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PI: Janine M. Ziermann-Canabarro, PhD

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I am Associate Professor (tenured) at the Department of Anatomy, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC. I received my PhD in Germany studying the evolution and development of head muscles in larval amphibians. This was followed by a postdoc in the Netherlands and one in the USA to further study vertebrates.


My current research focuses on the evolution and development of the cardiopharyngeal field, a field that gives rise to head, neck, and heart musculature. For the development of muscles is the interaction with other tissues essential. Working with two different mouse models, my team and I analyze these interactions that support normal muscle development. Additionally, I aim to use the knowledge from my research to understand the pathology of congenital defects, which often affect both head and heart structures.


I won several awards, including the ‘American Association of Anatomists (AAA) and the Keith and Marion Moore Young Anatomist’s Publication Award’ (YAPA). Furthermore, I single authored or co-authored more than 30 papers in top journals such as Nature, Biological Reviews, books, book chapters, and commentaries.

I teach human anatomy and development to students of occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant, graduate in anatomy, medicine, and dentistry. I supervise a diverse group of  students at different levels of their education during independent research projects.

Meet the Team

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Dr. Janine M. Ziermann-Canabarro, PhD

Principal Investigator

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Ms. Paola Correa-Alfonzo, BS

Research Assistant & Lab Manager


Mr. Julius Cheesar

Lab Mascot & Supervisor


Ms. Correa-Alfonzo and Mr. Cheesar (find him!) welcoming Dr. Ziermann-Canabarro in the lab. 

In July 2023 I am honored to join the Howard University Sigma Xi Chapter. This Chapter was chartered in 1957.


Follow the latest developments and achievements in our lab


Sep 2023: Nehemiah Wilson MD2024 is presenting our research during the CNS. 

Wilson N, Correa-Alfonzo P, Ziermann JM (2023) Changed innervation upon loss of mandibular division of trigeminal nerve to muscles of mastication. Presented as virtual poster and as short talk at Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) Annual conference in Washington, DC, Sept. 9-13, 2023.

May 2023: Follow the latest developments and achievements in our lab

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Futurum Article

Futurum Article - Teaching resource

Futurum article "How do the head, neck, and heart develop?"

Birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. A developmental biologist at Howard University in the US, Dr Janine M. Ziermann is studying the head, neck, and heart to find out how head and heart birth defects form. 

Teaching resources are on TES:

Teachers pay Teachers:

Suitable for 14 to 19-year-olds (secondary and high schools, and college), this article and accompanying activity sheet can be used in the classroom or shared with students online.


This resource links to KS4/Grades 9 & 10 and KS5/Grades 11 & 12 Biology.

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Futurum article - Social media links

Ongoing Research Projects

  1. Evolution and Development of Head, Neck, and Heart Musculature in Vertebrates

  2. Cardiopharyngeal Syndromes (p63, GBX2) 

  3. Human Anatomy, Variations, Development, and Pathology

How to join? 

In each of my three research topics (see above) smaller and larger projects are available. If you are interested to work with me:  

Current Funding   
  • NSF HBCU EiR (#2000005) “Collaborative Research: Excellence in Research”: Impact of Gbx2 on neural crest cells during neuronal, craniofacial and cardiovascular development 07/2020-06/2024; 3 years, $345,000 LINK to grant

  • FAPESP/Smithsonian Institution (# 2016/19075-9): “Diversidade e Evolução de Gymnotiformes / Diversity and Evolution of Gymnotiformes” 08/01/2017 – 07/31/2022; 5 years: $1,256,000

    • PI – Carlos David de Santana, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Washington, DC, USA;

    • PI – Naércio Aquino Menezes-Filho, Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo (MZUSP), Brazil;

    • Co-PI – Aléssio Datovo da Silva, Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de São Paulo (MZUSP), Brazil;

    • Co-Investigators: 23 Co-investigators, including JM Ziermann.


Past Funding see here

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