- Associate Chair, Department of Molecular Biosciences
Research in the Macdonald lab focuses on understanding the genetic basis of complex trait variation, principally using Drosophila as a model system. The lab employs a range of genetic, genomic, bioinformatic and functional tools to identify genes and sequence variants controlling trait variation. In addition, the Macdonald lab leads the development of a large, powerful set of resources for the dissection of trait variation in flies, the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource (DSPR).
Stuart Macdonald earned a B.A. in biological sciences (1997) and a D.Phil in zoology (2000) from the University of Oxford, was a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Tony Long at the University of California - Irvine, and in 2006 started his faculty position in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas. Dr. Macdonald is also an affiliate member of the Center for Computational Biology, the Director of the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Core at KU, and Associate Chair in the Department of Molecular Biosciences.
By localizing and characterizing the precise set of DNA variants that contribute to variation in complex traits we can answer these questions. This is vital both for human health (can we assess whether a patient carries alleles at certain genes that may predispose them to develop disease? can we predict which individuals may have adverse reactions to therapeutic drug treatments?) and for evolutionary biology (how is genetic variation in complex traits maintained in the face of selection which should erode this variation?)
The Macdonald group uses the elite model genetic organism Drosophila melanogaster to answer these fundamental questions about the molecular genetics of complex traits. Drosophila is an excellent system due to the conservation of many genes and cellular/physiological pathways with humans, the massive amount of genetic and genomic data available, the simplicity with which large-scale experiments can be executed, and the ability to easily manipulate gene function via functional genetics tools (e.g., CRISPR genome editing.) We additionally leverage sophisticated genome sequencing technologies, and computationally-intensive analytical approaches, to examine the relationship between phenotype and genotype.
Current projects in the lab include developing a community resource for the dissection of complex trait variation (the Drosophila Synthetic Population Resource), and exploring the genetic basis of variation in toxin exposure, focusing particularly on heavy metal toxicity.
- Genetics of complex traits
- Drosophila biology
- Quantitative and population genetics
- Functional genetics and genome editing
- Genetics and genomics
- Cell and molecular biology