Marie Burns

Professor of Ophthalmology & Vision Science
Joint appointment in Cell Biology and Human Anatomy at UC Davis

Faculty webpages:
Ophthalmology and Vision Science
College of Biological Sciences
Center for Neuroscience
Cell Biology and Human Anatomy

Center Affiliations: Center for Neuroscience, Center for Visual Sciences
Graduate Group Affiliations: Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Neuroscience

3301B Tupper Hall
Davis Campus
p: (530) 752-1466


Research in the Burns lab is focused on photoreceptor physiology and signaling, as well as the neuroimmune response to photoreceptor degeneration using a combination of single cell electrophysiology, quantitative ERGs, in vivo retinal imaging, flow cytometry and single-cell RNAseq. Dr. Burns’s work aims to unravel the mechanisms that allow photoreceptors to signal over a wide-range of intensities and to understand the pathophysiology that develops in the retina when these mechanisms fail. Current projects in the Burns lab include phototransduction signaling mechanisms and adaptation in photoreceptors, mechanisms of photoreceptor degeneration, and the mechanisms the recruitment of microglia and macrophages into regions of neuronal stress in rodent models.

Prior to starting her research lab at UC Davis in 2001, Burns studied neurotransmitter release mechanisms with George Augustine at Duke University (PhD 1996) and mouse phototransduction in Dr. Denis Baylor’s lab at Stanford University (Postdoctoral Fellow, 1997-2000). She has received numerous awards and honors throughout her career, including E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation Research Fellow (2002), Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Cogan Award (2002), Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (2009), Kavli Fellow (2009), National Academy of Sciences Alumni Achievement Award (2010), Susquehanna University Outstanding Graduate Mentor in Neuroscience (2013), and a UC Davis Neuroscience Graduate Students Faculty Service Award, Neuroscience Graduate Group (2015).

Contributions to Science
  1. Determination of the active lifetime of rhodopsin in living mammalian rods.
  2. Determination of the rate-limiting step underlying scotopic vision
  3. Identification of the dominant mechanisms underlying the reproducibility of the single photon response.
  4. Comprehensive understanding of the single photon response: spatiotemporal cGMP dynamics and grand unification of animal models.
  5. In vivo detection of rapid ultrastructural changes and microglial activation in rods with slowed phototransduction deactivation.