Tamara Western

Associate Professor
Academic title(s): 

Learning Innovation Specialist, Office of Science Education
* not presently accepting Graduate students

Tamara Western
Contact Information

Stewart Biology Building, Room N8/2

Email address: 
tamara.western [at] mcgill.ca
Research areas: 
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Tamara Western joined the Biology Department at McGill University as a faculty member in September 2003 after completing her PhD at the University of British Columbia and postdoctoral fellowships at Rutgers University and the University of British Columbia. Her field of research is the molecular genetics of cell wall production during plant development, as well as the biomechanics of plant actuation (movement). She was Associate Dean (Academic) of the McGill Faculty of Science from September 2014 through August 2018, and served as Associate Dean (Education) for the Faculty of Science September 2018-May 2019.

Tamara has enjoyed teaching and working with students since graduate school where she was involved both in mentoring Honours BSc students in the laboratory and in pedagogy projects with the introductory genetics professor at the University of British Columbia. Since then she has taught a range of courses in Biology, from non-major to core introductory and upper level courses. She is proud of having been awarded a joint teaching award from the Biology undergraduate and graduate societies, and has been nominated for both the Leo Yaffe award (Science) and Principal’s Prize (McGill) for excellence in teaching. Further, she was an active participant in McGill’s Inquiry Network, a faculty group that investigated and promoted techniques for bringing research into undergraduate classrooms. As a research mentor, she has supervised or co-supervised 12 graduate students and 3 postdoctoral fellows, as well as over 60 undergraduate students. More recently has been creating opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to work on course development at McGill.

Areas of expertise: 

CURRENT RESEARCH: Science education – Science undergraduate student research experience and effects on their identity, agency and career trajectories;

Active Learning and student support in very large undergraduate classes;

Students as Partners in developing and assessing active learning at the university level.

(FORMER RESEARCH: Plant cell walls & biomechanics - Biomechanics and the multiscale causalities of plant actuation related to tissue, cell and cell wall properties. Structure, synthesis and modification of plant cell walls using a combination of cell biology and genetics in the model plant Arabidopsis.)

Areas of interest: 

Higher education in science 

Selected publications: 

Asgari M, Brulé V, Pasini D, Western TL. (2020). Nano-indentation reveals a potential role for gradients of cell wall stiffness in directional movement of the resurrection plant Selaginella lepidophylla. Sci. Reports. 10, 506.

Brulé V, Rafsanjani A, Asgari M, Western TL and Pasini D (2019). Three-dimensional functional gradients direct stem curling in the resurrection plant Selaginella lepidophylla. J. Roy. Soc. Interface. 16, 20190454.

Dean G.H., Jin Z., Shi L., Esfandiari E., McGee R., Nabata K., Lee T., Kunst L., Western T.L., Haughn G.W. (2017) Identification of a seed coat-specific promoter fragment from the Arabidopsis MUCILAGE-MODIFIED4 gene. Plant Molecular Biology, 95: 33-50.

Faisal, T.R., Hristozov, N., Western, T.L., Rey, A.D and Pasini, D. (2017) The twist-to-bend compliance of the Rheum rhabarbarum petiole: integrated computations and experiments. Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering, 20: 343-354.

Brulé, V., Rafsanjani, A., Pasini, D. and Western, T.L. (2016) Hierarchies of plant stiffness. Plant Science 250, 2016: 79-96.

Rafsanjani, A., Brulé, V., Western, T.L., and Pasini, D. (2015) Hydro-responsive curling of the resurrection plant Selaginella lepidophylla. Scientific Reports 5: 8064.

McFarlane, H.E., Gendre, D., and Western, T.L. (2014) Seed coat ruthenium red staining assay. Bio-Protocol 4, e1096.

Faisal, T.R., Hristozov, N., Western, T.L., Rey, A.D., and Pasini, D. (2014) Computational study of the elastic properties of Rheum rhabarbarum tissues via surrogate models of tissue geometry. Journal of Structural Biology 185, 285-294.

Kong, Y., Zhou, G, Abdeen, A.A., Schafhauser, J., Richardson, B., Atmodjo, M.A., Jung, J., Wicker, L., Mohnen, D., Western, T.L., Hahn, M.G. (2013) GALACTURONOSYLTRANSFERASE-LIKE5 is involved in the production of Arabidopsis seed coat mucilage. Plant Physiolology 163, 1203-1217.

Voiniciuc, C., Dean, G.H., Griffiths, J.S., Kirchsteiger, K., Hwang, Y.T., Gillett, A., Dow, G., Western, T.L., Estelle, M. and Haughn, G.W. (2013) FLYING SAUCER 1 is a transmembrane RING E3 ubiquitin ligase that controls the degree of pectin methylesterification in Arabidopsis seed mucilage. The Plant Cell 25, 944-959.

Esfandiari, E., Jin, Z., Abdeen, A., Griffiths, J.S., Western, T.L. and Haughn, G.W. (2013) Identification and analysis of an outer-seed-coat-specific promoter from Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Mol. Biol. 81, 93-104.

Faisal, T.R., Hristozov, N., Rey, A.D., Western, T.L. and Pasini, D. (2012) Experimental determination of Philodendron melinonii and Arabidopsis thaliana tissue microstructure and geometric modeling via Finite Edge Centroidal Voronoi Tessellation. Phys. Rev. E. 86, 031921.

Romano, J.M., Dubos, C., Prouse, M.B., Wilkins, O., Hong, H., Poole, M., Kang, K-.Y., Li, E., Douglas, C.J., Western, T.L., Mansfield, S.D., and Campbell, M.M. (2012) AtMYB61, an R2R3-MYB transcription factor, is a pleiotropic regulator via a small gene network. New Phytologist 195, 774-786.

