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Personal profile


Mike completed at PhD in Evolutionary Genetics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Massy University in New Zealand in 2009. After that he took up a Distinguished Postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Molecular Biology at Academia Sinica in Taiwan. In 2012 Mike moved to the USA to take up a Postdoctoral fellow ship in the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University.

Research interests

Mike is interested in the genetics of adaptation. To study this question, his lab propagates populations of yeast (and other microbes) for 1000's of generations in a variety of laboratory environments. Microbes grow and divide very quickly, providing a means for directly observing evolution as it happens. The goal is to understand how organisms adapt to better fit their environment. We do this by finding the mutations that cause adaptation, determining how these mutations change the genetic program of the cell and trying to predict how organisms will respond to environmental change. Mikes lab employs methods such as high throughput robotic liquid handling, whole genome sequencing and molecular genetic techniques.


  • Evolution
  • Genetics
  • Mutations
  • Genome Evolution
  • Genetics, microbial

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Projects 2017 2021

Research Output 2009 2018

Adaptive evolution of genomically recoded Escherichia coli

Wannier, T. M., Kunjapur, A. M., Rice, D. P., McDonald, M. J., Desai, M. M. & Church, G. M., 20 Mar 2018, In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 12, p. 3090-3095 6 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Beneficial Mutations from Evolution Experiments Increase Rates of Growth and Fermentation

Sezmis, A. L., Malerba, M. E., Marshall, D. J. & McDonald, M. J., 1 Feb 2018, In : Journal of Molecular Evolution. 86, 2, p. 111-117 7 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Fitness cost of mcr-1-mediated polymyxin resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae

Nang, S. C., Morris, F. C., McDonald, M. J., Han, M., Wang, J., Strugnell, R. A., Velkov, T. & Li, J., 1 Jun 2018, In : Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 73, 6, p. 1604-1610 7 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Coevolution with bacteria drives the evolution of aerobic fermentation in Lachancea kluyveri

Zhou, N., Swamy, K. B. S., Leu, J-Y., McDonald, M. J., Galafassi, S., Compagno, C. & Piskur, J., 1 Mar 2017, In : PLoS ONE. 12, 3, 19 p., e0173318.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The dynamics of molecular evolution over 60,000 generations

Good, B. H., McDonald, M. J., Barrick, J. E., Lenski, R. E. & Desai, M. M., 2 Nov 2017, In : Nature. 551, 7678, p. 45-50 6 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access