“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

William Ernest Henley, 1875

Anastasia N. Tikhonova

Principal Investigator

Anastasia completed her dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Alfred Singer at the National Cancer Institute, as part of the NIH-University of Pennsylvania Graduate Partnership in Immunology (2007-2011). There, she became interested in how microenvironmental factors dictate cell fate choices. Anastasia then continued her training in the laboratory of Dr. Iannis Aifantis (New York University Medical School), where she identified niche factors that govern hematopoietic stem cell differentiation and leukemia progression (2012-2019). In 2020 she joined Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as a Scientist and is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. For her work Anastasia received a number of awards, including Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Special Fellow Award, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Young Investigator Grant, ASH Fellow to Faculty Award, Gilead Research Scholar in Hematology/Oncology, V Scholar, and an AACR Next Generation STAR award. Anastasia also holds Tier 2 Canadian Research Chair in Stem Cell Niche Biology. She is also committed to addressing gender bias within research and is a co-chair of Gender Equity committee at Princess Margaret Cancer Center.


Minerva Fernandez

Lab Manager

Minerva received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Havana and her master’s degree from the University of Southern Denmark. Minerva has more than twenty years of combined experience from the biotech industry and academic organizations, and her organization skills are on part with Marie Kondo. As a lab manager, Minerva makes sure all day-to-day operations run smoothly and efficiently. She also enjoys training new students. In her free time, she loves to travel and explore new cultures.

Soheil Jahangiri

Affiliate Scientist

Soheil Jahangiri is an affiliate scientist in the Stem Cell Program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. He received his Ph.D. in Bioinformatics from the University of Shahid Beheshti, Iran, working on Comparative Genomics and Phylogenomics of bacterial strains. He was also a research assistant at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (IPM), Iran, where he worked on Drug-Target interaction prediction and Protein Subcellular localization prediction using recommender systems. In 2019, he joined Dr. Benjamin Haibe-Kains’ lab at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre as a postdoctoral fellow, where he worked on drug sensitivity prediction and personalized combination therapy using single-cell RNASeq and machine learning techniques. In our lab, Soheil focuses on mapping receptor-ligand interactions between hematopoietic cells and the bone marrow microenvironment. Outside of academic life, Soheil enjoys wood carving and the outdoors.


Mursal Nader

Graduate Student, University of Toronto

Mursal received her B.A. in Neuroscience from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., USA. From there, she went on to work as a research associate first at MIT, and later at Yale School of Medicine studying anti-tumor T cell responses. Mursal joined the our lab as a graduate student to elucidate the role of the bone marrow niche components in orchestrating inflammatory responses. Aside from her research interests, Mursal is a passionate advocate for promoting the advancement of minorities and underrepresented groups in science. She is the founder and cochair of Women in Science Initiative (WSI) at UofT, where she hopes to increase representation and retention of women in the life sciences. In her spare time, Mursal enjoys traveling and exploring new places with family.

Ximing Li

Graduate Student, University of Toronto

Ximing completed her undergraduate degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Toronto. Ximing’s research project is to investigate both the short term and the long-term effects of the standard leukemia chemotherapy regimen on the bone marrow niche. Her passion for research started with a groundbreaking study of fried chicken restaurants and bubble tea shops around Toronto that is currently under peer review. Ximing is an avid photographer of people in their natural habitat and one of her goals is to create meme collage for every person in our lab.

Mark Gower

Postdoctoral Fellow

Mark is a post-doctoral fellow investigating crosstalk between the bone marrow and leukemic cells. He completed his Ph.D. in Immunology at the University of Toronto where he identified novel biomarkers and chemotherapy resistance mechanisms of high-risk B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In our lab, Mark aims to characterize how T acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells reshape the bone marrow microenvironment to escape immune cell destruction and gain chemotherapy resistance. Outside the lab, Mark has a passion for cooking, a task that offers greater flexibility in deviation from the recipe and more immediate results than most lab work.

Alicia Aguilar

Postdoctoral Fellow

Alicia obtained her MsC in Molecular Biomedicine and her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM). She has been working with dissecting human bone marrow (BM) microenvironment in Aging and Acute Myeloid Leukemia. As part of her PhD studies, Alicia described a spatial association between adipocytes and hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) and its increase in aging. Now, Alicia focuses on delineating the changes in the BM architecture in the context of chronic inflammation. Alicia loves to learn new techniques and embark in new adventures.