Skip to main content

Andy Kokaji

Associate Director of Immunology
STEMCELL Technologies
Andy Kokaji | Directeur associé de Immunologie, STEMCELL Technologies
Andy Kokaji | Directeur associé de Immunologie, STEMCELL Technologies
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway
School Subject

Andy Kokaji is an associate director of immunology at STEMCELL Technologies.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and grew up in St. Albert, a suburb just northwest of Edmonton.

I now live in: Vancouver, BC

I completed my training/education at: I completed my Bachelors of Science in Molecular Genetics at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Immediately after my B.Sc., I went on to complete my Ph.D. in Immunology at the same University in the Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

What I do at work

As most of us do, I started my career in Science directly working in the lab trying to figure out a problem or discovering something new. As my career progressed, I was fortunate to have opportunities to build a small team of lab technologists. We would work together to improve our efficiency. This allowed us to ask more questions, design better experiments with the goal of finding a missing piece of the puzzle that we did not understand before. Now, I oversee the work of the Senior Scientific staff as they manage their own research teams who are developing products. The products we develop allow other Scientists worldwide to conduct their research. I work with very smart people. This includes biologists and chemists along with all types of engineers including software, hardware and process engineers. Scientists often have their own “language” specific to their field of study. Although we are fortunate that English is the primary scientific language worldwide, learning how to communicate with people with varying experience and background is very important. Scientists, engineers, chemists, intellectual property lawyers and bioinformaticians all speak a slightly different “scientific dialect”.

My day is filled with a mixture of different tasks and objectives. Most of my time is spent in meetings reviewing information, asking questions and making decisions on next steps. Many of the tasks I am involved with are cross departmental. As a result, the activities from the decisions I make are carried out by a broad range of people within the organization. As I manage a team of Senior Scientists I am still involved in discussing experimental approaches and specific technical details of product development and troubleshooting. The rest of my time is spent with external research collaborators or business partners. Through all of these activities, I use STEM skills every day. My scientific background is critical to being able to quickly understand a problem, identifying questions that need to be asked and making decisions based on the information at hand. Rounding out my STEM background with understanding the business and people side of things is also critically important.

My career path is

At a relatively young age I wanted to do cancer research. In elementary school I did a class presentation on the HIV virus. I guess I didn’t know it at the time but that was probably the first of many scientific presentations I would give leading up to where I am today. During my third year of my undergraduate degree, I ended up taking an Introduction to Immunology course. It was the hardest course I had ever taken and I didn’t do particularly well in it. However, I found it to be the most interesting course I had taken and there was so many unknowns. The fact that there were so many new discoveries being made that directly related to your own body and human health was fascinating to me. This is what led me to pursue my Ph.D. in Immunology and ultimately to where I am today as the Associate Director, Immunology.

I am motivated by

The work that people in my field do is squarely aimed at improving the lives of people affected by human disease. Regardless of whether it is basic or clinical scientific research, the work we do makes an impact in advancing science forward. We have developed products that are used by world leading scientists and businesses developing treatments and cures for human diseases. We are at a pivotal point in history as it relates to advanced cellular therapy and playing a role in that is incredibly exciting.

Although we can all get bogged down with our day to day responsibilities or going to what seems at time to be endless meetings, I am always looking for opportunities to learn. Learning something new will always motivate me, no matter how big or small. Knowledge gained will allow you to connect the dots at the opportune time when others might not see it.

How I affect people’s lives

On a day to day basis, my career is at the point where I can see people learn and grow their scientific mind and observation skills. The outcome of their work is bigger, but on a basic level seeing personal development in others is also very rewarding. Scientific discovery and its application can take a long time, so the journey is the fun part.

Outside of work I

Staying active is a way of life for me; I exercise regularly and still play a lot of organized sports like beach volleyball in the summer, and indoor volleyball and curling in the winter. You can also find me golfing, downhill mountain biking, snowboarding or surfing whenever I can. As for non-active things, I love cooking (and eating) and have taken up urban gardening as well. The most recent hobby of mine is sailing which I find incredibly relaxing, except when docking the boat.

