Nastaran Zahir, Ph.D.
Branch Director, Cancer Training Branch
Center for Cancer Training
Nastaran Zahir, Ph.D., serves as Branch Director of the Cancer Training Branch (CTB) in NCI’s Center for Cancer Training (CCT). Before joining CCT in 2021, Dr. Zahir served as Associate Director for the Physical Sciences-Oncology Network and Program Director for the Structural Biology and Molecular Applications Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology (DCB). In those roles, she coordinated programs that integrate physical sciences perspectives in cancer research, fostered collaborative team science, supported education, outreach, and advocacy activities, and promoted resources for data sharing and biospecimen standards. Dr. Zahir also served as Chair of the NCI Early Stage Investigator (ESI) Activities Committee, which plays a key role in planning and implementing NCI priorities for ESIs. In her role as Chief of the Cancer Training Branch, Dr. Zahir envisions expanding cross-disciplinary training opportunities for the next generation of cancer researchers.
Dr. Zahir's passion for advancing the integration of physical sciences and oncology stems from a decade of transdisciplinary research at the intersection of these fields. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley while a research scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the areas of plasma physics and radiation biology and imaging. Dr. Zahir received a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania at the Institute for Medicine and Engineering where she investigated spatial-mechanical regulation of mammary morphogenesis and therapeutic resistance. Her postdoctoral training was at the NIH National Institute of Arthritis, and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases where she studied stem cell biology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. During that time, Dr. Zahir also served as Senior Editor of the NIH Fellows Editorial Board. In 2009, she joined the NIH extramural program as a Program Director at the NCI Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives in the former Office of Physical Sciences-Oncology, which migrated to DCB in 2013. Throughout her career, Dr. Zahir has co-authored research publications in biological and physical sciences. She has also taught undergraduate courses in cancer biology at the University of Pennsylvania and graduate courses in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine at the NIH Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences.