Peter Zandstra


Research Interests

Stem cell bioengineering
Synthetic biology
Biomedical Engineering
Computational Biology
Computational modeling
Gene/Cell Therapy Systems
personalized medicine
Regenerative medicine
Synthetic biology

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

Computational Biology


Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
I am open to hosting Visiting International Research Students (non-degree, up to 12 months).
I am interested in hiring Co-op students for research placements.
I am interested in supervising students to conduct interdisciplinary research.

Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!

Check requirements
  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
  • Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
Focus your search
  • Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
Make a good impression
  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
    • Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
    • Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
Attend an information session

G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.



These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Engineering the thymic niche for T-cell differentiation from stem cells (2023)

Stem cell-derived T-cells have the potential for use in immunotherapies to treat cancer and immunological disorders. However, building in vitro systems to guide stem cell differentiation into T-cells remains challenging. In the thymus, T-cell development is coordinated by unique microenvironments that provide temporal signals to guide their development. Efforts to understand this process have historically employed gain- or loss-of-function experiments in model animal thymus to perturb signaling networks and measure their effect. While invaluable, these studies can be difficult to interpret. Signaling redundancies stabilize T-cell developmental programs and can mask the effects of perturbations; the magnitude of a gene knock-in or knock- out can result in pathological phenotypes that are not physiological; and differences between species often require reexamining results from animal models in a human context. This creates a challenge for designing clinically relevant systems that mimic the thymus’ function but with much lower complexity.A complementary approach involves studying T-cell development in minimalist engineered system and iteratively adding layers of complexity enable new functions. This strategy incorporates knowledge from studies of the thymus but applies engineering principles to rationally design systems for clinical translation. The work described here realizes this approach: beginning with an engineered thymic niche (ETN) that supports T-cell progenitor differentiation from hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), the extracellular environment was optimized to enable the development of T-cells without the need for xenogeneic supplementation or stroma. Statistical models were used to learn how responses to signalling molecules change over time as T-cells develop and optimized to support cytotoxic T-cell differentiation from umbilical cord blood- and pluripotent stem cell-derived HSPCs. A theme of this work is how developing T-cells integrate extracellular signals differently depending on their stage, and that these signals must be carefully controlled to support those dynamic developmental processes. The resultant ETN provides a platform for future study of human T-cell development and the insights gained represent a starting point for scaled-up bioprocesses for manufacturing stem cell- derived T-cells for clinical immunotherapies.

View record

The interplay between gene regulatory networks and cell signaling: engineering the collective behaviour (2023)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

View record

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Engineering human developmental organoids to model robust symmetry breaking during gastrulation (2022)

The full abstract for this thesis is available in the body of the thesis, and will be available when the embargo expires.

View record



If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Explore our wide range of course-based and research-based program options!