Founded in 1966, the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology is one of five basic science departments in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Our tripartite mission is to conduct innovative, cutting edge research, engage in high-level service and provide excellent educational opportunities and mentoring to students, postdoctoral fellows, and residents in the discipline of physiology. Our aim is to create new knowledge to advance understanding of biological processes and benefit society by facilitating more precise diagnosis, and effective disease treatment.

In the post molecular and post genome eras, Physiology is uniquely posed at the nexus to employ these new tools to gain a more detailed understanding of function at the molecular level or to investigate the functional consequences of alterations in gene products at the cellular, organ and organismal levels. Scientifically we are determined to access and exploit these unprecedented opportunities!

Luis Fernando Santana, Ph.D.

Voltage-gated calcium channels open in unison, rather than independently, to allow calcium ions into and activate excitable cells such as neurons and muscle cells, departmental chair and faculty member Luis Fernando Santana, Ph.D., along with researchers from his lab and the researchers from the University of Washington have found.

The research defies earlier electrophysiology canon and undermines the previously held belief that calcium channels function independently. The study is published online in the journal eLIFE.

Read more about the article here.



Humans love Sriracha sauce, and the pleasurable, painful sensation that makes us want to slather tacos, rice and barbecue with it and other spicy condiments comes down to one molecule: capsaicin. Departmental faculty members Jie Zheng, Ph.D. and Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, Ph.D., in collaboration with researchers in China, recently got an unprecedented, close-up view of this molecule, as well as what happens inside our bodies when we eat the spicy foods that contain it. Read more about this article here.



Departmental faculty member Jie Zheng, along with researchers from his lab, have identified the molecular interactions that allow capsaicin to activate the body’s primary receptor for sensing heat and pain, paving the way for the design of more selective and effective drugs to relieve pain. Their study appeared online June 8 in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. Read more about this exciting research.

Fitz-Roy Curry, Ph.D.

Departmental faculty member Fitz-Roy Curry, Ph.D., was elected as a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in March, 2015. Dr Curry was introduced into the Academy on May 4, 2015 at the annual meeting in Oslo. He joins the Medical Sciences Group in the Division of Natural Sciences, which has 12 other foreign members worldwide. Dr Curry is recognized for his research on the microcirculation, particularly the mechanisms that regulate exchange of substances between circulating blood and the body tissues. His recent work has focused on recovery of normal function after exposure to inflammatory conditions. Dr Curry has had an active collaboration with faculty and research fellows from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Bergen, Norway since 2005. Further details of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters can be found at To read this news article on the health system website click here.

Dr Curry will receive the Nishimaru-Tsuchiya Award during the 10th World Congress for Microcirculation in Kyoto, Japan September 25-27, 2015. The World Congress is held every 4-5 years. There have been 6 Awards since 1984. On the occasion of the World Congress for Microcirculation, this important award is given by the Japanese Society for Microcirculation to researchers in any country with outstanding achievements in the field of microcirculation research, who have thereby greatly contributed to the development of the Japanese Society for Microcirculation. Further details of this award can be found  at