Our team

John H. Morrison, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Dr. John H. Morrison is currently Director of the California National Primate Research Center (CNPRC), UC Davis Distinguished Professor, Professor of Neurology in the School of Medicine, and Professor in the Center for Neuroscience at UC Davis. Dr. Morrison earned his Bachelor’s Degree and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, and completed postdoctoral studies in the laboratory of Dr. Floyd E. Bloom at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.  He then served as a faculty member at The Scripps Research Institute until he joined the faculty at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 1989 where went on to be Chair of the Fishberg Department of Neuroscience and serve as Dean of Basic Sciences and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai before moving to UC Davis in 2015.

Dr. Morrison has served on Council for the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), served as the Editor-in-Chief of SfN’s public-facing website, BrainFacts.org, and was recently elected Secretary of SfN. Dr. Morrison is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Sean Ott 
Lab Director


Sean is a Staff Research Associate at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis.  He received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis.  During and after his studies, he did pulmonary research with the UCD School of Medicine in asthma and cystic fibrosis, and only recently (2016) made the jump to Neurobiology.  He is a jack of all trades in the lab, doing his best to make everyone's workflow smooth.  Confocal microscopy has recently become his life, and after his current project he will enjoy working in a fully lit room. Outside of the lab, Sean is an avid backpacker who routinely spends weeks in the wilderness with his wife and dogs.  That is, when he isn't spending time tending to the garden.

Danielle Beckman, Ph.D.   
Postdoctoral Researcher

Danielle came from Brazil in 2017 to join the Morrison lab at the CA Primate Center. Before that, she did her master's and Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the Morrison lab, Danielle is directly involved in the development of the monkey models of Alzheimer’s disease. She is also involved in the project studying the effect of the zika virus in the monkey developmental brain and has a special interest in studying neurovirology in Monkeys. Her main scientific interests are neuroinflammation and cortical organization in primates. For studying that, she has been developing her skills in high-resolution microscopy. When she is not in the lab, Danielle likes to spend her time gardening or on short road trips around California.

Giovanne “Gio” B. Diniz is a postdoctoral scholar at the Morrison lab. Originally from Brazil, he has a B.S. in Molecular Sciences from the University of Sao Paulo, with a major in Biology and minors in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Passionate for brain structure and function, Gio has obtained a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Maastricht University in the Netherlands in 2018 and a Ph.D. in Systems Biology from his alma mater in 2019. He then completed a postdoctoral appointment in neurovirology at the Department of Neurosurgery at the Yale School of Medicine before jumping into aging and neurodegenerative diseases at the Morrison lab in 2021. A morphologist by training, he is interested in the structural and neurochemical alterations that may underlie pathological conditions. When not looking down a scope, Gio is often reading, cooking, or binging on British crime shows with his partner.

Giovanne B. Diniz, Ph.D.     
Postdoctoral Researcher

Jaleel Jefferson 
Ph.D. student

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Jaleel is currently a Neuroscience graduate student at UC Davis and joined the Morrison lab in 2019. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina’s Honors College in 2018 in Public Health and a minor in Neuroscience. His project in the Morrison lab focuses on the HIV Associated Neurocognitive Decline (HAND) monkey model. He has specific interests in neuroinflammation, as well as changes in the synaptic environment that leads to the development of Alzheimer's pathology. Outside of lab, he enjoys a good tv show binge, swimming, cooking and baking.

Kristine Donis-Cox 
Research Development
& Relations Officer


As a Research Development & Relations Officer, Kris facilitates fluid scientific communication and coordinates the launching and execution of projects involving the development of nonhuman primate models of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's Disease.  In 2013, Kris earned her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University (MSU) and later completed a post doctoral appointment with Dr. Nicholas Kanaan in the Department of Translational Science & Molecular Medicine at MSU in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kris brings a multidisciplinary background to the CA National Primate Research Center community and is expanding her knowledge and experience by strengthening corporate partnerships through relationship and service support management.  When Kris is not bringing scientific and animal care resources together, she enjoys listening to music, laughing to comedy, painting and exploring CA terrain in her Jeep Wangler with her family. 

Alyssa Bonillas
Junior Specialist

Alyssa is a Sacramento native who received her B.S. in Biology & Psychology from Portland State University in 2019. Prior to graduating, she worked for 2 years as an undergraduate lab assistant at Oregon Health & Science University. She is interested in pursuing a career in neuropathological research, and is planning to eventually obtain a PhD in neuroscience. She is currently leading our lab's research into how SARS-CoV-2 infection impacts the brain in rhesus macaques. When not in the lab she enjoys spending time with family (and her cat Hoshi), playing video games, listening to true crime podcasts, and participating in strength sports including weightlifting and powerlifting. 

Katherine Brown
Lab Assistant

Katie is a lab assistant at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. She received her B.S. in Animal Science from UC Davis in 2013, and worked for a year as a Junior Specialist in a ruminant nutrition lab before moving to Washington State. She finished her Masters from Washington State University focusing on Dairy nutrient management in 2017. Before coming back to California, she worked in both a microbiology lab and a reproductive toxicology lab. Now she is further expanding her knowledge by working in a systems neuroscience lab with an emphasis on cognitive health. When not in the lab, she enjoys game nights with her family, playing video games, and taking annual trips to Disneyland.

Lisa Novik     
Lab Technician

Lisa is a Staff Research Associate at the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from UC Davis in 2008. After graduating, she discovered animal training and has happily been performing behavioral training with rhesus macaques to support neuroscience projects ever since! Sometimes, she brings work home by teaching her rescue cat Cricket adorable tricks. When she isn't working, Lisa enjoys camping, baking, reading, and competing in modern pentathlon. But she spends the most time and has the most fun practicing fitness racing (CrossFit) at the gym with other competitive exercisers.

Alexandria Scott  
Lab Assistant

Alexandria Scott received her B.S. in Animal Biology from UC Davis in 2019, and is now a Laboratory Assistant for the Morrison Lab. During her studies, she performed behavioral research on the parental and breeding patterns of the monogamous prairie vole along with the endangered Amargosa vole, and worked as an Animal Health Technician at the UC Davis Center for Equine Health. After graduating, she held a variety of positions in research studying honeybees, seahorses, and aquatic toxicity on marine life, respectively. For the Morrison lab, she has been termed as a “hybrid” lab assistant, in that she performs both behavioral work as well as technical lab work. Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, spending time in the great outdoors, traveling, and listening to true crime podcasts.