Meet Dr. Bellone

Hometown
Elk Grove, Calif.

Alma maters and degrees
B.S. University of Florida
Ph.D. University of Kentucky

How long have you been teaching?
14 years

What classes/topics do you teach?
Currently, I teach Horse Genetics in the Department of Animal Science. I also recently taught in the problem-based learning curriculum in the Veterinary School. At my previous institution I taught Introductory Biology, Environmental Science, Genetics, Molecular Genetics, Molecular Biology, Senior Seminar Courses, and Freshman Gateway Courses. I taught both the lecture and the laboratory components to most of these courses.

Why is veterinary genetics important?
Genetics is an important field as it is central to the understanding of how the instructions for life work.

Who/what was your biggest influence upon pursuing a career in this field?
I had several big influences for pursuing a career in genetics. The first was an undergraduate course in genetics and professor who encouraged me to learn all I could, and the second was my passion for horses. I was also influenced by one of my graduate school advisors who has mentored me throughout my career.

What do you see as the “next big thing” in genetics?
As more mutations linked to disease are discovered, there will be an even greater reliance on genetics in medicine (human and veterinary) both for diagnosis and treatment. The use of genetics in medicine will be further strengthened with the increasing knowledge of tissue-specific gene function, gene interactions and gene regulation.

What blogs and websites do you visit regularly for info related to your field?
I don’t really view blog sites but some good websites for genetics or animal genetics:
University of Sydney—Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals
Nature Genetics

What professional achievement are you most proud of?
I was invited to co-author the latest edition of the Equine Color Genetics book by Dr. Phil Sponenberg. I read his book as an undergraduate student in 1995 and used it as the basis for my undergraduate thesis project. I was invited to co-author a chapter of the 3rd edition and then was asked to co-author the entire 4th edition. Since my passion for the genetics of pigmentation was ignited when I read this book nearly 20 years ago, to be writing this edition brings my career full circle. I hope that by passing on my knowledge, in this way, some undergraduate students will read the next edition and develop questions of their own that will fuel their career.

What’s your favorite thing about UC Davis?
One of my favorite things about UC Davis is all of the animal facilities on campus (horse barn, dairy barn, Equestrian Center, Center for Equine Health, etc.). It is rare to be able to see so many animals on a main campus.

What’s the single biggest thing you want students to take away from their time in your program?
I want the students to understand the important role genetics plays in veterinary medicine. I also want them to understand that scientific discovery is both challenging and rewarding.

What posters were up in your dorm room?
I didn’t have posters but I did have a reprint of a Monet that my brother purchased for me.

Looking back, what do you wish you had known about college before you started?
That making connections between subjects was more important than memorizing material to earn an “A.”

What advice about the “college experience” do you have for high school students?
In college, and in life, you need to always make the most of the experience. College is an important time to learn about disciplines you might not have otherwise been exposed to and learn about them from experts in the field. Learn all you can from those around you not only about biology, history, math, etc., but also about people and cultures. These experiences and interactions will help to shape you into the adult that you become.

What’s an interesting or surprising fact about you?
An interesting fact about me is that I was born with one kidney and as a child was advised against riding horses. Despite not being able to ride, I was always captivated by their beauty and so learning all I could about them was what first sparked my interest in equine genetics.

What are your top five books?

  1. Wild Ride
  2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  3. My Guy Barbaro
  4. Through My Eyes
  5. The Genome War

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