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#UofTGrad16: Nikki Shah

Through both her research work and her student leadership, Nikki Shah is devoted to helping solve public health problems. (Photo by Bianca Quijano)

As Convocation day approaches, we’re filled with pride at the incredible accomplishments of our students. No matter what program they’re in, no matter what their major, our students have made contributions to the campus, to the community and to the world at large. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll highlight students who have made a huge impact already, and are poised to do even more now that they’re graduating. From an Olympic weight lifter to a social activist featured on the CBC, we’re certain that you’ll be reading a lot more about them in the future! Follow the all the U of T Convocation excitement at #UofTGrad16.


Nikki Shah

When Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013, Nikki Shah knew she could not just sit back and watch.

“It really affected me. I wanted to help those people, but I was only one person. I knew I needed help.”

That’s when she founded UTSC Friends of MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders). Since then, the group has grown to have hundreds of members. They help send medics and other support workers to people affected by natural disasters, conflicts and pandemics all over the world.

That being said, Nikki, who double majored in Human Biology and Psychology, is not only interested in humanitarian relief. She also participates in groundbreaking scientific research.

“I’m currently working at Sick Kids Hospital, helping conduct research on how babies perceive and communicate pain. Our findings will help improve the way they receive medical care in the future,” she says.

Why did you come to UTSC?

I knew I wanted to go to U of T because of its great reputation, and I knew I would be challenging myself. I initially chose specifically UTSC for practical reasons: the commute to UTSC was easier than the commute to UTSG. The fact that my mom is UTSC alumni also helped with my decision! Looking back, this is one of the best decisions I ever made. UTSC's culture and environment has so much to offer. 

What’s the best-kept secret on campus?

The library lends out phone chargers and calculators (which has saved me a lot of stress; I've forgotten calculators on the day of exams too many times). 

Quick tip for new first years?

Talk to your professors! After class, during office hours, in the hallways. I am going to miss UTSC so much because of the amazing professors that I have gotten to know (shout-out to Professors McCrindle, Joordens, Pare, Brown, Ekers, Villegas, Sawchuk, Whiting and Dion). Professors are usually juggling 20 different things in addition to the lectures that you attend - it's always inspiring for me to hear about all the innovative work that they're doing. 

What is a “must-do” on campus – what should every student do before graduating?

Watch a performance by the UTSC choir and band

What’s next?

I'm still deciding between graduate school offers, but I will be doing studies in public or global health. Specifically I hope to do a thesis focusing on the interaction of both biological and psychosocial factors surrounding intimate partner violence. Over the years I have been involved with volunteering with domestic abuse organizations, and hope to combine these practical experiences with my Master's research. 

If we call you up in five years, where do you think we will find you?

Hopefully working in health care, implementing evidence-based creative solutions to public health problems. Maybe I'll be in the middle of completing a PhD.  


Read about more graduates to watch.

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