Ginger S. Withers


Ginger Withers
Dr. Robert F. Welty Associate Professor of Biology
Whitman College, Walla Walla WA 99362
(509) 527-5053; Fax –5904,


Ph.D., Neuroscience, Univ. Illinois, Champaign, IL 1993
A.M., Psychology, Univ. Illinois, Champaign, IL 1986
B.A., Cum Laude, Muskingum College, New Concord, OH 1983


Whitman College
      Associate Professor of Biology, 2007 – present
      Chair, Biology Department, 2007 – present
      Assistant Professor of Biology, 2001 – 2007

Oregon Health and Science University
      Staff Scientist, 2007 – present
      Research Assistant Scientist, 1998 – 2006

National Science Foundation Nanobiotechnology Center
      Faculty Member, 6/2005 – present

Postdoctoral Advisor
      Dr. Gary Banker, Univ. Virginia 1993 – 1997

Doctoral Thesis Advisors
      Dr. Susan Fahrbach and Dr. Gene Robinson Univ. Illinois 1989 – 1993

Master’s Thesis Advisor
      Dr. William Greenough, Univ. Illinois 1983 – 1988


Understanding the cellular mechanisms that control brain cell development. Specific interests focus on the development of the dendritic arbor (the receiving part of the neuron). My research investigates how new branches form, and how the growth of the dendritic arbor is regulated by extrinsic cues. The regulation of dendritic growth profoundly affects the pattern of connections that are formed between neurons, and thus is related directly to cognitive function. It is my goal to relate these basic findings to dendritic development in humans to further our understanding of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders like mental retardation and Alzheimer’s disease.


NSF, Career Award #0135985: Imaging Mechanisms of Dendritic Development in Living Neurons ($549,995, 2002 – 2007)

NSF, Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU, $24,000, summers 2004, 2005, 2006)

NSF Nanobiotechnology Center Program, Design of a “Spatial Trap” To Selectively Control Dendritic Development In Neurons, PI, Withers ($100,000, 1/2006 – 12/2007).


2007 – present, Dr. Robert F. Welty Chaired Associate Professorship
1996 – 1998 Spinal Cord Research Foundation Grant
1997 Analytical and Quantitative Microscopy, Woods Hole, MA
1996 Paralyzed Veterans of America Young Investigator Award
1994 Finalist, Donald B. Lindsley Prize in Behavioral Neuroscience
1994-1996 NIH National Research Service Award
1993 Capranica Prize in Neuroethology
1992 Grass Travel Award, International Congress of Neuroethology
1992 University of Illinois Sigma Xi Travel Award
1992 Women in Neuroscience Travel Award
1991 University of Illinois Neuroscience Student Research Grant
1990 University of Illinois School of Life Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award
1989 University of Illinois Neuroscience Merit Award


Developmental Biology, 2002 – present
Neurobiology, 2002 – present
Guest lecturer, Principles of Biology, 2002 – present
Instructor, Neurobiology Course, Marine Biology Laboratories, Woods Hole, MA 1996
Principles of Biology Laboratory, I & II, Univ. Illinois 1989 – 1990


Columbia Genome Consortium, Society for Neuroscience, International Brain Research Organization, American Society for Cell Biology, Sigma Xi, Faculty in Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN), Council on Undergraduate Research


National Science Foundation, Integrative and Organizational Biology, Cellular, Molecular and Developmental Neuroscience Clusters, Panel reviewer Fall 2005, Spring 2006, Fall 2006
National Science Foundation, ad hoc reviewer for Integrative and Organizational Biology, Developmental Neuroscience Cluster and Behavioral Neuroscience Program, 2003, 2004, 2005
National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education, CCLI Panel reviewer, 2004, 2005
Alzheimer’s Foundation, 2001. 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
Murdock Foundation, 2004
European Journal of Neuroscience, 2005
Brain Cell Biology, 2006

PUBLICATIONS (undergraduate co-authors indicated with *)


Withers, G.S. 2006. New ways to print living cells promise breakthroughs for engineering complex tissues in vitro. Biochemical Journal 394, e1-2.