My advice to others

Pursue what you enjoy, be curious of your surroundings and always ask why, or how does that work. Embrace failure, learn from your mistakes, and try to understand why the things you tried didn’t work. What you learn from those failures and mistakes is what leads to discovery. Because what others thought wouldn’t work or is impossible is what makes a great idea.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Industrial Arts / Shop Programs
  • Physical Education / Health
  • Science
  • Technology
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Never wanted to be in the classroom
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Learned best “by doing”
  • Always knew exactly what I wanted to do
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked

Explore Career Profiles

  • Yetong Dong headshot wearing lab coat

    Yetong Dong

    Research Assistant/Graduate Student

    I am studying to become a scientific researcher.
  • Andrea Goldson-Barnaby headshot

    Andrea Goldson-Barnaby

    Head of the Food division

    I teach and do research on the topics of Food Chemistry and Food Processing.
  • Jo-Anne McArthur photographing hog in pen.

    Jo-Anne McArthur (she/her)

    Photojournalist, Founder

    I operate a non-profit media organization that shows the lives of animals in pictures.
  • Adrienne Ethier headshot

    Adrienne Ethier

    Environmental Risk Assessment Specialist

    I am responsible for evaluating potential exposure risks to people and the environment near nuclear facilities and mines.
  • Alyssa Smith headshot

    Alyssa Smith

    PhD Candidate in Cognitive Science

    I am researching how people’s attention is affected by factors in everyday life such as taking medications.
  • Karen Fleming at work, wearing mask and virtual reality goggles.

    Karen Fleming (she/her)

    Simulation Educator

    I help create education and training experiences that contribute to safer environments for patients.
  • Dr. Marcia Anderson headshot

    Marcia Anderson (she/her)

    Physician and Vice-Dean Indigenous Health, Social Justice and Anti-Racism

    I am a medical doctor and I work to help create culturally safe healthcare that is free of racism.
  • Luke Humphries working with biological sample in his lab.

    Luke Humphries

    Director, Process Development

    I lead teams of scientists to discover and develop the best ways of making drug molecules for clinical trials.
  • Sydney Robinson headshot taken outside with green leaves in background

    Sydney Robinson


    I am an entrepreneur who used my engineering background to design a device that helps amputees do daily tasks in a more painless manner.
  • Allison Guitor in her lab at McMaster University.

    Allison Guitor

    PhD student (antibiotic resistance)

    I study antibiotic resistance, which is what makes bacteria able to live in the presence of antibiotics.
  • Dr. Harpreet Kochhar at standup computer station in his office.

    Dr. Harpreet Kochhar


    I am the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
  • Isabel Hilgendag in the fileld collecting samples in the Arctic

    Isabel Hilgendag

    MSc Student (Biology)

    I look for heavy metals, such as mercury, in Arctic marine animals, to ensure they are safe to eat.
  • Manpreet Kaur in her lab

    Manpreet Kaur (She/Her)

    Postdoctoral Fellow

    I work on research projects to discover drugs to treat infectious diseases.
  • Ryan Mitchell headshot

    Ryan Mitchell

    Hatchery Supervisor

    My job is to supervise the daily workflow at our salmon hatchery.
  • Daryl Lawes

    Daryl Lawes

    Environment Manager

    I am responsible for all aspects of environmental protection, performance, and regulatory compliance for Seaspan Shipyards.
  • Portrait de Corie Houldsworth

    Corie Houldsworth


    I perform inspections of worksites where radiation is used, stored or transported.
  • Terra MacDonald at aquaculture site holding farmed salmon.

    Terra MacDonald (she/her)

    Veterinarian and Fish Health Manager

    As the veterinarian for Mowi Canada West, I care for the salmon at all life stages, from egg to harvest.
  • Isha Berry Headshot

    Isha Berry


    I look for patterns in disease outbreaks and health outcomes in populations across the world.
  • Clair Poulin hiking near wetland area

    Claire Poulin

    Zebrafish Researcher/Pre-Med Student

    I am researching how Zebrafish respond to lower oxygen levels in their environment.
  • Jasmin Chahal headshot

    Jasmin Chahal

    Assistant Professor

    I teach in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at McGill University.