How can we help patients to become more informed about new biotechnologies? Positioned at the intersection of clinical trials and ethics, Shelly's research aims to advance sustainable, socially responsible, and ethically conscious translation of novel biotechnologies, such as stem cell research, to the larger public.

Judy Illes
UBC Public Scholars Award
Research Description

The field of stem cell research has generated excitement about imminent therapeutic applications, even while the pace of science is incremental. I explore the perspectives of patients with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson disease and doctors who treat them about research and development specifically in the context of stem cell research. My goal is to bring their voices to the forefront of experimental medicine so that the priorities and concerns of these key stakeholders are fully integrated into the process of translating research into clinically available treatments.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

It means being an engaged scholar whose work marries research and service.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

Academic inquiry usually focuses on uncovering or co-creating knowledge. The Public Scholars Initiative bridges this knowledge with public benefit – an imperative for social responsibility in academic scholarship. The Public Scholars Initiative provides an opportunity for students to achieve true excellence in their doctoral work by utilizing their academic platforms to promote public engagement and conscientiousness in academic citizenship.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

My long-term goal is to provide university leadership in research, education, and public outreach on the ethical and policy implications of novel biotechnologies that present the potential for new knowledge, new therapeutics and improved clinical care.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

I partner with patient and clinician communities in the co-creation of knowledge. I will also engage with journalism students to promote science communication that is responsive to patient needs.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

I hope to bring forward the voices of patients so that as biotechnologies are developed they are directed by the priorities and concerns of their end-users. My work will promote informed hope about biomedical research and therapeutic development in patient communities and in the public sphere, and reciprocity in the complex relationships between science, biotechnology and society.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I chose to pursue a graduate degree because I find the research that I do both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. Also, I love to learn! 

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I wanted to study at UBC because I wanted to work with my mentor, Dr. Judy Illes. Dr. Illes is Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics and Director of the National Core for Neuroethics, a world-renowned research center committed to anticipating and addressing the implications of technological development in the brain sciences.


I hope to bring forward the voices of patients so that as biotechnologies are developed they are directed by the priorities and concerns of their end-users.