NEWS | February 23, 2016

UC Davis neuroscientist named Sloan fellow


Megan Y. Dennis, an early-career UC Davis scientist, has been named a 2016 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow in Neuroscience.

Megan Dennis Megan Dennis

The announcement of the prestigious honor was made today in a full-page ad in The New York Times.

Dennis, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine, uses genomic and genetic techniques to explore the underlying causes of neurological disorders such as autism and intellectual disability.

“I am extremely honored and thankful to be included among the outstanding list of talented Sloan Research Fellows past and present,” Dennis said. “The award will be used to pursue research focused on characterizing the functional role that human duplicated genes play in neurological development and disease — namely in generating ‘humanized’ zebrafish.” 

The Sloan award comes with $55,000 over two years. Dennis said that she hopes the work will offer exciting insights into the underlying etiology of human neurological traits and disorders and pave the way for additional gene discovery and clinical applications with the potential to improve the lives of individuals suffering from diseases with no effective cures or treatment.

Dennis joined the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine in July 2015 after a highly competitive recruitment effort involving the leaders of the UC Davis Genome Center and UC Davis MIND Institute who were determined to find a scientist with expertise in human genomics in the area of autism. Dennis’ postdoctoral work was integral in understanding the genetic underpinnings of copy-number variation and autism.

Dennis was nominated for the award by Kit S. Lam, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Richard W. Michelmore, distinguished professor and director of the genome center, and Leonard Abbeduto, director of the MIND Institute. In their nomination letter, they said Dennis “has made extraordinary contributions into the field of human genetics and genomics related to neuroscience” and cited her numerous high-impact research publications, international scientific presentations and awards.

Dennis received her doctoral degree in human genetics from the National Institutes of Health OxCam Biomedical Research Program at both the University of Oxford in Oxford, The United Kingdom, and National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Afred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, and economic performance; and to improve the quality of American life. Candidates for the research fellowship awards must have earned a PhD or equivalent degree after Sept. 1 2009 in the field of chemistry, computational or evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, ocean sciences, physics or a related field. 

At the UC Davis MIND Institute, world-renowned scientists engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary research to find the causes of and develop treatments and cures for autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fragile X syndrome, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, Down syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders. For more information, visit