Heather E. McFarlane

Assistant Professor & Canada Research Chair

PhD (Botany) University of British Columbia (2008-2013)

MSc (Biology) McGill University (2006-2008)

BSc (Cell Biology) University of British Columbia (2002-2006)

Hometown: Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Heather joined the Department of Cell and Systems Biology at the University of Toronto as a Canada Research Chair in Plant Cell Biology in July 2019. The McFarlane Lab studies cell wall synthesis, secretion, signalling, and remodelling with a view to improving plant biomass for food, materials, and energy.

Heather earned her PhD working with Lacey Samuels at the University of British Columbia (Canada) where she studied the transport of lipids that form the protective plant cuticle. After her PhD, she moved to the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology (Germany) to study cell wall synthesis as an EMBO postdoctoral fellow with Staffan Persson.  Heather moved with the Persson lab when they relocated to the University of Melbourne (Australia). There, she was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award to continue her work on cell wall signaling.

Outside the lab, Heather is an ice hockey enthusiast and opera fanatic.

For a full list of Heather’s publications, check her Google Scholar profile.

Natalie Hoffmann

PhD Student

MSc (Botany) University of British Columbia (2017-2019)

BSc University of Toronto (2013-2017)

Hometown: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Natalie joined the Department of Cell and Systems Biology in September 2019 and is a NSERC CGS-D scholarship awardee.

Natalie completed her Honours B.Sc. from the University of Toronto in 2017, performing a double major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Immunology. During her B.Sc. she performed an independent research course with Dr. Tammy Sage (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Dr. Darrell Desveaux (Department of Cell and Systems Biology). She also was awarded an NSERC-USRA scholarship to work in the lab of Dr. Janice Cooke at the University of Alberta.

After completing her B.Sc., Natalie completed her M.Sc. in the lab of Dr. Lacey Samuels in the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia, where she studied the localization of enzymes involved in lignin formation in secondary cell walls.

Chou EY, Schuetz M, Hoffmann N, Watanabe Y, Sibout R, Samuels AL. 2018. Distribution, Mobility and Anchoring of Lignin-Related Oxidative Enzymes in Arabidopsis Secondary Cell Walls. Journal of Experimental Botany 69 (8): 1849-1859.

Stata M, Sage TL, Hoffmann N, Covshoff S, Ka-Shu Wong G, Sage RF. 2016. Mesophyll chloroplast investment in C3, C4 and C2 species of the genus Flaveria. Plant & Cell Physiology 57 (5): 904-918.

Eduardo Ramírez Rodríguez

PhD Student

Master of Biotechnology, The University of Melbourne (2017-2019)

BSc in Biotechnology Engineering (Molecular Biology Concentration), Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (2010-2014)

Hometown: Metepec, México

Eduardo completed his undergrad in Biotechnology Engineering degree at Tec de Monterrey in the beautiful city of Monterrey in Mexico with a concentration in Molecular Biology and Research and Innovation Modality. After graduating, he spent several years as QA supervisor of the snacks division of Grupo Bimbo.

In 2017, Eduardo set course to Melbourne, Australia to complete a master’s in Biotechnology in the University of Melbourne, where he undertook a project looking at the phosphorylation of CC proteins under salt stress using a targeted proteomics approach jointly supervised by Staffan Persson and Josh Heazelwood.

In 2019, Eduardo leaped back to the Americas for a fully funded PhD position in the McFarLab at U of T, where he will be working to uncover how posttranslational protein modifications orchestrate cell wall signalling.

Outside of the lab, Eduardo describes himself as an archetypical Sci-Fi fan, and enjoys a bit of reading or a visit to the movie theatre. If any of the above fail it is because he is swimming a lap in the pool or hanging out with friends.

Ramirez-Rodriguez, E. A., and Heazlewood, J.L., 2019. Enrichment of N-linked glycopeptides and their identification by complementary fragmentation techniques. (Book Chapter in press Plant Proteomics Humana Press, New York, NY)

Carlo Perolo

PhD Student

MSc in Molecular Biology, University of Padua (2017-2019)

BSc in Molecular Biology, University of Padua (2014-2017)

Hometown: Verona, Italy

Carlo studied Molecular Biology at the University of Padua (Italy) where he often enjoyed visiting the beautiful botanical garden.

For the second year of his master’s degree he had the opportunity to work at the University of Vienna (Austria) through the international mobility scholarship ERASMUS+.

In Vienna, under the supervision of Prof. Lorella Navazio and Prof. Markus Teige, he completed his research thesis on a putative calcium binding protein of the plant chloroplast.

Carlo then decided to pursue his scientific career with a PhD at the University of Toronto where he is currently investigating plant cellulose synthases and their inhibitors in a project co-supervised by Heather and Nick Provart.

In his free time he enjoys taking care of his houseplants and cooking, especially for his friends.

Jia Hui (Jenny) Huang

MSc Student

BSc University of Toronto (2017-2021)​

MSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2021-2023)​

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Jenny is a Masters Student in the McFarLab.  She first joined the lab in November 2019 as a third-year undergraduate student studying a specialist in Pharmacology and Biomedical Toxicology.  She later won an NSERC-USRA and completed a CSB498 project before beginning her graduate studies. She is developing her interest in how plant cell wall signaling occurs during development and in response to their environment. Jenny is actively involved in the University of Toronto Badminton Club and the Global Society for Genetics and Genome Biology.

Yu Zhu 朱 瑜

PhD Student

MSc in Genetics, Fudan University (2018-2021)

BSc in Agronomy, China Agricultural University (2014-2018)

Hometown: Zhejiang Province, China

Yu received his undergraduate degree in China Agricultural University, then he continued his studies in the MSc program of Genetics at Fudan University to study functional genomics in rice, with a special focus on genes that affect yield and their potential values for molecular breeding.

