Laura Westrate

Laura Westrate's staff photo


  • B.S. Biology, B.A. Chemistry- Hope College, 2008
  • Ph.D. Cell and Molecular Genetics- Van Andel Institute Graduate School, 2013
  • Postdoctoral Studies- University of Colorado, Boulder, 2018


Professor Westrate grew up in West Michigan and earned her B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Chemistry from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Having always been interested in science, Hope College provided her first introduction to scientific research and she became fascinated by the inner complexities of the cell. The disconnect between textbooks, which at first glance can paint a story that we know everything there is to know about the cell, was in sharp contrast to the narrative in the laboratory settings that highlighted just how much we still did not understand. The ability to design experiments and use the results to begin unpacking the world around us was an immediate hook for her and laid the foundation for the educational choices Professor Westrate made after graduation. In 2008, Professor Westrate joined the Van Andel Research Institute as a graduate student studying the structure and dynamics of mitochondria in cells. In 2012, she graduated with her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics and moved to the University of Colorado-Boulder for her post-doctoral fellowship where she began studying the structure and dynamics of another organelle in the cell, the endoplasmic reticulum (or ER for short). Having always wanted to have the opportunity to introduce the next generation of scientists to the world of research, Professor Westrate jumped at the opportunity to join the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department in the fall of 2018 and has been teaching courses in general chemistry and biochemistry while also maintaining a small lab of 2-5 students. When she is not in the classroom or the lab, Professor Westrate enjoys traveling, hiking and playing board games with friends and family.

Professional experience

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry- Calvin University, 2018- present
  • Postdoctoral fellow- University of Colorado, Boulder, 2013- 2018

Academic interests

Research/Academic Interests

  • Protein trafficking and export from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)
  • Organelle structure and function
  • Fluorescent microscopy


Undergraduate student names appear in bold

Brown, A.; Westrate, L.; Koslover, E. "Impact of global structure on diffusive exploration of organelle networks". Scientific Reports. 2020

Westrate L.M., Drocco K, Martin K.R., Hlavacek W.S., MacKeigan J.P. "Mitochondrial Morphological Features are Associated with Fission and Fusion Events". PLoS One; 9(4). PMID: 24733410. 2014.

Niemi N.M., Sacoman J.L., Westrate L.M., Lanning N.J., Gaither A.L., Martin K.R., MacKeigan J.P., "The Pseudophosphate MK-STYX Physically and Genetically Interacts with the Mitochondrial Phosphatase PTPMT1". PLoS One.; 9(4). PMID 24709986. 2014

Westrate L.M., Sayfie A.S., Burgenske D.B., MacKeigan J.P. "Persistent Mitochondrial Hyperfusion Promotes G2/M Accumulation and Caspase-Dependent Cell Death". PLoS One.; 9(3). PMID: 24632851. 2014

Niemi N.M., Lanning N.J., Westrate L.M., MacKeigan J.P. "Downregulation of the Mitochondrial Phosphatase PTPMT1 is Sufficient to Promote Cancer Cell Death". PLoS ONE; 8(1): e53803. PMID: 23326511. 2013.

Martin K.R., Barua D, Kauffman A.L., Westrate L.M., Posner R.G., Hlavacek W.S., MacKeigan J.P. "Computational Model for Autophagic Vesicle Dynamics in Single Cell"; 9(1): 74-92. PMID: 23196898. 2013.

Chavada S, Liu Y, Babu B, Davis R, Sielaff A, Ruprich J, Westrate L, Tronrud C, Ferguson A, Franks A, Tzou S, Adkins C, Rice T, Mackay H, Kluza J, Tahir SA, Lin S, Kiakos K, Bruce CD, Wilson WD, Hartley JA, Lee M. Hx. "A Novel Fluorescent, Minor Groove and Sequence Specific Recognition Element: Design, Synthesis, and DNA Binding Properties of p-anisylbenzimidazole-imidazole/pyrrole-containing Polyamides". 50(10): 3127-3136. PMID: 21388229. 2011. 

Babu B, Liu Y, Plaunt A, Riddering C, Ogilvie R, Westrate L, Davis R, Ferguson A, Mackay H, Rice T, Chavada S, Wilson D, Lin S, Kiakos K, Hartley JA, Lee M. "Design, Synthesis and DNA Binding Properties of Orthogonally Positioned Diamino Containing Polyamide f-IPI". Biochem Biophys Res Commun.; 404(3): 848-52. PMID: 21185262. 2011. 

Chavda S, Mulder K, Brown T, Mackay H, Babu B, Westrate L, Ferguson A, Lin S, Kiakos K, Ramos JP, Munde M, Wilson WD, Hartley JA, and Lee M. "DNA Recognition: Design, Synthesis and Biophysical Characteristics of Pyrrole(H) Based Polyamides". Med Chem; 6(3):150-158. PMID: 20632976. 2010.

Westrate L, Mackay H, Brown T, Nguyen B, Kluza J, Wilson WD, Lee M, Hartley JA. "Effects of the N-Terminal Acylamido Group of Imidazole- and Pyrrole-Containing Polyamides on DNA Sequence Specificity and Binding Affinity". Biochemistry; 48(24):5679–5688. PMID: 19419200. 2009. 

Mackay H, Brown, T, Uthe PB, Westrate L, Sielaff A, Jones J, Lajiness JP, Kluza J, O’Hare C, Nguyen B, Davis Z, Bruce C, Wilson WD, Hartley JA, Lee M. "Sequence Specific and High Affinity Recognition of 5’-ACGCGT-3’ by Rationally Designed Pyrrole-Imidazole H-pin Polyamides: Thermodynamic and Structural Studies". Bioorg Med Chem.; 16(20): 9145-53 PMID: 18819814. 2008. 

Brown T, Mackay H, Turlington M, Sutterfield A, Smith T, Sielaff A, Westrate L, Bruce C, Kluza J, O’Hare C, Nguyen B, Wilson WD, Hartley JA, Lee M. "Modifying the N-terminus of Polyamides: PyImPyIm Has Improved Sequence Specificity Over f-ImPyIm". Bioog Med Chem.; 16(9):5266-76 PMID: 18353654. 2008. 


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