Heather MacKay

Former Mansfield Lab – MSc Student (Sept 2016 – June 2019)

Starting studies in Pharmacy at Oxford Unviersity, England. (Oct 2019 – )


Identifying novel p-hydroxybenzoyl-CoA monolignol transferases in plants

Research Interests

My research focused on gene discovery in lignin biosynthesis.  I am tried to identify the poplar gene that encodes for a p-hydroxybenzoyl-CoA monolignol transferase which participates in the biosynthesis of acetylated monolignols. Understanding the mechanisms driving acetylated monolignol biosynthesis will allow us to better understand the plasticity of lignification and potentially develop novel transgenic plant lines with commercial applications. The goal is to generate transgenic trees which have an altered lignin that favours more cost-effective and sustainable biomass utilisation.


BSc – Honours Biology, Specialization in Molecular and Integrative Biology, Queen’s University (2016)

Selected Publications and Presentations

Chang S, Mahon EL, MacKay HA, Rottmann WH, Strauss SH, Pijut PM, Powell WA, Coffey V, Lu H, Mansfield SD and Jones TD (2018) Genetic Engineering of Trees: Progress and New Horizons. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology – Plant 54:341-376.

Mackay H, Mottiar Y, Smith R, Karlen S, Unda F, Ralph J, Fox B and Mansfield S. Designer lignin: Identification of the native p-hydroxybenzoyl-CoA monolignol transferase (pHBMT) gene in poplar. Plant Biology 2018 Conference Poster Series. Poster. 2018; Montreal, Canada.

MacKay H, Mottiar Y and Mansfield SD. Designer lignin: Identification of phydroxybenzoyl-CoA monolignol transferase in poplar. 2016 Plants from Sea to Sky Conference Poster Series. Poster. 2016; Vancouver, Canada.

MacKay H and Regan S. Identifying glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase for biofuel production in Chlorella vulgaris. 2016 Queen’s University BIOL537 Honours Thesis Poster Showcase. Poster. 2016; Kingston, Canada.

MacKay H. (2016) Identifying glycerol 3-phosphate dehydrogenase from Chlorella vulgaris for biofuel production. QSpace. MacKay H. Algae: The Diesel of Tomorrow. 2015 Queen’s University BIOL537 Honours thesis seminar series. Presentation. 2015; Kingston, Canada.

Awards, Grants, Scholarships

  • Graduate Student Travel Award (September 2018)
  • George H. Duff Travel Bursary (June 2018)
  • VanDusen Graduate Fellowship in Forestry (January 2018)
  • Donald S McPhee Fellowship (September 2017)
  • Karen Huntley Memorial Award (May 2015)