UF Wellstone Trainees

Current Trainees

Pratiksha Awale

Pratiksha Awale Headshot

Pratiksha Awale received her Bachelors in Physiotherapy from India and a Masters in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Pratiksha is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science mentored by Dr. Sean Forbes. Her current work is related to performing MRI and biopsies in Becker’s muscular dystrophy to understand how dystrophin expression affects disease progression.

Cora Hart

Cora Hart Wellstone Trainee

Cora Hart received her Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Florida and recently completed her PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Florida under the mentorship of Dr. H. Lee Sweeney. Her research interests include investigating therapies for the dilated cardiomyopathy associated with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, with a focus on mitigating the perturbations in calcium handling and preventing apoptosis of the cardiomyocytes.

Mariana Lopez

Mariana Lopez

Mariana Lopez received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Indian River State College followed by a lab technician position at FAUs Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute researching coastal ecology. She is now a current student in the Biomedical Sciences Program at the University of Florida under the mentorship of Dr. Glenn A. Walter. Mariana is studying the impact of genetic modifiers and steroids on disease progression using a combination of magnetic resonance techniques, including NMR of biofluids and MRI/MRS combined with multivariant analysis.

Former Trainees

Harneet Arora


Harneet Arora completed her Bachelors in Physiotherapy from India. Harneet was supported by the Wellstone Center during the final year of her doctoral studies and received her PhD in Rehabilitation Science under the mentorship of Dr. Krista Vandenborne in 2017. After graduating in December 2017 Harneet transitioned into a postdoctoral position within the same lab to complete her ongoing research studies. She completed these studies in December 2018 and accepted a position as a Clinical Trial Manager at MedQualis in Montreal, Canada. Harneet’s research interest focus on examining the natural history of disease progression in both upper and lower extremities in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy using functional and MR measures.

Alison Barnard


Alison Barnard received her Bachelors of Science in Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She received her PhD in Rehabilitation Science in December 2018 under the mentorship of Drs. Krista Vandenborne and Glenn Walter and continued to work in these labs as a Post-Doctoral Fellow. Alison is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Florida. Her research interests include using magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy techniques to assess muscle health in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Specifically, she is using MRI methods to investigate the effects of failed muscle regeneration on respiratory function in DMD.

Abhi Batra

abhi crop

Abhinandan Batra received his Bachelors in Physiotherapy from Guru Nanak Dev University, India, and his Masters from Georgia State University, Atlanta. Abhinandan received his PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Florida under the direction of his mentor Dr. Krista Vandenborne in 2017 and continued to work as a Post-Doctoral Fellow with Drs. Krista Vandenborne, Glenn Walter, and Sean Forbes focusing  on non-Invasive monitoring of Cardiac and skeletal muscle involvement in muscular dystrophies. In January 2020 Dr. Batra transitioned to a faculty position at Louisiana State University.

David Hammers

david crop

David Hammers received his PhD in Exercise Physiology at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hammers research interests focus on muscle diseases and skeletal muscle regeneration. David was supported by the Wellstone Center as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Dr. Lee Sweeney lab with a focus on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and muscle fibrosis, and is currently a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Florida.

Marjan Khan

Marjan Khan

Marjan Khan received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Marymount Manhattan College. She is currently a graduate student in Biomedical Sciences under the mentorship of Dr. Glenn Walter.  Her research interests include exploring the relationship between muscle and bone in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Specifically, she aims to identify non-invasive biomarkers using serum and MRI to study disease progression and the effects of steroids on muscle-bone crosstalk.

Ram Khattri

Ram wellstone

Ram Khattri received his Masters in Physical Chemistry from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He received his 2nd Masters and PhD from The University of Akron, Ohio in Bio-analytical Chemistry under the supervision of Dr. Thomas C. Leeper in 2016 and worked as a Post-Doctoral Fellow for Southeastern Center for Integrated Metabolomics (SECIM) under the guidance of Dr. Matthew E. Merritt for three years. Ram continued as a Post-doctoral Fellowship under mentorship of Drs. Beth Barton and Glenn Walter as a Wellstone Trainee. Through this training program Ram focused on the basics of muscle physiology and pathophysiology and applied this knowledge to 13C flux measurements looking at metabolic flux in a unique model of muscle IGF1 expression. He will also continue to use NMR based approaches, but also apply them to the tissues and biofluids from both pre-clinical models and patients with various forms of muscular dystrophy. The overall goal of this work is to find noninvasive or minimally invasive biomarkers that detect disease progression and therapeutic intervention in the dystrophies. Ram is currently a Post-doctoral Associate in Dr. Terence Ryan’s lab at the University of Florida.

