Dr. Shakiba’s research focuses on cell competition and seeks to uncover (reverse engineer) and program (forward engineer) the genetic rules of cell fitness in order to answer fundamental biological questions about stem cells; and give rise to a novel class of engineered cell therapies for regenerative medicine applications. The Shabika lab will use a multidisciplinary approach, combining genetic engineering techniques with cellular barcoding technology, mathematical models, and the design of synthetic genetic circuits, to dynamically tune fitness genes, thus predictably controlling competition in multicellular populations.
Prior to joining SBME, Nika Shakiba was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She completed her PhD in Stem Cell Engineering at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (University of Toronto), where she discovered a novel cell surface protein strategy to demarcate cellular heterogeneity in reprogramming culture.
When it comes to teaching, Dr. Shakiba is a proponent of active learning strategies that place students at the centre of the learning experience and emphasize discovery moments, largely through immersive, hands-on practice. She emphasizes that critical thinking skills and “learning how to learn” empowers students for the long-term not only within regenerative medicine, but in any career path they choose.
“I believe that effective education should strive to equip students with the mindset and skills necessary to become effective learners rather than emphasizing knowledge transfer,” Shakiba stresses.
Dr. Shakiba is also a big believer in outreach and mentorship. Beyond her research and teaching, she is passionate about providing access to equity-in-mentorship resources and advice through her latest project, Advice to a Scientist. The project is a central community-based hub where practicing scientists, scientists-in-training, and future scientists from all STEM disciplines can unite and connect to share advice on professional and scientific matters. Nika’s vision is that this platform will not only feature existing resources that support a range of experiences (from lectures and workshops to direct mentorship and communication) but also encourage others to embrace their innate curiosity.