Withers, G.S., Wallace, C.S. (2007, in press) Inexpensive Digital Microscopy Workstations Engage Students in Integrative Biology. in A. Mendez-Vilas, J. Diaz (Eds.) Modern Research and Educational Topics in Microscopy,3rd Ed.


Withers, G.S., Day, N.F.*, Talbot, E.*, Dobson, H.E.M., Wallace, C.S. 2008 (in press). Experience- dependent plasticity in the mushroom bodies of the solitary bee Osmia lignaria (Megachilidae). Developmental Neurobiology, October 2007 epub.

Withers, G.S., James, C.D., Kingman, C.E., Craighead, H.G., Banker, G.A. 2006. Effects of substrate geometry on growth cone behavior and axon branching, Journal of Neurobiology, 66, 1183-1194.

Wallace, C.S., Reitzenstein, J*. Withers, G.S. 2003. Diminished experience-dependent neuroanatomical plasticity: Evidence for an improved biomarker of subtle neurotoxic damage to the developing rat brain. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111, 1294 – 1298.

Withers, G.S., Higgins, D., Charette, M., Banker, G. 2000. Bone morphogenetic protein osteogenic protein-1 (OP-1) stimulates dendritic growth and synaptogenesis in cultured hippocampal neurons. European Journal of Neuroscience, 12, 106-116.

Grewal, S.S., Horgan, A.M., York, R.D., Withers, G.S., Banker, G.A., Stork, P.J. 2000. Neuronal calcium activates a rap1 and B-Raf signaling pathway via the cyclic adenosine monophosphate-dependent protein kinase. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 275, 3722-3728.

James, C.D., Davis, R.C., Meyer, M., Perez, A., Turner, S. Withers, G., Kam, L., Banker, G., Craighead, H.G., Isaacson, M., Turner, J.N., Shain, W. 2000. Aligned microcontact printing of micrometer-scale poly-L-lysine structures for controlled growth of cultured neurons on planar microelectrode arrays. IEEE Transactions in Biomedical Engineering, 47, 17-21.

Withers, G.S., George, J.M., Banker, G.A., Clayton, D.F. 1997. Delayed localization of synelfin (synuclein, NACP) to presynaptic terminals in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Developmental Brain Research, 99, 87-94.

Wallace, C.S., Withers, G.S., Weiler, I.J., George, J.M., Clayton, D.F., Greenough, W.T. 1995. Correspondence between sites of NGFI-A induction and sites of morphological plasticity following exposure to environmental complexity. Molecular Brain Research, 32, 211-220.

Withers, G.S., Fahrbach, S.E., Robinson, G.E. 1995. Effect of experience on the organization of the mushroom bodies of honey bees. Journal of Neurobiology, 26, 130-144.

Withers, G.S., Fahrbach, S.E., Robinson, G.E. 1993. Selective neuroanatomical plasticity and division of labour in the honey bee. Nature, 364, 238-240.

Wallace, C.S., Kilman, V.L.*, Withers, G.S., Greenough, W.T. 1992. Increases in dendritic length following a brief period of differential housing in weaning rats. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 58, 64-68.

Withers, G.S., Greenough, W.T. 1989. Reach training selectively alters dendritic branching in subpopulations of layer II-III pyramids in rat motor-somatosensory forelimb cortex. Neuropsychologia, 27, 61-69.

Camel, J.E., Withers, G.S., Greenough, W.T. 1986. Persistence of visual cortex dendritic alterations induced by postweaning exposure to a “superenriched” environment in rats. Behavioral Neuroscience, 100, 810-813.

Greenough, W.T., Larson, J.R., Withers, G.S. 1985. Effects of unilateral and bilateral training in a reaching task on dendritic branching of neurons in the rat motor-sensory forelimb cortex. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 34, 301-314.


