Associate Professor Michael McDonald


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance

How will microbial communities evolve in response to environmental change, antibiotics or phage therapy? Mike and his lab are focused on determining the network of genes required for antibiotic and multidrug resistance. To study this question, the team propagates populations of bacteria (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 antibiotic resistance evolves, so that evolution can be taken into account for the development of novel strategies to prolong the use of current antibiotics and to identify novel drug targets. His lab employs methods such as high-throughput robotic liquid handling, whole genome sequencing, and molecular genetic techniques.

Associate Professor McDonald leads the Microbial Experimental Evolution laboratory in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University. He completed his PhD in Evolutionary Genetics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Massey 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 fellowship in the FAS Center for Systems Biology at Harvard University. He established his research group in 2016. Mike was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship in 2017. He is a member of the Monash Centre for Geometric Biology, and part of the Monash Node for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Mathematical Analysis of Cellular Systems.


  • Genetic basis of AMR.
  • Strategies to slow the evolution of AMR.
  • Predicting the evolutionary outcomes of environmental change.
  • How co-evolution (evolution with multiple different species) can change the speed and mechanisms of evolution.
  • The impact that bacteriophage has on microbial communities.


  • Manipulating microbial evolution to prevent antimicrobial drug resistance e.g. microbiome engineering.
  • Understanding how organisms adapt to better fit their environment.