Megan Dennis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
GBSF 4515
Davis Campus
Ph: 530-752-1357
Lab Website

Research Interests

Human genetics and genomics

We aim to identify genes and mutations that make us uniquely human. Using a "genome first" approach, one area of interest is identifying genes and complex genomic variants unique to the human lineage, such as duplicated genes, that may contribute to phenotypic differences. Alternately, we can also identify important genes contributing to human traits by identifying mutations that lead to malfunctions of these traits such as higher intellect (intellectual disability) and social behavior (autism), etc. Finally, we use molecular evolution and population genetics to identify and functionally characterize genes exhibiting extraordinary signatures of selection.


We use zebrafish to understand the function of human genes and regulatory elements contributing to human evolution, disease, and phenotypic traits. With the advent of CRISPR gene-editing tools, we can now systematically mutate and assess the phenotypic consequences of these mutations for any gene of interest. Our primary interest is in neurodevelopmental features.

Complex genomic variation

The lab is generally interested in genomic structural variation (e.g., inversions, duplications, deletions) found in humans/primates. We use innovative long-read sequencing technologies to capture complex variation, otherwise recalcitrant to analysis. We aim to answer questions related to primate evolution (including alterations in gene function and regulation), disease, and mechanisms by which such variants arise.

Graduate Group Affiliations

Specialties / Focus

  • Gene Regulation
  • Genomics, Proteomics and Metabolomics
  • Human Genetics and Genomics
  • Integrated Genetics and Genomics
  • Model Organism Genetics
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine

A complete list of publications can be found here.

  • GGG 201B Genomics (Winter)
  • MCB 220L BMCDB Rotations (Fall)
  • MCB 211 Macromolecular Structure and Interactions (Fall)
  • F32 NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Research Award NICHD. (2011-2013)
  • K99/R00 NIH Pathway to Independence Award. NINDS. (2013-2018)
  • Sloan Research Fellowship. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. (2016-2018)
  • DP2 NIH Director's New Innovator Award. NIMH. (2018-2023)