W&J alumna, Ashely Kunkle poses with University of South Carolina mascot statue.

Stuck on Science: W&J alumna inspired by intellectual disabilities internship

Created: January 24, 2022  |  Last Updated: February 14, 2022  |  Category:   |  Tagged: , , ,

WASHINGTON, PA (January 24, 2022)-Unlike the fictional beings that grant wishes for others, real-life “gene-y” and W&J alumna, Ashley Kunkle ’21, is working to make her own dreams a reality.

A December graduate who studied neuroscience and business administration, Kunkle finished her degree early, after spending the summer of 2021 interning as a research assistant at the University of South Carolina’s Family Experience Lab, where she studied the FMR1 gene (often associated Fragile X Syndrome-a genetic disorder that causes intellectual disability) and how the communication deficiencies of mothers carrying the gene affect their children with the syndrome.

Undecided on a career path at the time, Kunkle said the experience was fundamental in her decision to pursue medicine.

“[In the lab], I felt like…I was in the midst of developing science,” Kunkle said. “I read manuscripts and grants, and Dr. [Jessica] Klusek, [the associate professor of communication sciences and disorders at the University of South Carolina who directed the lab], would email me research and say, ‘Hey, we’re looking to get this published next week, can you look over it?’ And just being a part of that was really amazing.”

Though she acknowledged that she was primarily responsible for attaining the position, Kunkle also credited Dr. Candy DeBerry, a professor in the Biology Department, for helping her find success.

“I took a JayTerm course with Dr. DeBerry called ‘Finding a Science Internship…,'” Kunkle said, “I would recommend to anyone to take that class. It was just so insightful and provided so much information…, and she actually had past students who had done internships come to the class and explain how they got them.”

DeBerry also made students aware of funding opportunities that W&J offers to students completing internships, such as the Maxwell Internship Award, which Kunkle was granted.

“It was the reason why I could do my internship,” Kunkle said. “I am just so grateful that W&J is able to give its students opportunities that allow us to go elsewhere and to do other things.”

Currently a medical scribe in the process of applying for physician assistant programs, she’s confident that her internship experience and her time at W&J will enable her to reach her goals.

“I feel like it just gave me this boost of confidence, like, ‘I can go do this,'” Kunkle said. “And my professors really taught me how to find my passion…. When I first started, it seemed like I was so far from reaching my career goals…but W&J helped me mature to a deeper level, and now…I’m confident that I will succeed in PA school and in my future.”


About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu or call 888-W-AND-J.