WoW Alumni






  • Albert Cairo WoW postdoctoral fellow (January 2010 – February 2012)
  • Mathias Schuetz WoW postdoctoral fellow (Sept 2009 – Sept  2011)
    Currently a Research Associate working with WoW


Adam Mulvihill

Adam MulvihillWoW MSc (Jan 2014 – Oct 2016) worked with Geoffrey Wasteneys, Botany Department.

The degree of crystallinity of the cellulose that comprises the cell walls of Arabidopsis has been shown to be affected in the density of microtubules, but this observation does not fully explain the relationship. The addition of xyloglucans to pea stems (Takeda et al 2002) has been shown to inhibit cell elongation and to reduce cellulose crystallinity. By screening and crossing our own mutant lines, mor1-1 and any1, with xylotransferase mutants, xxt1 and xxt2, we hope to discover the role of xyloglucan deposition in regulating the crystallinity of the cell wall, either via direct effects or by interaction with microtubule domains during cell expansion.

Ryan Eng

Ryan EngWoW PhD (Sept 2011 – 2015) worked with Geoffrey Wasteneys, Botany Department.

During his graduate work, Ryan studied how microtubules determine cell shape and growth in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Specifically, Ryan looked at how various microtubule-associated proteins are able to regulate microtubule dynamics.

Currently, Ryan is a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam, Germany under the guidance of Dr. Arun Sampathkumar. Ryan will be looking at how microtubules and cell wall components determine the shape of pavement cells in Arabidopsis.

Amanda Johnson

Amanda JohnsonWoW MSc (Sept 2011 – 2015) worked with Shawn Mansfield, Department of Wood Science, and Carl Douglas, Botany Department.

During her Masters, Amanda focused on characterizing differences in cell wall traits of native poplar trees, identifying trees in which those traits (and genotypes) most desirable for bioethanol production are being expressed.

She currently works as a doctoral researcher with Dr. Scott Renneckar in the Department of Wood Science at the University of British Columbia.

Yuanyuan (Olivia) Liu

Yuanyuan LiuWoW PhD (Sept 2010 – May 2015) worked with Carl Douglas, Botany Department, and Brian Ellis, Michael Smith Laboratories.

Yuanyuan researched the transcription factor network controlling secondary cell wall synthesis in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. During her PhD, she researched the transcriptional regulation of secondary cell wall formation in xylem and interfascicular fiber cells in the Arabidopsis inflorescence stem by investigating novel transcription factor complexes.

Yuanyuan is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow supported by a Mitacs fellowship, under the co-supervision of George Haughn, Botany Department, UBC and Dr. Jon Page of Anandia Lab Inc.

Siyu Cheng

Siyu ChengWoW MSc (August 2010 – 2015) worked with Brian Ellis, Michael Smith Laboratories, and Geoffrey Wasteneys, Botany Department.


During her Masters, Siyu tried to establish the spatial and temporal pattern of MPK20 gene expression and protein accumulation in Arabidopsis, and characterize the growth and development phenotypes of mpk20mpk19mpk18 and higher order loss-of-function mutants (e.g. mpk18/mpk20 or mpk19/mpk20), and of MPK20 gain-of-function (GOF) over-expression (OX) plants, and to identify potential cellular protein targets of MPK20 through yeast two-hybrid screening.

Orpita Das

Orpita Das WoW MSc WoW MSc (Sept 2012 – 2015) worked with Shawn Mansfield, Faculty of Forestry, and Lacey Samuels, Botany Department.

Orpita was working as a Biological Technician at StemShock, part of Cotyledon Consulting Inc. (March – Nov 2016), building a programmable herbicide platform based on RNA interference.

Grant McNair

Grant McNair

WoW PhD (Sept 2009 – Jan 2015) worked with Shawn Mansfield, Faculty of Forestry, and Lacey Samuels, Botany Department.

During his PhD research Grant focused on the identification and characterization of genes involved in wood development in poplar. Of particular interest were genes involved in the remodeling of the cell walls and their potential interactions that facilitate the process of xylem formation.  Other research interests included miRNAs and their role in plant development, specifically in wood development and disease resistance.

Grant is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Allison Kermode in the Department of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.

Allen Yi-Yun Tsai

Allen TsaiWoW Post-doctoral fellow (Jan. 2013 – Jan. 2015) worked with George Haughn and Brian Ellis

During his post-doctoral research, Allen developed a protocol to extract and detect proteins found in the Arabidopsis seed coat mucilage, an emerging model for the primary cell wall.  Several enzymes that have previously been shown to be required for mucilage extrusion have indeed been identified in mucilage. Interestingly, other proteins found in the mucilage have not been characterized before, and may contribute to mucilage structure in previously unknown ways.