Withers, G.S. and Banker, G. 1998. Characterizing and studying neuronal cultures. In Banker, G. and Goslin, K. (Eds.) Culturing Nerve Cells 2nd Edition, The MIT Press:Cambridge, pp113-151.

Greenough, W.T., Wallace, C.S., Alcantara, A.A., Anderson, B.J., Hawrylak, N., Sirevaag, A.M., Weiler, I.J., Withers, G.S. 1992. Development of the brain: Experience affects the structure of neurons, glia and blood vessels. In Anastasiow, N.& Harel, S. (Eds.), Proceedings from the 3rd International Workshop on the At Risk Infant, Paul H. Brooks:Baltimore, pps. 173 – 185.

Greenough, W.T., Withers, G.S., Anderson, B.A. 1991. Experience-dependent synaptogenesis as a plausible memory mechanism. In Harvey, J.A. & Gormezano, I. (Eds.), Learning and Memory: The Biological Substrates, Lawrence Earlbaum Assoc.:Hillsdale.

Greenough, W.T., Withers, G.S., Wallace, C.S. 1990. Morphological changes in the nervous system arising from behavioral experience: What is the evidence that they are involved in learning and memory? In Squire, L.R. & Lindenlaub, E. (Eds.), The Biology of Memory, Symposia Medica Hoescht 23, F.K. Schattauder Verlag:Stuttgart-New York, pp 159-183.


Withers, G.S., Mumford, M.C.*, Pounds, J.* 2006. Selective patterning of N-cadherin orients the formation of the dendritic arbor in cultured hippocampal neurons. J. Neurochem. 96 (S1) 117.

Changstrom, B.G.*, Gibbs, E.M.*, Withers, G.S. 2005. Disruption of Actin Polymerization Suggests Two Mechanisms of Dendritic Branch Formation in Neurons. American Society for Cell Biology Meeting Abstracts, p. 678a.

Day, N.F.*, Talbot, E.* Dobson, H.E.M., Wallace, C.S., Withers, G.S. 2005. Separating experience-expectant organization from experience-expectant plasticity in the mushroom bodies of the solitary bee Osmia lignaria. Annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting Undergraduate Poster Session, Washington DC, Nov. 11- 15.

Wallace, C.S., Withers, G.S. 2004. Affordable digital microscopy workstations engage students in integrative biology. Crossing Boundaries: Innovations in Undergraduate Research, the 10th National Conference Proceedings, Council on Undergraduate Research, p 23.

Withers, G.S. Wallace, C.S. 2003. An affordable imaging system introduces undergraduates to digital microscopy. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts, 33, 25.7.


Changstrom, B.* Gibbs, E.*, Withers, G.S. The role of the actin cytoskeleton in the formation of dendritic branches.

Kollins, K.M., Bell, R. L. *Butts, M*, Withers, G.S Dendrites differ from axons in patterns of microtubule stability and polymerization during development of cultured hippocampal neurons


CROET Seminar Series, Oregon Health and Science University, Nov. 20, 2006: “Engineering the dendritic arbor of neurons: New approaches to study the regulation of dendritic growth”

University of Illinois, Symposium: Growth Points in the Study of Genes, Brain and Behavior, September 16, 2005, “Design of a spatial trap and other tricks to study neuron development”

Cornell University Nanobiotechnology Seminar Series, March 15, 2005, “Engineering the dendritic arbor of neurons through nanobiotechnology”

U. Maryland, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program, Sept. 17, 2004 “Building the dendritic arbor: New views from living neurons”

Lake Forest College, Department of Biology and Summer Research Program, Lake Forest, IL, July 7, 2004 “A model of how new dendritic branches form in neurons”

U. Idaho, Department of Biology, March 26, 2004, “New views of dendritic development in living neurons”