PhD student Nika Shakiba recognized with the 2016 Jennifer Dorrington Graduate Research Award

PhD candidate Nika Shakiba (EngSci 1T0) has been named a recipient of a 2016 Jennifer Dorrington Graduate Research Award. Issued by the University of Toronto Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR), the award recognizes graduate-level research excellence and contributions to their field.

As a member of Professor Peter Zandstra’s Stem Cell Bioengineering lab, Shakiba’s research focuses on gaining a better understanding of stem cells. Specifically, she utilizes cell biology and mathematical modelling techniques to investigate the pathways behind their reprogramming to better predict how any given adult cell might turn into stem cells.

“The technique to make genetically-identical and patient-specific stem cells has been available for years, but the reprogramming process takes weeks and is not well understood,” says Shakiba. “The purpose of my work is to obtain useful data in order to improve the accuracy and speed of stem cell production for clinical use.”

Part of Shakiba’s work made its way into Nature Communications last June and she is expecting more of it to be published soon during the final year of her doctoral studies. Her career plan is to become a professor in biomedical engineering and believes that the Dorrington award will help her achieve this goal.

“This award will enable me to focus on my scientific training. It provides support and motivation to continue to develop my passion for science both in the lab and outside the lab through various outreach activities,” says Shakiba. “The Jennifer Dorrington Award is a generous reminder of the importance of pursuing our dreams, which is enabled by the support of our academic community.”

“Congratulations to Shakiba and the other recipients of this year’s award,” said Professor Julie Audet, IBBME’s associate director of graduate programs. “Our students are the future of health care and their work will help impact the lives of many Canadians and people around the world.”

The Dorrington Award was established in 2006 as a tribute to Jennifer Dorrington, who was a professor in the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research. Dorrington’s pioneering research greatly advanced our understanding of reproductive biology and ovarian cancer.