Staff Profiles

Nik Jorstad, Ph.D.

Scientist I

Nik joined the at the Allen Institute in May 2019 as a Scientist working on the Human Cell Types team. His research is focused on developing analytical tools and drawing biological insight to characterize all the cells that make up the human brain.  

Nik received his BA in Biochemistry from the University of Washington in June 2012. After graduating, Nik began his career as a research scientist in the labs of Drs. Thomas Montine and C. Dirk Keene at the University of Washington studying Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative disorders. During these 3 years, Nik developed skills in automated image analyses, electrophysiology, surgical techniques, and various molecular biological assays, as well as microscopy expertise. He was also an autopsy technician for 5 years and performed over 100 human brain removals and dissections in support of the ADRC, ACT, and PANUC studies, among others.  

Following his research scientist position, Nik joined the Molecular Medicine and Mechanisms of Disease PhD program in the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington. His dissertation work was performed in the lab of Dr. Thomas Reh studying mammalian retinal regeneration. During his PhD, Nik gained expertise in various molecular biological techniques, including epigenetic assays, single-cell RNA-sequencing, and advanced confocal and electron microscopy. He earned his PhD in May 2019 and was the first to show that adult mice can regenerate functional retinal neurons from Muller glial cells. 


Research Interests

I am particularly interested in characterizing the healthy brain to better understand what goes wrong during disease. The Institute is currently undertaking the monumental task of characterizing every cell type in the human brain using single-cell genomics, electrophysiology, and morphology. By building a reference of the healthy human brain, future research efforts might be able to pin disease-related genes/variants to a specific cell type and open the door to targeted treatments of brain disease. On a more technical level, I am keenly interested in why similar broad classes of brain cells have different transcriptomic profiles and how these divergent features might inform the functional roles of these cells in circuits and the workings of the brain.


  • ​Genomics

  • Data Analysis

  • Computational Neuroscience

  • Molecular Biology

Research Programs

  • Human Cell Types

Selected Publications

Signature morpho-electric, transcriptomic, and dendritic properties of human layer 5 neocortical pyramidal neurons

September 15, 2021

Kalmbach BE, Hodge RD, Jorstad NL, Owen S, de Frates R, Yanny AM, Dalley R, Mallory M, Graybuck LT, Radaelli C, Keene CD, Gwinn RP, Silbergeld DL, Cobbs C, Ojemann JG, Ko AL, Patel AP, Ellenbogen RG, Bakken TE, Daigle TL, Dee N, Lee BR, McGraw M, Nicovich PR, Smith K, Sorensen SA, Tasic B, Zeng H, Koch C, Lein ES, Ting JT

A multimodal cell census and atlas of the mammalian primary motor cortex

October 6, 2021

BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN)

Comparative cellular analysis of motor cortex in human, marmoset and mouse

October 6, 2021

Bakken TE, Jorstad NL, Hu Q, Lake BB, Tian W, Kalmbach BE, Crow M, Hodge RD, Krienen FM, Sorensen SA, Eggermont J, Yao Z, Aevermann BD, Aldridge AI, Bartlett A, Bertagnolli D, Casper T, Castanon RG, Crichton K, Daigle TL, Dalley R, Dee N, Dembrow N, Diep D, Ding SL, Dong W, Fang R, Fischer S, Goldman M, Goldy J, Graybuck LT, Herb BR, Hou X, Kancherla J, Kroll M, Lathia K, van Lew B, Li YE, Liu CS, Liu H, Lucero JD, Mahurkar A, McMillen D, Miller JA, Moussa M, Nery JR, Nicovich PR, Niu SY, Orvis J, Osteen JK, Owen S, Palmer CR, Pham T, Plongthongkum N, Poirion O, Reed NM, Rimorin C, Rivkin A, Romanow WJ, Sedeño-Cortés AE, Siletti K, Somasundaram S, Sulc J, Tieu M, Torkelson A, Tung H, Wang X, Xie F, Yanny AM, Zhang R, Ament SA, Behrens MM, Bravo HC, Chun J, Dobin A, Gillis J, Hertzano R, Hof PR, Höllt T, Horwitz GD, Keene CD, Kharchenko PV, Ko AL, Lelieveldt BP, Luo C, Mukamel EA, Pinto-Duarte A, Preissl S, Regev A, Ren B, Scheuermann RH, Smith K, Spain WJ, White OR, Koch C, Hawrylycz M, Tasic B, Macosko EZ, McCarroll SA, Ting JT, Zeng H, Zhang K, Feng G, Ecker JR, Linnarsson S, Lein ES

"Stem cell therapy to promote limb function recovery in peripheral nerve damage in a rat model" - Experimental research

Annals of Medicine and Surgery
March 28, 2019

Bingham JR, Kniery KR, Jorstad NL, Horkayne-Szakaly I, Hoffer ZS, Salgar SK

Neuropathological and transcriptomic characteristics of the aged brain

November 9, 2017

Miller JA, Guillozet-Bongaarts A, Gibbons LE, Postupna N, Renz A, E Beller AE, Sunkin SM, Ng L, Rose SE, Smith KA, Szafer A, Barber C, Bertagnolli D, Bickley K, Brouner K, Caldejon S, Chapin M, Chua ML, Coleman NM, Cudaback E, Cuhaciyan C, Dalley RA, Dee N, Desta T, Dolbeare TA, Dotson NI, Fisher M, Gaudreault N, Gee G, Gilbert TL, Goldy J, Griffin F, Habel C, Haradon Z, Hejazinia N, Hellstern LL, Horvath S, Howard K, Howard R, Johal J, L Jorstad NL, Josephsen SR, Kuan CL, Lai F, Lee E, Lee F, Lemon T, Li X, Marshall DA, Melchor J, Mukherjee S, Nyhus J, Pendergraft J, Potekhina L, Rha EY, Rice S, Rosen D, Sapru A, Schantz A, Shen E, Sherfield E, Shi S, Sodt AJ, Thatra N, Tieu M, Wilson AM, Montine TJ, Larson EB, Bernard A, Crane PK, Ellenbogen RG, Keene CD, Lein E

Müller glial microRNAs are required for the maintenance of glial homeostasis and retinal architecture

Nature Communications
November 17, 2017

Wohl SG, Jorstad NL, Levine EM, Reh TA