Haughn G.W. and Western, T.L. (2012) Arabidopsis seed coat mucilage is a specialized cell wall that can be used as a model for genetic analysis of plant cell wall structure and function. Front. Plant Sci. 3, 64.

Harpaz-Saad, S., Western, T.L. and Kieber, J.J. (2012) The FEI2-SOS5 pathway and CELLULOSE SYNTHASE 5 are required for cellulose biosynthesis in the Arabidopsis seed coat and affect pectin mucilage structure. Plant Signaling Behav. 7, 285-288.

Western, T.L. (2012) The sticky tale of seed coat mucilages: production, genetics, and role in seed germination and dispersal. Seed Sci. Res. 22, 1-25.

Harpaz-Saad, S., McFarlane, H.E., Xu, S., Divi, U.K., Forward, B., Western, T.L. and Kieber, J.J. (2011) Cellulose synthesis via the FEI2 RLK/SOS5 pathway and CELLULOSE SYNTHASE 5 is required for the structure of seed coat mucilage in Arabidopsis. The Plant Journal 68, 941-953.

Kaneda, M., Schuetz, M., Lin, B.S.P., Chanis, C., Hamberger, B., Western, T.L., Ehlting, J. and Samuels, A.L. (2011) ABC transporters coordinately expressed during lignification of Arabidopsis stems include a set of ABCB's associated with auxin transport. J. Exp. Bot. 62, 2063-2077.

Pang, C-Y., Wang, H., Pang, Y., Xu, C., Jiao, Y., Qin, Y-M., Western, T.L., Yu, S-X. and Zhu, Y-X. (2010) Comparative proteomics indicate that biosynthesis of pectic precursors is important for cotton fiber and Arabidopsis root hair elongation. Mol. Cell. Proteomics. 9, 2019-2033.

Arsovski, A.A., Haughn, G.W. and Western, T.L. (2010) Seed coat mucilage cells of Arabidopsis thaliana as a model for plant cell wall research. Plant Signalling Behav. 5, 1-6.

Arsovski, A.A., Popma, T.M., Haughn, G.W., Carpita, N.C., McCann, M.C. and Western, T.L. (2009) AtBXL1 encodes a bifunctional beta-D-xylosidase/alpha-L-arabinofuranosidase required for pectic arabinan modification in Arabidopsis mucilage secretory cells. Plant Physiol.150, 1219-1234.

Arsovski, A.A., Villota, M., Rowland, O., Subramaniam, R., and Western, T.L. (2009) MUM ENHANCERS are important for seed coat mucilage production and mucilage secretory cell differentiation in Arabidopsis thalianaJ. Exp. Bot. 60, 2601-2612.

McEwen, L.A., Harris, D., Schmid, R.F., Vogel, J., Western, T.L. and Harrison, P. (2009) Evaluation of the redesign of an undergraduate cell biology course. CBE-Life Sciences Education 8, 72-78.

Young, R.E., McFarlane, H.E., Hahn, M.G., Western, T.L., Haughn, G.W. and Samuels, A.L. (2008) Analysis of the Golgi apparatus in Arabidopsis seed coat cells during polarized secretion of pectin-rich mucilage. Plant Cell, 20, 1623-1638.

Western, T.L. (2008) Tales of mucilage and MEN: cell walls and cellular differentiation. Genetics Society of Canada Bulletin, 39, 65-66.

Dean, G.H., Zheng, H., Tewari, J., Huang, J., Young, Diana S., Hwang, Y.T., Western, T.L., Carpita, N.C., McCann, M.C., Mansfield, S.D. and Haughn, G.W. (2007) The Arabidopsis MUM2 gene encodes a beta-galactosidase required for the production of seed coat mucilage with correct hydration properties. Plant Cell, 19, 4007-4021.

Western, T. L. (2006) Changing Spaces: The Arabidopsis mucilage secretory cells as a novel system to dissect cell wall production in differentiating cells. Can. J. Bot. 84, 622-630.

Pighin, J.A. Zheng, H., Balakshin, L.J., Goodman, I.P., Western, T.L., Jetter, R., Kunst, L., Samuels, A.L. (2004). Plant cuticular lipid export requires an ABC transporter. Science 306, 702-704.

Western T.L., Young, D.S., Tan, W.L., Dean, G.H., Samuels, A.L. and Haughn, G.W. (2004). MUCILAGE-MODIFIED4 encodes a putative pectin biosynthetic enzyme developmentally regultaed by APETALA2, TRANSPARENT TESTA GLABRA1 and GLABRA2 in the Arabidopsis seed coat. Plant Physiology 134, 296-306.

Western, T.L., Cheng, Y., Liu, J., and Chen, X. (2002) HUA ENHANCER2, a putative DExH-box RNA helicase, maintains homeotic B and C gene expression in ArabidopsisDevelopment 129, 1569-1581.

Western, T.L., Burn, J., Tan, W-.L., Skinner, D.J., Martin McCaffrey, L., Moffat, B., and Haughn, G.W. (2001). Isolation and characterization of mutants defective in seed coat mucilage secretory cell development in ArabidopsisPlant Physiol. 127, 998-1011.

Western, T.L., Skinner, D.J., and Haughn, G.W. (2000). Differentiation of mucilage secretory cells of the Arabidopsis seed coat. Plant Physiol. 122, 345-355.

Western, T.L., and Haughn, G.W. (1999). BELL1 and AGAMOUS genes promote ovule identity in Arabidopsis thalianaPlant J. 18, 329-336.

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