ABOUT PETER ZANDSTRA

PZ


 

Peter Zandstra is interested in the process from which tissues and organs form from individual cells. Our lab builds mathematical models to simulate the dynamic multiscale decision-making processes that connect a cell’s internal regulatory networks to interactions between neighbouring cells and ultimately to the cellular microenvironment.

 

 

These models accelerate hypothesis testing and yield predictions of dominant molecular nodes that control stem cell fate and guide tissue development. We test our model predictions using synthetic stem cell niches and in vivo assays. These efforts are revealing how higher order tissue and organ function emerges during development, and are enabling new clinical programs, mainly related to blood cell therapeutics.

 

Lab Members

 Ting Yin

Lab Manager and Senior Research Technician
ting.yin@mail.utoronto.ca

Ting completed her MSc training in Molecular Genetics at the University of Brussels, Belgium. In her capacity as Lab Manager, she oversees all lab operations, including organizing and maintaining supplies, inventory, and equipment. As a Senior Research Technician, Ting prepares stock reagents, maintains our lab’s hESC lines and stocks, and provides training and technical support on cell culture and equipment operation. Ting also conducts research and is currently supporting an endoderm differentiation project by optimizing culture conditions to improve hPSC-derived pancreatic progenitor yield.



 Geoff Clarke​

Research Associate
geoff.clarke@utoronto.ca

Geoff’s research interests focus on theoretical aspects of stem cell biology. Specifically, he is interested in how the behaviour and interaction of individual pluripotent stem cells leads to higher-order population and tissue-level processes both in vitro and in vivo. He uses approaches from biology, physics, computer science, and mathematics to develop simulations and abstract models of interacting populations of stem cells to analyze and predict cell fate choices within these heterogeneous populations.

 Cynthia Fisher

Research Associate
604.822.3654 | cynthia.fisher@ubc.ca

Cynthia obtained her MSc at the University of Toronto and her PhD at the University of British Columbia in Canada. She then undertook postdoctoral research in the United Kingdom at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, MRC London Institute of Medical Science, University College London, and the University of Cambridge, focusing on stem cell epigenetics and physical biology. She acquired industry-academic experience with Stemcell Technologies UK Ltd in collaboration with the WT-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute as part of the European Union’s PluriMes research consortium. At the new Zandstra Lab UBC location, Cynthia is supporting research operations including lab set-up, personnel recruitment, securing new funding, communications, laboratory management and oversight, and coaching junior research personnel. Her research focuses on applying synthetic biology and micropatterning tools to study how genetic and epigenetic regulatory networks, as well as microenvironmental and spatial factors, influence gastrulation and blood development using pluripotent stem cell differentiation systems.

 Himanshu Kaul

Postdoctoral Fellow
h.kaul@utoronto.ca
Himanshu completed his Doctorate research at the University of Oxford followed by Post-Doctoral training at the University of Leicester and the University of Sheffield. In the Zandstra Lab, he will focus on developing computational strategies (models and frameworks) that will be used to quantify the spatiotemporal evolution of spatially ordered cell populations and tissues that result from information exchange between environmental, cellular, and sub-cellular levels. He plans to validate this approach in vitro by predicting the formation of germ layers during PSC gastrulation, transition of osteoblasts into osteocytes, and engineering the thymic environment.

 Laura Prochazka

Postdoctoral Fellow
laura.prochazka@utoronto.ca
Laura completed her PhD at ETH Zurich, under the supervision of Kobi Benenson, where she implemented RNAi-based logic gene circuits for detection and destruction of specific cancer cell types and created a new“bow-tie” framework that greatly expanded the spectrum of applications for these gene circuits. At the Zandstra Lab, she is developing a synthetic biology platform for genetic engineering of human PSCs (hPSCs). With this platform, she envisions building gene networks that can be programmed to perform specific and predictive functions inside hPSCs without disturbing the cells’ pluripotency characteristics. Over the long term, she aims to develop synthetic reporting and control systems to dissect and promote the in vitro generation of hPSC-derived progenitor T cells to complement our lab’s ongoing efforts in scalable manufacturing technologies for immunotherapy.

 Jasty Singh

Postdoctoral Fellow
jastaran.singh@mail.utoronto.ca
Jasty completed her PhD at the University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker. In the Zandstra Lab, she will apply micropatterning tools to study microenvironmental factors that specify hematopoietic stem cell fate from pluripotent stem cells.

 Andrew Hagner

Postdoctoral Fellow
andrew.hagner@ubc.ca
Andrew obtained his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Jeff Biernaskie, studying transcriptional networks of adult dermal stem cells during hair follicle regeneration. Research in the Zandstra lab will begin by exploring the use of automation/machine learning to control expansion of human cord blood-derived hematopoietic stem cell (HSCs), ultimately to improve therapeutic HSC engraftment outcomes.

 John Edgar

PhD Candidate
John completed his undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering at the University of Victoria. In the Zandstra Lab, he is developing and applying machine learning to model cytokine signaling networks during T-cell development from induced pluripotent stem cells. These models can be optimized to predict the cytokines necessary at each stage of T-cell development.

 Joel Östblom

Joel completed his undergraduate and masters studies at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden earning a degree in Biomedicine. An emerging focus of the Zandstra lab is to construct computational models to predict the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on early stem cell fate decisions. Our group has developed a high throughput platform which provides the experimental setup necessary to thoroughly explore how microenvironmental attributes contribute to such fate decisions. Joel’s work focuses on developing software to analyze and visualize our experimental data to validate the predictions of our models, and to apply these techniques to study organized spatial heterogeneity and patterning events in the mouse system.