Cells, Organisms and Molecular Genetics

Our research team

The Cells, Organisms and Molecular Genetics team here at the University of Nottingham’s School of Life Sciences is a diverse, collaborative group of researchers. We’re academics, postdoctoral research fellows, research technicians and postgraduate students, all working together to break new ground and make a real impact on the world around us.

Image of James McInerney

James McInerney

Chair in Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



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.


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.


We have developed several software programs for evolutionary analyses.

Recent Publications

The McInerney Research group at School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham is a world-leading evolutionary biology group that uses high-performance computing approaches, software and algorithm development, large datasets and cutting edge approaches in order to answer fundamental questions about the evolution of life on the planet.

What do we work on?

Unseen to the naked eye is a vast network of life - a network where genetic material is shared, not only between parents and their offspring, but between organisms that might not even be particularly closely related. We know this network exists, but we are less sure of what structures it and what roles it has played in the recent and distant evolutionary history of life on earth.

Why now?

We are living in the golden age of data and in particular genomic data is being generated at a faster rate than most could have imagined a few years ago. In our research group we are using high performance computing, comparative genomics, phylogenetics, statistics, simulations and machine learning in order to turn data into knowledge.

What will we know in 10 years time?

The elements of life - protein domains, genes, gene clusters, genomes, communities, the global ecosystem - are inextricably linked in a complex, dynamic network. We will have uncovered some of that network. We will unearth the forces that influence its shape and structure. We will develop methods that predict what happens when it is perturbed (say, by Global Warming or the increased presence of antibiotics).

Cells, Organisms and Molecular Genetics

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