Allen is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Shinichiro Sawa at the Graduate School of Science and Technology, Kumamoto University at Kumamoto, Japan. Allen’s research involves the interaction between seed coat mucilage and phytoparasitic nematodes. Allen has received two awards, a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and from the Postdoctoral Fellowship for Oversea Researchers.

Anika Benske

Anika BenskeWoW MSc (Sept 2012 – August 2014) worked with Lacey Samuels, Botany Department, and Brian Ellis, Michael Smith Laboratories.

For her MSc research during the WoW program, Anike focused on the role of laccases in the patterning of lignification in woody cells. Through the use of an inducible gene expression system that causes ectopic differentiation of tracheary elements, she used microscopic techniques to analyze trafficking patterns of two specific laccase proteins that have been shown to contribute to lignification.

Since finishing her WoW training, Anika moved back to Wisconsin where she works as a Research Technician in the Blumenthal Lab, in the Department of Biology at Marquette University. She spent the last 5 years working in plant-based research labs, and is now working in a Drosophila (fruit fly) research lab!  This lab uses the model organism Drosophila melanogaster to study epithelial development and function.  She claims that the skills she learned doing plant-based research appear to easily translate into flies.

Melissa Roach

Melissa Roach

WoW postdoctoral teaching fellow (July 2012- May 2014) worked with Shawn Mansfield, Faculty of Forestry.

During her WoW postdoctoral research training, Melissa’s research focused on the genetic control of biomechanical properties in wood, as well as the regulation of carbohydrate partitioning to cell wall biosynthesis and wood biomass production. As a WoW Teaching Post-Doctoral Fellow she was responsible for providing training workshops on Cell Wall Chemical Analysis to WoW Trainees.

Her particular interests during her time with WoW were to:

          1) study the role(s) of fasciclin-like arabinogalactan proteins in secondary cell wall deposition and g-fibre formation,
          2) identify key components controlling carbohydrate partitioning to wood formation and cell wall development.
          3) use live cell imaging to localize accessory proteins related to cellulose deposition.

Currently she is Teaching Staff at the University of Alberta, coordinating the “Principles of Ecology” course.

Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay

Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay

WoW PhD (Sept. 2009 – April 2014) worked with George Haughn, Botany Department, and Shawn Mansfield, Faculty of Forestry.

During his PhD research, he studied pectin methyl esterases and its proteinaceous inhibitor in plant seed development.

Gabriel worked as a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Markus Pauly’s laboratory at the Energy Bioscience Institute at UC Berkeley employing a synthetic biology approach to generating different polysaccharides in heterologous systems.

In 2016, he was hired by the American Institute for Chemical Engineers (AIChE) as an Engineering specialist, concentrating on public relations and project management for one of the Institute’s organization called the Society for Biological Engineering.  Recently, he became the Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneuring Excellence (CIEE: supporting the professional development of chemical engineers and scientists working with and in scientific, applied, and professional entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity.

Rebecca Smith


WoW PhD (April 2009 – April 2014) worked with Lacey Samuels, Botany Department, and Brian Ellis, Michael Smith Laboratories.

During her PhD research, Rebecca investigated one aspect of lignification, based on the “good neighbour”, or co-operative, model. This model suggests that xylary parenchyma cells surrounding tracheary elements may be contributing to the lignification of tracheary elements in a co-operative manner. Through cell-specific knockdown of lignin biosynthesis using microRNAs, she was able to demonstrate that xylary parenchyma cells are sufficient for the lignification of neighbouring tracheary elements and xylary fibres. Extraxylary fibres, in contrast, had cell autonomous lignification.

Rebecca is currently working as postdoctoral fellow with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI) in the laboratory of Dr. John Ralph at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research involves introducing novel lignin pathway enzymes into plants to improve cell wall saccharification.

Teagen Quilichini


WoW PhD (April 2009 – April 2014) worked with Carl Douglas and Lacey Samuels in the Botany Department.

During her graduate work, Teagen studied how plants form the remarkably durable cell wall that encases pollen grains that is fortified by a poorly understood biopolymer called sporopollenin. Using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, she discovered a transport protein required for the movement of sporopollenin to developing pollen grains and combined genetic and live-cell imaging techniques to study its deposition and chemical nature. Her work will enable new studies into this polymer and its potential manipulation.

