Heather E. McFarlane
Assistant Professor & Canada Research Chair in Plant Cell Biology
University of Toronto
Type: Career Profile
Biology, Chemistry, Science
I love working at the forefront of knowledge. I have always liked asking questions and I get a thrill out of designing and conducting experiments to answer these questions. I also like that there are a lot of opportunities for international collaboration in research. I have conducted research in five countries (Canada, USA, Sweden, Germany, and Australia). I have also presented my research in dozens of countries!
In high school, I enjoyed working with computers. At that time, I thought I might like to be a computer programmer or engineer. However, after working in this field for a short time I realized that the job was not what I expected. So, when I started university, I took a very general set of first year science courses. I realized that I liked biology, especially genetics, at university much more than I liked it in high school. While at university, I did a research project with plants. Ever since then I have been fascinated by all of the exciting ways that plants live their lives.
Try it out! See if there is an opportunity for you to tour a local lab or volunteer there. Conduct some experiments for a science fair project.
Outside the lab, I enjoy knitting (especially socks!), cooking, and growing all kinds of houseplants. I also like to play ice hockey and soccer. I’m a huge fan of the Montreal Canadiens.
As an Assistant Professor, I teach classes and conduct research. In my research lab, we study plant cell biology. Actually, the undergraduate and graduate students in my lab group do a lot of the research and I mentor these students! I teach my students to use specialized equipment. I also help them plan and conduct their experiments and I make sure that the lab has everything that they need to succeed.
I was born/grew up in: Kingston, ON
I now live in: Toronto, ON
I completed my training/education at: BSc (Cell biology), University of British Columbia; Vancouver, Canada
MSc (Biology), McGill University; Montreal, Canada
PhD (Botany), University of British Columbia; Vancouver, Canada
Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology; Potsdam, Germany Independent Research Fellow, University of Melbourne; Melbourne, Australia
When I was
- Literature and Language Arts
- Computer Science
- Brought People Together
- Played on a sports team
- Wanted to be in charge
- Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
- Liked reading
- Learned Best by Doing