James McCullagh

Photo of James McCullagh

Professor James McCullagh

Professor of Biological Chemistry

Director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Facility




Research Interests

Research in the McCullagh Group focuses on understanding the function of small molecules in complex biochemical systems with applications at the interface between chemistry, biology and medicine. We use metabolomics and proteomics techniques to investigate altered metabolism in disease, the effect of gene mutations on cell function, altered metabolic states, environmental biomarkers, biotransformation and pharmacometabolomics. In general, we are interested in the chemical links between an organism’s environment and physiological function at the molecular level.

james mccullagh group photo

Our research often involves multiple analytical techniques and methods including mass spectrometry coupled with separation systems (LC-MS/MS, LC-IMS-MS/MS, GC-MS/MS), chemical methods with fluorescence detection, live cell analysis and NMR. We have particular interest in: Ion-chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry for discovery metabolomics (Walsby-Tickle et al., 2020); developing more sensitive methods to detect biomarkers of disease. Previous successes in method development applied in environmental studies include natural abundance isotope analysis for palaeodietary reconstruction  in archaeology (McCullagh et al., 2006) and compound-specific radiocarbon dating (McCullagh et al., 2016). We are currently exploring the application of ion-mobility mass spectrometry in metabolomics to improve metabolite coverage and identification.  

The figure below captures some of the analytical approaches we use routinely for comprehensive molecular phenotyping and capturing small molecule interactions at a systems level. If you are interested in collaborating or joining the group to do a Part II or D.Phil. project we would be happy to hear from you. Please contact james.mccullagh@chem.ox.ac.uk


james mccullagh diagram website


James McCullagh is Professor of Biological Chemistry and Director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Facility based in the Department of Chemistry. His research focusses on understanding the function of small molecules in biological, biomedical and environmental systems, with particular focus on metabolism and metabolomics. He has 20 years experience in the development of (bio)analytical chemistry techniques, in particular using mass spectrometry, with applications in chemical, biological and medical research. He is highly collaborative and works with academia and industry partners. He has authored/co-authored over 100 journal publications, book chapters and articles including a Mass Spectrometry textbook.  He lectures on undergraduate and graduate analytical chemistry courses and runs workshops for post-graduate researchers in mass spectrometry methods, metabolomics, chemometrics and bioinformatics. He is a graduate (D.Phil.) and undergraduate (M.Chem.) supervisor. He has served on various national administrative and conference committees and provides consultancy in the field of mass spectrometry and bioanalytical science to a variety of commercial enterprises. He is currently Cell Metabolism section editor for the journal Metabolites and an editorial board member for the journal Scientific Reports.

James McCullagh is also Director of the Mass Spectrometry Research Facility SRF, based in the Chemistry Research Laboratory, Department of Chemistry. This houses over £10 million in analytical instrumentation with 20 mass spectrometer systems supporting academic research. He manages a team of permanent mass spectrometry staff who provide analytical service provision for the Department, wider University and external organisations including industry.