Friday, September 1, 2017

Natalie Hoffmann

Experiencing science first-hand is much more exciting than simply reading about it. My love for biology stemmed from the changing flora and fauna of my surroundings, as I was fortunate to move from country to country for my father’s job while growing up. Whether it was the dry prairies of Alberta, the lush rainforests of Indonesia, the sweltering humid heat of Texas, or the coastal paradise of Australia, I loved seeing and learning about diverse ecosystems. After high school, I ended up at the University of Toronto undertaking a double major in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Immunology.

During my undergraduate degree, I completed two independent research projects: one in the lab of Dr. Tammy Sage studying the evolution of C4 photosynthesis, and an Honour’s thesis project with Dr. Darrell Desveaux studying the genetic basis of plant-pathogen interactions. I started graduate school at UBC in September 2017, excited to continue plant biology research.

Lignin is a critical structural element deposited in secondary cell walls of plant cells. Along with cellulose and hemicellulose, lignin gives strength for plants to grow upright and enables efficient water transport. Wood, composed primarily of secondary walls, is a near ubiquitous material in the construction and pulp and paper industries, and is a promising source of biofuel. It is therefore important to understand how plant cells produce these secondary cell walls during growth.

My thesis work studies how plants specify where and when lignin is formed in secondary cell walls. In particular, I’m interested in looking at where the enzymes responsible for lignin polymerization, laccases and peroxidases, are located throughout development. Using molecular engineering and microscopy in the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, I hope to increase our knowledge of how plants control lignification in time and space. In the future, the results of this work may be applied to economically-important species, such as poplar.


Chou, E.Y., Schuetz, M., Hoffmann, N., Watanabe, Y., Sibout, R., Samuels, A.L. (2018). Distribution, Mobility and Anchoring of Lignin-Related Oxidative Enzymes in Arabidopsis Secondary Cell Walls. Journal of Experimental Botany. 69(8):1849–1859 [view abstract]

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 [view abstract]