HumAnes of UCLA: Nicolas (Niko) Massaly, PhD

Introducing Niko Massaly, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology

Niko Massaly, PhD

March 3, 2023

Where did you grow up? Where did you complete your education?
I grew up in a small town near Pau in the Southwest of France – close to the Pyrenees Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. I completed my undergraduate and graduate school at the University of Toulouse, France, one of the oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1229.

What was your childhood dream?
I had many! Life was full of opportunities at the time! My wildest dream back then was being a music artist to tour the world and put on crazy shows.

Niko Massaly, PhD and a sunset

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I love cooking, crafting cocktails, trying new restaurants and foods, hiking mountains, and spinning records on my turntable.

What is your favorite book, movie, song, or TV show, and why?
My favorite book series is a trilogy from Icelandic author John Kalman Stefansson (Heaven and Hell, The Sorrow of Angels, and The Heart of Man). Those books are really relaxing, contemplative, introspective, and have a great poetic atmosphere, which helps tone down the crazy rhythm of city life.

Bohemian Rhapsody

For my favorite song, I would say Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Queen was certainly one of my favorite bands as a really young kid, and this particular song carries many different genres all packed into five minutes. Plus, it appears in one of the best movies ever – Wayne’s World!

Niko Massaly, PhD, and his dog at the beach

Tell us a little about your family (and any pets).
I am extremely fortunate to have shared my life for the past 13 years with my wife, Fleur. She is a former cinema set designer, now ceramic artist in Santa Monica. FHAR Studio! Check her out! We are also taking care of our three furry friends: John-Metal, a fearful dog; Internet, an antisocial cat; Dardamort, a purr machine.

What has been your favorite vacation destination so far?
I have camped in the Olympic Peninsula, sailed on Halong Bay, visited temples in Laos, eaten in Italy, hiked a glacier and seen the Northern Lights in Iceland, walked in the Moroccan Sahara, and hiked the Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. All those moments were special.

Niko Massaly, PhD, jumping in front of a waterfall

I will go with Vietnam – the food in Hanoi was out of this world, and watching the sunrise on the deck of a boat in Halong Bay with my wife was absolutely fantastic.

Where did you work before coming to UCLA?
I trained as a postdoctoral researcher at Charité University in Berlin, Germany, then Columbia University in New York City, before suddenly moving with my former mentor to Washington University in St. Louis.

I really love how academia challenged me and made me live in and be a part of different countries and cultures. In addition to pursuing and succeeding in my research career, academia has made me grow intensely as a person through those experiences in foreign countries.

What aspects of basic science research do you enjoy the most?
Basic science has this magic thing that challenges you to ask questions that have never been asked (or that we know of), and you get to be the first to know the answer. This excitement is definitely one of the best aspects of basic science research.

Niko Massaly, PhD hiking with his dog

However, there is no better moment than seeing trainees and people around you constantly learning, growing, and receiving accolades for their work.

I also enjoy the melting pot that academia represents. I am truly grateful for all the peers from different countries and cultures I have met throughout my research career.

What is a major cultural difference you’ve noticed since moving to the United States?
There is one BIGGEST cultural difference – it is called football, not soccer!

Niko Massaly, PhD, sipping a drink in front of a Tacos El Junior truck

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
I am really happy being in California, as I love going into the wild and visiting national parks. California certainly has one of the craziest and richest landscapes one could hope for. I also feel better when surrounded by mountains.

I think that French cuisine is extremely overrated.

View Dr. Massaly's Laboratory Website →