Kunkel Laboratory | Lab Members

Current Lab Members 

Louis M Kunkel, Ph.D.

Dr. Kunkel is a world-renowned muscle biologist and has devoted his career to understanding the molecular basis and developing therapy for neuromuscular disorders. He received a B.A. from Gettysburg College and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Kunkel is universally recognized for the identification of mutations in the dystrophin gene as the cause of Duchenne Muscular dystrophy, paving the way for three decades of research now culminating in effective treatments.


Marielle Thorne

Marielle Thorne, Lab Manager

Marielle joined the Kunkel Lab in September of 1998. She holds a bachelors degree in Biology from Boston College. Marielle is responsible for general lab upkeep, safety compliance and ordering. She also works on the Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS) project aimed at identifying genetic causes of IC and PBS using exome genomics. Marielle enjoys making delicious birthday cakes for the lab and is from Hingham, Massachusetts. 


Jeff Widrick

Jeffery Widrick, Ph.D.

Jeff joined the Kunkel Lab in 2013 after completing an undergraduate degree from State University of New York at Cortland, a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a doctorate in Exercise Physiology at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. Jeff did post-doctoral training in muscle physiology in the Department of Biology at Marquette University with support from a NASA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. His early work also consisted of studying the detrimental effect of non-weight bearing actions on muscle function paired with the development of the exercise-based interventions. Within the Kunkel Lab, Jeff’s interest is focused on understanding how dystrophies and myopathies impact muscle contractility, looking at how contractile function can be improved or restored by novel therapeutic interventions. Jeff approaches his work across several levels of biological organization, from small zebrafish larvae to human muscle biopsies. By providing a physiological prospective with focus on muscle strength and performance, Jeff is able to translate functional assays that are typically performed on rodent muscles to the Kunkel lab zebrafish model.

Janelle Spinazzola, Ph.D. 

Janelle joined the Kunkel Lab in June 2015. She has over 12 years of experience in muscular dystrophy research and received her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine under Dr. Elisabeth Barton.  In the Kunkel lab, Janelle's research is focused on discovering disease modifiers and drug therapies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy utilizing mouse and zebrafish disease models. Janelle is also passionate about teaching and serves as an Adjunct Professor at Tufts University and Emmanuel College.




Anna Pakula, Ph.D

Anna joined the Kunkel Lab in October 2015 after graduating from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland. She holds a Ph.D. in the myology field from the Free University in Germany. In the Kunkel Lab, Anna’s focus is on Facioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD) and Duchenne Dystrophy. Her interests include developing treatment strategies through injections and use of transgenic zebrafish models designed by Hiroaki Mitsuhashi. Through Anna’s focus on the main mechanisms behind FSHD, she has been working on Single Cell Transcriptomics on primary human muscle FSHD cells in order to characterize the cells regardless of DUX4 expression. Anna is an active member of the Women in Science Association in both Germany and the United States. In her spare time, Anna enjoys discovering different cultures through her many travels and is from Thorn, Poland. 




Yuanfan (Tracy) Zhang, Ph.D. 
Tracy joined the lab in the fall of 2016 after receiving her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins school of Medicine. Her thesis was completed under the guidance of Kathryn Wagner M.D. Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins and Kennedy Krieger Institute Genetic Muscle Center in Baltimore, Maryland. While working in Baltimore, Tracy developed a novel xenograft model for human skeletal muscle diseases and tested new gene therapy with the model. Working closely with the muscular dystrophy patients community during her graduate work has motivated her to stay in the field of muscular dystrophy while continuing to work on pushing more therapeutics from bench to clinic. In her spare time, Tracy is passionate about cooking and eating good food while exploring fun things to do around Boston.





Matthias Lambert, Ph.D.

Matthias joined the lab in the February of 2017 after receiving his Ph.D. in physiology from Lille University in France. His doctorate research was completed under the supervision of physiologist, Pr. Bruno Bastide and proteomics professor, Dr. Caroline Cieniewski-Bernard. While completing his Ph.D., Matthias focused on the characterization of the role of a post-translational modification, O-GlcNAcylation, in the sarcomere structure of the skeletal muscle and it’s involvement in muscle diseases. Using the C2C12 myotubes model, Matthias determined that O-GlcNAcylation is a fine modulator of the sarcomeric morphology, it is involved in interactions between key structural proteins such as desmin and alpha B-crystallin, and O-GlcNAcylation has O-GlcNAc binding sites on various proteins of interest. In the Kunkel lab, Matthias plans to first use a library of novel small molecules (which modulate different signaling pathways in the zebrafish sapje screening model) to modulate Jagged1 protein and restore dystrophic phenotype as seen in previous animal models. His second goal is to move these efficient molecules into a preclinical mouse model and create and new transgenic mouse line expressing Jagged1 in an inducible way. In his spare time, Matthias enjoys playing the drums while discovering new food and culture from all over the world. He is also an active member of the French Muscular Dystrophy Association. Matthias is from Saint-Omer, France. 

James Conner, Research Technician

Jamie joined the lab in August of 2017. He maintains the Kunkel lab mouse and fish lines and collaborates with the postdocs on a wide range of projects.