Dr. Parisa Shooshtari

Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario

Photo of Dr. Shooshtari

Dr. Parisa Shooshtari is an accomplished researcher and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Western University, 

with a cross-appointment in the Department of Computer Science. Her academic journey and passion for unraveling the complexities of complex diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS), have shaped her into a leading scientist in the field of computational genomics of complex diseases.

Dr. Shooshtari obtained her PhD in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia, where she developed a strong foundation in computational methods and bioinformatics. Following her doctoral studies, she embarked on a transformative postdoctoral journey, undertaking training at Yale University and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Throughout her career, Dr. Shooshtari has demonstrated a keen interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms driving complex diseases, with a particular focus on MS. Her research program is characterized by its interdisciplinary nature, blending computational, statistical, and machine learning approaches to dissect the cellular and molecular underlying causes of complex diseases. By integrating diverse datasets and employing cutting-edge bioinformatics tools, she seeks to identify novel insights into the etiology and progression of MS.

Dr. Shooshtari's commitment to MS research extends beyond the laboratory. She has been actively involved in collaborative initiatives, including her membership in the International MS Genetics Consortium (IMSGC), where she collaborated with leading scientists to unravel the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms underlying MS. Her dedication to translating research findings into clinical applications is evident in her collaborations with clinicians and her involvement in projects aimed at generating datasets from individuals living with MS. With unwavering dedication and a passion for discovery, Dr. Shooshtari continues to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge, striving to make a meaningful impact on the lives of individuals affected by MS.

Learn more about Dr. Shooshtari

What is the focus of your research? How did you become interested in MS research?

My research focuses on understanding the underlying causes of complex diseases, particularly MS. I'm intrigued by the challenge of unraveling the intricate mechanisms at the cellular and molecular levels that contribute to diseases like MS. My interest in MS research was ignited during my postdoctoral training, where I had the opportunity to collaborate with world-renowned  scientists studying genetics and epigenetics of MS. Witnessing the impact of MS on individuals and families further motivated me to pursue research in this field.

What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?

What inspires me to continue advancing research in the field of MS is the potential to make a real difference in the lives of those affected by this disease. Every discovery, no matter how small, brings us closer to understanding MS better and finding more effective treatments. Additionally, the collaboration with other researchers and clinicians, as well as the resilience and strength of individuals living with MS, serves as a constant source of inspiration to push forward in our quest for knowledge and solutions.

How do you hope to change the lives of people living with MS through your research?

Through my research, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying MS. By identifying key factors involved in the development and progression of MS, we aim to pave the way for more targeted and effective treatments. Ultimately, I aspire to provide insights that will lead to improved outcomes and quality of life for individuals living with MS. My goal is to make tangible contributions that positively impact the lives of those affected by MS.

What do you enjoy most about your research? What are some of the challenges you face?

What I enjoy most about my research is the opportunity to explore the unknown and make discoveries that can potentially transform our understanding of complex diseases like MS. I find great satisfaction in developing and applying innovative computational methods to analyze large amounts of data and uncover hidden patterns and insights.

However, research also comes with its challenges. One of the primary challenges is the complexity of the biological systems we study. Understanding the intricacies of cellular and molecular interactions requires interdisciplinary expertise and collaboration across different fields. Additionally, obtaining and analyzing large-scale datasets can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Moreover, translating research findings into practical applications that benefit people with MS often requires overcoming logistical, regulatory, and funding hurdles. Despite these challenges, the pursuit of knowledge and the potential to make a meaningful impact on the lives of people with MS drive me to overcome obstacles and continue advancing in my research endeavors.

How important is the support from MS Canada in your research?

The support from MS Canada is incredibly important for advancing my research on MS. This support allows me to access resources, generate the experimental data, acquire necessary equipment, and recruit talented researchers to collaborate on our projects. Furthermore, the recognition and endorsement from MS Canada validate the significance and potential impact of our research, which encourages further investment from other funding sources and fosters collaborations within the scientific community. Overall, MS Canada's support plays a crucial role in driving forward our efforts to better understand and ultimately find more effective treatments for MS.