Currently, Teagen is a Research Associate at National Research Council Canada (NRC), Saskatoon under the supervision of Dr. Raju Datla.  Prior to this position, she was a postdoctoral fellow working in a joint industry-academic position funded by the MITACS Elevate Program – jointly supervised by Dr. Jonathan Page at Anandia Laboratories, Inc. and Dr. Lacey Samuels in the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia. Her research focused on understanding the cellular context of metabolite production and accumulation within glandular trichomes of Cannabis sativa.

Miki Fujita

Miki Fujita

WoW postdoctoral fellow (Oct 2011 – Sept 2013) working with Geoffrey Wasteneys, Department of Botany, and in the Bioimaging Facility.

Miki’s was hired as a “teaching” postdoctoral fellowship, with the goal to divide time between research in one of the WoW labs and to develop training workshops and student mentoring. She presented several technical training workshops for the WoW Trainees including: Light and Fluorescence Microscopy (Jan 2012), Confocal Microscopy and Advanced Fluorescence (May 2012), Scanning & Transmission Electron Microscopy (Sept 2012) and Light/Fluorescence Microscopy (Jan 2013).

Miki works with Geoffrey Wasteneys in the Botany Department at UBC, as a Research Associate, continuing to work on plant cell wall research. She is also an instructor for UBC Microscopy course (BIOL 448/548). This course was developed based on the Working on Wall’s Bioimaging workshops and contained practical lab sessions for microscopy.

Etienne Grienenberger

Etienne Grienenberger

WoW postdoctoral fellow (September 2009 – July 2013) worked with Carl Douglas (Botany Department).

During his WoW postdoctoral research training, Etienne’s research focused on the following:

Tight transcriptional regulation is needed to coordinate the molecular events leading to secondary cell wall deposition and xylem differentiation. His research focused on the characterization of transcription factors (TFs) which have previously been shown to regulate xylem formation in Arabidopsis.

His particular interests during his time with WoW were:

  • Identification of genes that are primary and secondary targets of these TFs
  • Phenotypic consequences for xylem differentiation and cell wall formation of mis-expression of such TFs
  • Functional comparison of the Arabidopsis TFs with their putative poplar orthologues.

Following his postdoctoral fellowship at UBC, Etienne became an Associate Specialist at the College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley. He has recently (May 2016) been awarded a Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the Centre National de la Recherche in Strasbourg, France.

Albert Cairo

Albert CairoWoW postdoctoral fellow (January 2010 – February 2012) worked with Brian Ellis (Michael Smith Labs) and Leonard Foster (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology).

During his time with WoW, Albert’s main project was exploration of the proteome of plant cell walls, using an Arabidopsis protoplast system. When plant cell walls are enzymatically removed, using fungal hydrolases, the resulting protoplasts can be maintained in appropriate culture medium and will rapidly re-build their cell wall. This process must involve altered responses from a wide range of genetic and physiological players. Albert conducted global analyses of these changes, using microarray-based transcriptional profiling and ms-based proteomics profiling to follow the molecular changes occurring during this cell wall regeneration process.

After this period Albert joined the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) in the laboratory of Dr. Albert Boronat at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain (June 2012 – September 2013).

Currently, Albert is working as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Karel Riha, studying the molecular players that promotes cell cycle progression during meiosis in plants. At the time he joined this project (November 2013) the group was located at the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (GMI), in Vienna, Austria. Since July 2014, the laboratory moved to the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), in Brno, Czech Republic.

Mathias Schuetz

Mathias Schuetz

WoW postdoctoral fellow (Sept 2009 – Sept 2011) worked with Brian Ellis (Michael Smith Labs) and Lacey Samuels (Department of Botany). Currently a Research associate, working with Lacey Samuels in the Department of Botany

The formation of the plant secondary cell wall is a developmentally regulated and highly coordinated process that is most evident in woody plants like trees. A prominent feature of xylem vessels is a thick secondary cell wall primarily composed of cellulose, hemicellulose and the waterproof polymer lignin. My research interests are to dissect key developmental steps regulating xylem formation in Arabidopsis and poplar and include the following:

  1. To understand the role(s) played by ABC transporter proteins which are expressed in during xylem specification and differentiation.
  2. To elucidate mechanisms of monolignol export during secondary cell wall deposition.
  3. To identify novel proteins interacting with key transcription factors which have previously been shown to regulate xylem formation.

Faculty Member, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (September 2016 – Present)