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James McInerney

Chair in Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences

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Biography

My BSc and PhD were awarded by University College Galway, where I studied from 1987 until 1994. Subsequently I worked as a post-doc at the National Diagnostics Centre in Galway and in the Department of Zoology at The Natural History Museum, London. In 1999 I set up the bioinformatics research group at NUI Maynooth and became the director of the Genetics and Bioinformatics degree course. For the academic year 2012-2013, I took a sabbatical at the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard University, USA. In 2015 I moved my research to The University of Manchester to take up a chair in evolutionary biology. In 2016 I was appointed as the director of the research domain of "Evolution, Systems and Genomics" in the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at the University of Manchester.

I was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2015 and as a Fellow of the Linnean Society in 2016. In 2015, I was recognised by the Irish government with a conference ambassador award by the Minister for Tourism. I was elected secretary of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution for the period 2013-2017. In 2013, I was awarded a DSc by the National University of Ireland for a thesis entitled "Studies on the evolution of genes and genomes". I have served as an Associate Editor of Molecular Biology and Evolution since 2009 and as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Zoology since 2011. I am also a scientific associate of The Natural History Museum, London.

Expertise Summary

Research Focus:

The work in the lab is entirely computational molecular evolution. We make software tools for carrying out new analyses, we analyse genomes and we contribute to theory.

Eukaryote Origins:

We have used "Omics" data in an effort to augment phylogenetic approaches for understanding the origin of eukaryotes. There is a wealth of information from proteomics, transcriptomics and genomics and all these data contain useful information about organismal and genomic history. We are investigating ways in which these data can be profitably used to answer questions on Eukaryotic Origins.

Horizontal Gene Transfer:

Genes create phenotypes and therefore, given what we know about inter-species gene transfer, it makes sense to try to understand phenotypes by understanding gene flow. We are investigating how genes move from one organisms to another and trying to understand what the advantages of such moves might be and what effect they produced.

Genes-in-pieces:

Evolution is not linear and genes are quite often mosaic - being formed by the merging of DNA sequences with different histories. We are investigating the extent of this process and we are gaining an understanding of how often it happens and why it happens.

N-Rooted Fusion Graphs:

Clearly, it is not possible to accurately display or analyse mosaic sequences using standard phylogenetic trees. Therefore, we have invented N-Rooted Fusion Graphs for visualising these historical events. N-Rooted Fusion Graphs differ from phylogenetic trees by having more than one root and having at least one node with an in-degree of 2 (this represents the merging of two unrelated or distantly related entities). Current work involves the development of methods for constructing such graphs.

Software:

We have developed several software programs for evolutionary analyses.

Recent Publications

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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