Marta Quadri

Marta Quadri

Marta Quadri received her Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology, and her PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Milan, Italy. As part of her doctorate experience, Marta spent a year at the University of Florida in the laboratory of Dr. Nicole A. Horenstein as an Exchange Visiting Student. After graduating, Marta returned to the University of Florida as a Postdoctoral associate under the mentorship of Drs. Nicole A. Horenstein and Roger L. Papke working on targeting nicotinic acetylcholine receptors with new chemical entities and elucidating these receptors mechanisms. Marta continued in a Postdoctoral position at the Myology Institute, University of Florida under the guidance of Dr. H. Lee Sweeney focusing on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and targeting drug-induced selective gene expression. Marta returned to Italy at the conclusion of her postdoctoral fellowship to work in pharmaceutical development in partnership with the University of Milan.

George Vasilakos

vasilakos pic

George Vasilakos received his Bachelors in Biology from York University in Toronto, and his Masters in Applied Physiology from Coventry University in Coventry, UK. George received his PhD in Molecular Physiology from National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Medical School. George was supported by the Wellstone Center as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and he currently works in the Molecular Physiology of Muscle Laboratory under Elisabeth Barton. George’s research interests include the role of muscle insulin-like growth factor I in regulation of glucose homeostasis, the use of insulin-like growth factor I to promote muscle growth and repair, and muscle load sensing through sarcoglycan complex. After completing his Post-doctoral position in the Barton lab, Dr. Vasilakos transitioned to an industry position.

Ravneet Vhora


Ravneet Vhora received his PhD in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Florida and is interested in studying morphological and functional skeletal muscle changes in various dystrophies, cachexia and aging. Ravneet was supported by the Wellstone Center while in the muscle physiology lab under Dr. Glenn Walter. Currently, he is working on monitoring disease progression in a mouse model of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). He is also working on effects of Pulsed High intensity focused ultrasound (pHIFU) in subcutaneous, orthotopic and KPC mice and monitoring these effects using multi-parametric MRI (14T). In addition, he is working on characterizing two different preclinical mouse models of Duchenne muscular dystrophy i.e. mdx4cv and mdx/dba using high field MRI (14T). Ravneet has moved to the Radiology Department at the University of Washington.

Katelyn Villani

Katelyn Villani Photo

Katelyn Villani received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology, Masters in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology from the University of Florida, and is currently a graduate student in Exercise Physiology under the mentorship of Dr. Elisabeth Barton.  Her research interests include how Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 can be used as a therapeutic to offset muscle wasting and restoration of aberrant signaling in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.    

Zachary Wakefield


Zachary received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Indiana University and was supported by the Wellstone Center as a graduate student in H. Lee Sweeney’s lab. Zachary’s interest focused on genetic modifiers of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy pathology, and developing novel therapeutics for treating the disease.

Yun Yang


Yun Yang received his Medical Degree in 2010 from Luzhou Medical College in Sichuan China. Dr. Yang worked as a Research Scholar/Post-Doctoral Associate in the H. Lee Sweeney Laboratory for 2 years focused on evaluating potential therapeutic agents for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Specifically, Dr. Yang performed studies to evaluate the impact on dystrophin-deficient mouse muscles treated with compounds or combination of compounds, including prednisolone, tamoxifen, a TGF-beta1 inhibitory antibody, and a myostatin inhibitor. Dr. Yang also followed up on a report of a gastrointestinal phenotype in SMN deficient patients by investigating the SMN (survival motor neuron protein)- deficient mouse model. Yun returned to China where he is employed as a surgeon attending in West China Hospital, Chengdu Shangjinnanfu, and specializes in colorectal cancer and pelvic floor dysfunction in clinic and also conduct basic research on GI smooth muscle pathology.