotype and pathology on a macroscopic level.

Sergio I. Hidalgo Sotelo, Postdoctoral Fellow

I received my BSc in Biochemistry in 2015, and a MSc degree in Biological Sciences in 2017, from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC, Chile). In April 2020, I finished my PhD in Biological Sciences Majoring Cell and Molecular Biology at PUC, working with Dr. Jorge M. Campusano. During this time, we examined the neurochemical and molecular changes underlying sensory and behavioural impairments observed in Drosophila genetic models of schizophrenia. As part of a dual-degree, I also obtained a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of Bristol (UK), where I worked with Dr James J.L. Hodge, investigating the contribution of schizophrenia-associated genes to circadian locomotor activity and memory in Drosophila. I am particularly interested in understanding how environmental cues are sensed and processed in the brain. Specifically, how these signals are integrated at a molecular and network-level to generate circadian and seasonal adaptation. I have recently joined Dr. Chiu’s Lab as a postdoctoral scholar, to explore the molecular mechanism and underlying circuits participating in the regulation of seasonal variation in reproductive dormancy.

Xian-Hui (Nitrol) Liu, Postdoctoral Fellow

I received my BSc in Biological Sciences in 2014 from Beijing Forestry University (China). I completed my Ph.D. in Entomology at UC Davis in September 2020. For my Ph.D., I explored the interplay between circadian clock and metabolism in maintaining animal health. Specifically, I investigated the regulation of cellular protein O-GlcNAcylation by circadian clock and metabolic signals. O-GlcNAcylation is a nutrient senstive post-translational modification that can alter the structure and function of thousands of cellular proteins. I was fascinated by how circadian biology can be shaped by multiple factors through complex mechanisms. My long-term goal is to understand how molecular pathways are coordinated temporally to maintain animal health and wellness. For this reason, I am excited to work as postdoctoral scholar in Dr. Chiu’s lab and investigate key proteins and pathways that are modulated by daily O-GlcNAcylation cycles in both fly and mouse models.

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.

Rodrigo Del Rio, Graduate Student (IGG)

I received my B.S degree for Ecology and Evolutionary biology from UC Irvine in 2020. As an undergraduate researcher, I conducted research in Dr. Susana Cohen-Cory’s laboratory investigating cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate synapse formation during development. I was given the opportunity to present my research at both ABCRMS and AAAS before graduating. From my undergraduate research experience, I became interested in molecular biology and genetics and decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree with the IGG graduate program here at UC Davis. I now am a member of Dr. Chiu’s laboratory, investigating the role of circadian clock in regenerative response after neuronal injury.

Kyle Lewald, Graduate Student (IGG)

I obtained my B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in molecular and cell biology. After studying circadian rhythms in sorghum with Dr. Frank Harmon, I became interested in animal clock systems and joined the Chiu Lab in 2018. I plan to study the seasonal biology and population structure of agriculturally relevant pest insects, and hope to translate the knowledge and skills I gain along the way into the biotechnology sector.

Hayley Sheehy, Graduate Student (IGG)

I graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. in Genetics and Genomics in 2015. After graduating, I joined Dr. David Begun's lab as a lab manager and studied the origin and spread of novel genes in Drosophila populations as well as the evolution of the female reproductive tract in closely related Drosophila species. During this time, I became more interested in behavior genetics and was fascinated with how a small group of genes (or even a single gene) can have a huge impact on an organism's behavior. To explore this area further, I joined the Chiu lab in Winter 2021 as a Master's student to study the underlying genetic mechanisms that regulate seasonal adaptation in Drosophila melanogaster.

Christine Tabuloc, Graduate Student (Entomology Graduate Group)

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 graduate student. 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.

Xuehan Xu, Graduate Student (BMCDB)

I graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). At UNR, I studied the genetics of circadian rhythms and sleep in Dr. Yong Zhang’s lab. To further explore the field of biological timing, I joined the Chiu lab in Spring 2021 as a PhD student. I am interested in learning how circadian clock interplays with metabolism to maintain human health. My work focuses on understanding how O-GlcNAcylation, a nutrient-sensitive post-translational modification, integrates environmental and metabolic signals to regulate circadian physiology. Motivated by my interest in circadian rhythm, I hope to make contributions to this field through my research as well as outreach to my fellow scientists and the general public.

Christian Atallah, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I joined the Chiu Lab in the Fall of 2019 during my second year attending UC Davis as an undergraduate student with a major in Genetics and Genomics. I found the Chiu Lab while searching for an avenue to begin biological research. I have always been fascinated by the natural world and how its various parts, biotic or abiotic, seamlessly interacted. In the Chiu Lab I have been introduced to the amazingly complex and clever world of circadian biology as a study, as well as a passion. I intend to continue in this field of study into graduate school. I am eager to make contributions of my own in this growing field of research.

Yi (Zita) Gao, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a first-year transfer student majoring in Genetics and Genomics. I joined the Chiu Lab in Summer 2020. I am interested in the molecular aspects of evolution, especially how genomes and other macromolecules interact with the external environment. I look forward to exploring more about the circadian rhythm as it is an essential mechanism that organisms evolve to adapt to their environment. I hope to attend graduate school to learn more about the interactions between macromolecules with the external environmental cues.