During his research experience, Yu became very interested in how plants respond to changing surroundings, so he decided to join McFarLab at UofT to study cell wall signalling.

For him, reading and cooking in his free time are escapes from the stress of everyday life.

Demitra (Demi) Tsoukalas

BSc Student (work-study)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2021-2025)

Hometown: Toronto, ON, Canada

Demi is entering her third year as an undergraduate student in the Cell & Systems Biology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology departments. She is interested in plant cell signalling and crosstalk, especially for informing conservation management and biotechnology development. In her free time, she enjoys reading philosophy, stargazing, and listening to music!

Tony Xie

BSc Student (BCB330)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2021-2025)

Hometown: Calgary, AB, Canada

Tony is an undergraduate student pursuing a specialist in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and a major in Immunology. He joined the lab in the Summer of 2023 as a BCB330 student, and his project uses computational methods to identify potential transcription factors involved in responses to cell wall stress.

Outside of the lab, Tony enjoys playing badminton and guitar!

Francesca Skye Medina

BSc Student (work-study)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2022-2026)

Hometown: Brampton, ON, Canada

Francesca is going into her second year and is hoping to specialize in cell and molecular biology. Her interests for research include cellular and molecular mechanisms (such as those involved in the endomembrane system), protein-protein interactions, and mitochondrial function.

Outside of the lab, Francesca enjoys playing the guitar and watching movies (such as Marvel movies).

Evan Berthelot

BSc Student (CSB498, CSB499)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2019-2023)

Hometown: Toronto, ON, Canada

Evan is an undergraduate student, pursing a specialist in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, major in Cell and Molecular Biology and minor in Biology. He joined the lab in Fall of 2022 as a CSB498 student; his project currently involves observing the crosstalk between cell wall signaling and other signaling pathways.

Outside the lab, he is passionate about learning more about the natural environment, playing guitar, and always enjoys a hot cup of coffee!

Gaeun Shin

BSc Student (CSB498)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2019-2024)

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

Gaeun is an undergraduate student double majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology and Immunology. She is interested in studying the correlation between epithelial cells, the extracellular matrix, inflammation, and immune cell regulation. In the McFarlane Lab, her project involves clustering isoxaben phospho-responsive mutants together into groups based on their phenotypes in the presence of different cell wall stress factors.

Outside the lab, Gaeun makes bubble tea and enjoys cooking!

Shengjie Xu 徐晟杰

BSc Student (CSB498)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2020-2024)

Hometown: Tianjin, China

Shengjie is a third-year student in Cell & Systems Biology Specialist program. He has a wide interest in all fields of molecular biology, and with great enthusiasm he is currently working on a project that aims to characterize a reporter line that can monitor the cell wall stress in Arabidopsis thaliana in real time at McFarlane Lab. 

In Shengjie’s free time he deeply enjoys road trips, hiking and camping.

Eskandar Mohammad

BSc Student (work-study, CSB498, UTEA)

BSc (in progress) University of Toronto (2019-2023)

Hometown: Collingwood, ON, Canada

Eskandar is an undergraduate specializing in Cell and Molecular Biology with a focus in Plant Genomics and Biotechnology. He joined the lab in May 2022 as work-study student. He is interested in gaining appreciable understanding of plant cell signalling with the hopes of increasing yield.

In his spare time, Eskandar enjoys weightlifting, badminton, volleyball and keeping up with his friends.

Previous McFarLab Members

Graduate Students

Raegan Larson

Raegan was an MSc student from 2020-2022. During her thesis, she generated real-time sensors of cell wall stress.

Undergraduate Students

Rylan Vincent

Rylan was a CSB498 student in Fall 2022-Winter 2023.  He next joined the Mott Lab at UTSC for his MSc.

Lauren Hall

Lauren was a work-study student in the McFarLab from Fall 2022-Winter 2023.

Vicky Zhu

Vicky started as a work-study student in Fall 2021, then won a CSB-URA, then did a CSB498. Next, she joined the Mitchell Lab in CSB with an NSERC-USRA.

Leo Tullo

Leo joined the McFarLab as a work-study student in Fall 2022-Winter 2023.

Carlos Wang

Carlos was a volunteer from Spring 2021 to Winter 2023. After finishing his BSc, he joined the Masters of Public Health program at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Terrence Amponsah

Terrence was a BCB430 student in Summer 2022. After graduating, he joined ADP Canada as an Associate Applications Developer.

Rowan Brookman

Rowan was an NSERC-USRA, a CSB498 student, and a UTEA student from 2021-2022. He next joined Robin Cameron’s lab at McMaster as a grad student.

Lella Erceg

Lella was a CSB498 student in Summer 2022.  She did another project course in the Department of Biochemistry at UofT, then joined the Gan Lab at UTSC for her MSc.

Erik Ensminger

Erik was a BCB330 student in Fall 2020-Winter 2021. He later joined the Pugh Lab in the Medical Biophysics program at UofT as a graduate student.

Stephanie Halim

Stephanie was a MITACS Globalink Intern from The University of Hong Kong in Summer 2021. After graduating, she joined MIT as a graduate student.

Una McNally

Una was a CSB497 student in Summer 2020 and a CSB498 student in Fall 2020-Winter 2021. Next, she joined CSB as a graduate student in the Harris Lab.

Benjamin-Israel Moke​

Ben was a work-study student from Fall 2019-Winter 2020. After finishing his BSc, he joined Laura Corbit’s lab in CSB as a graduate student.