Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Prof James McDonald

J McDonald

Contact Details

Professor James McDonald

School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham

Research Interests

Research in Prof. McDonald’s group focusses on the following broad themes:

  • Investigating the role of the oak microbiome in health and disease, characterising microbial disease suppression, engineering the oak microbiome to future-proof tree health and combat tree disease.
  • Characterising the microbial processes of waste biomass conversion to biogas in landfill sites and anaerobic digestion plants to develop engineered microbiomes for enhanced waste conversion to biogas.
  • Integrating knowledge on microbiome engineering and microbiome science across diverse systems (e.g. plants, humans, industrial systems) to identify key scientific principles that underpin microbiome assembly and function.

Supervision Style

In three words or phrases: Supportive; committed; focussed on your development as a researcher.

Provision of Training

In my lab we apply a variety of techniques to address our research goals. Consequently, training will be provided by a combination of myself, co-supervisors, or other experienced postgraduates or postdocs in our research teams, or through attending external training courses. In some instances, there will be a need to learn and develop new skills or methods independently, with support from myself and the team.

Progression Monitoring and Management

I am a ‘hands on’ supervisor and like to maintain regular contact with my team members to hear how the research is progressing. My aim is to help you to reach your full potential and I will support you on that journey. I will also expect you to take ownership of your project and drive it forward, with support from myself and the team.


Strong communication is critical for a successful research team. Our research group interacts via a full team lab meeting every 4 weeks, and fortnightly 1-to-1 meetings with me (or small group meetings for researchers working on the same project) in addition to ad hoc meetings when required and informal updates and during the week (either in person, or via Email or WhatsApp). We also have a lab WhatsApp group and socialise outside of work both as a research team and with other research groups.

PhD Students can expect scheduled meetings with me:

In a group meeting

At least once a month

In year 1 of PhD study

At least once a fortnight

In year 2 of PhD study

At least once a fortnight

In year 3 of PhD study

At least once a fortnight

These meetings will be mainly face to face, and I am usually contactable for an instant response (if required) every working day.

Working Patterns

Work in my lab requires being present on site (be it in a laboratory or at a field site) during the core hours.

Notice Period for Feedback

I need at least 1 week's notice to provide feedback on written work of up to 5000 words.