Kiya Jackson, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a second year undergraduate student, majoring in Biological Sciences and minoring in Studio Art. I joined the Chiu lab in Spring 2020 with the help of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology. I am interested in applications involving genetics and biotechnology. I look forward to challenging my understanding of biology as well as learning from a collaborative and investigative environment. I hope to gain a stronger foundation in laboratory research and techniques. Although I am still exploring my options and interests, I do hope to pursue graduate school.

Cameron Vasquez, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a second year undergraduate at UC Davis pursuing a degree in Neurobiology. With the guidance from the Advancing Diversity in Neuroscience Research program (ADNR), I joined the Chiu Lab in Winter 2021. The brain’s immense volume of pathways and their biochemical signaling are essential for cognition and learning. I am interested in investigating how the circadian rhythm works and its neurological roles. I look forward to working with the Chiu Lab to better prepare for future careers in advancing medical knowledge.

Ana Armenta Vega, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I am a first-year transfer student majoring in Biological Sciences. I joined the Chiu lab in the Summer of 2020 as part of the Advancing Diversity in Neuroscience Research Honors (ADNR-HR) Program. I am fascinated by the complex web of neurons and its ability to construct a unique experience of reality for each living organism. One of my projects in the lab is to investigate the neuronal pathways that modulate seasonal rhythms by examining the relationship between environmental cues and the development and behavior in the Drosophila model. As part of the Chiu lab, I look forward to learning more about biological timing, extending my experience conducting scientific research and hopefully contributing to this field. After completing a Bachelor’s degree, I will attend graduate school to further my understanding of the nature of life, its origins, and its interaction with the environment.

Ben Kunimoto, Undergraduate Research Assistant

I started interning in the Chiu lab as a high school student at Davis Senior High School in 2018 because I wanted to explore my fascination with entomology and biochemistry. Now as an undergraduate at UC Davis, pursuing a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, I plan to continue my independent research in Dr. Chiu’s lab to study mechanisms of circadian rhythms. I have been learning a lot about the incredible molecular processes of the circadian clock and what it's like to work in an entomology lab. I hope to pursue entomology and biochemistry in my future career.

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 Associate at HealthTell

Ivy (Yu) Zhong

(UG, 2014-2015)

Sales Manager at BGI Global Genomics Services

Lisa Soyeon Baik

(UG and Junior Specialist, 2012-2014)

Postdoc at Yale

Axelle Weeger

(UG, 2013-2014)

Career in genetics

Jonathan Diehl

(M.S. in BMCDB, 2012-2014)

High school teacher in Washington

Kevin Cervantes

(UG, 2014-2015)

Medical School

Elizabeth Chan

(UG, 2015-2016)

Career in veterinary medicine

Jessica West

(UG, 2013-2016)

PhD student at Cornell

Pedro Gutierrez Tamayo

(UG, 2014-2016)

PhD Student at Columbia

Tientien Hsieh

(UG, 2014-2016)

Scientist at Revolution Medicines

Ran Bi

(UG, 2015-2016)

Pharmacy degree, CSU

Katherine Murphy

(UG and Research Associate, 2011-2016)

PhD Student at Stanford

Rosanna Kwok

(Junior Specialist, 2010-2012; PhD, 2012-2016)

Research scientist at Genentech

Helen Capewell

(UG, 2016-2017)

Khine Lin

(UG, 2016-2018)

Scientific Data Curator at Stanford

Adam Contreras

(PhD, 2013-2018)

Research Scientist at BioStone Animal Health

Vu Lam

(PhD, 2012-2018)

Ying Li

(PhD, 2013-2018)

Data Engineer at SymphonyRM

Derek Wilson

(Junior Specialist, 2016-2018)

Scientist at Archer Daniels Midland

Hoang Nguyen

(UG, 2016-2018)

Scientist at Denali Therapeutics

Thu (Tammy) Pham

(UG, 2016-2018)

Scientist at Global Blood Therapeutics

Jose Del Carmen Li

(High School Research Assistant - Project SEED, Summer 2017 & 2018)

Undergrad at UCLA Class of 2022

Qi Wei

(Visiting Student, CSC Fellowship, October 2017 to February 2019)

Assistant Researcher, State Key Laboratory of Rice Biology, China

Michelle Lei

(UG, 2018-2019)

Christopher Ochoa

(UG, 2017-2019)

Ph.D. student at UCLA

Dominik Aylard

(UG, 2017-2020)

Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley

Wenqi Song

(UG, 2018-2020)

M.S. student at Stanford

Kory Chan

(UG, 2018-2020)

Cindy Truong

(UG, 2018-2020)

Megan Fung

(UG, 2020-2021)

Daniel Eweis-LaBolle

(UG, 2019-2021), Ph.D. student at Cornell

Maribel Anguiano

(Junior Specialist, 2020-21), Ph.D. student at UC Davis Neuroscience

Antoine Abrieux

(Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-21), Strategic Research Associate, Innovation Institute of Food & Health