Nika Shakiba, Assistant Professor, School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME), University of British Columbia

Dr. Nika Shakiba is an Assistant Professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME) at the University of British Columbia. Nika received her B.A.Sc. from the Engineering Science program and subsequently completed a Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Peter Zandstra, both at the University of Toronto. She conducted her postdoctoral training under the co-supervision of Dr. Ron Weiss and Dr. Domitilla Del Vecchio in the Synthetic Biology Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Through these experiences, she has bridged experiment-to-theory by using genetic technologies to track single cell behaviors, using mathematical models to deconvolve complex datasets, and generating novel predictions. Her training trajectory has instilled in her a scientific philosophy that is rooted in interdisciplinary thinking and collaborations.

Nika’s independent research program is interested in the “social lives” of stem cells: how these cells interact to influence one another’s survival and cell fate decisions, both in culture and embryonic development. Her lab uses systems and synthetic biology to understand the genetic rules that encode cooperative and competitive interactions between stem cells. Leveraging genetic engineering, her lab seeks to program these interactions to drive predictable growth and differentiation outcomes and enable robust bioprocesses for manufacturing stem cell-derived cell therapies.

Nika is committed to training the next generation of biomedical researchers with core expertise that span life sciences and engineering. These scientific leaders will have the know-how to develop cutting-edge technologies, serve as nodes for interdisciplinary collaboration, and tackle fundamental scientific questions. She has co-developed a national workshop bringing synthetic biology to stem cell trainees in the Stem Cell Network. Beyond her research and teaching, Nika has been actively involved in outreach, bringing the science and ethics of stem cell research to the general public and youth. As a former national leader for the StemCellTalks symposium for high school students, she co-led a committee that saw the expansion of the event to eight cities across Canada. Nika is also passionate about providing equity in mentorship and multi-directional advice-sharing through her latest project, Advice to a Scientist.