Donald Smith – James McGill Professor and Director of BioFuelNet

Born: February 23, 1953 – Regina, Saskatchewan


B.Sc. – Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 1975

M.Sc. – Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 1979

Ph.D. – University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, 1984

Employment history:

NSERC Post Doctoral Fellow – Agriculture Canada, 1984 to 1985

Assistant Professor – Plant Science Department, McGill University, 1985 to 1990

Associate Professor – Plant Science Department, McGill University, 1990 to 1995

Professor – Plant Science Department, McGill University, 1995-

New Sun Professor – 2000 – 2005

Chair, Plant Science Department – 2004 – 2009

James McGill Professor – 2005 – 2012


Research history: During his 26 years at McGill (, 60 graduate students have worked under his direct supervision, 34 Ph.D. and 26 M.Sc.  These have worked largely in production and physiology of crop plants, more recently with an emphasis on plant-microbe interactions.  The following crops have been investigated in one capacity or another: soybean, corn, barley, wheat, lupin, alfalfa, pea, bean, lentil, cowpea, sorghum, pearl millet, tomato, alfalfa, clover, swtichgrass, miscanthus, reed canarygrass, poplar.  The areas of research investigation are as follows: nitrogen metabolism, nitrogen fixation, root zone temperature stress and nodule development, development of methods for injection of metabolites into developing plants, barley production, use of plant growth regulators, intercropping, the dynamics of inter-plant competition, plant-microbe signaling, plants and climate change, biofuel crops, crop stress responses and biochar as a soil ammendment.  He is involved in the physiological responses of crop plants to increasing atmospheric CO2 levels and to climate change, plant-microbe signaling and biochar effects on crop productivity.  Throughout his research career, work on nitrogen fixation has been a consistent theme, beginning with an undergraduate research project on cyanobacteria in 1974.  Current work in this area includes signaling between symbiotic partners during establishment of the legume-rhizobia symbiosis.  Altogether this research activity has resulted over 260 publications (from his postgraduate research activities and those of his graduate students), eight patents issued, a spin-off company (Bios Agriculture Inc.) and products applied to ~10 million ha of crop land in 2011.  During his 25 years at McGill he has been principal investigator on research grants totaling over $45 million, and has been a co-applicant on approximately $12.5 million in other funds.  He currently leads the NCE funded ($7 million per year) BioFuelNet Canada Network ( on development of advanced biofuels, and also heads the McGill Network for Innovation in Biofuels and Bioproducts (McNIBB – and the Eastern Canadian Oilseed Development Initiative network (AAFC funded at $2 million per year).  He has had international collaborations with the US, India, China, Russia, Brazil and Africa.

Awards and recognition:

Head, NCE funded BioFuelNet Canada 2012-2017

Scientific lead for the Eastern Canadian Oilseed Development Initiative 2011-2013

Member of the Canada-US think tank on climate change and agriculture in North Eastern North America 2011-

Official reviewer for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation 2009 –

McGill Applause – 2008

Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS) prix Michel-Jurdant – 2007

Head, McGill Network for Innovation on Biofuels and Bioproducts – 2007-

James McGill Professor – 2005-2012

Head, Green Crop Network on crops and greenhouse gas management ( – 2005-2010

Chair, Plant Science Department – 2004-2009

New Sun Professor – 2000-2005

Member of NSERC Plant Biology and Food Science grant selection committee – 2002-2006

Fellow of the Canadian Society of Agronomy – 1999-

Eastern co-chair of the Adaptation Initiative of BIOCAP Canada – 1999-2000.

Chair, Agriculture Committee of the Canadian University Program on Climate Change -1999-2000

Member of the NSERC Plant Biology reallocation committee – 1996/97

President of the Canadian Society of Agronomy – 1995-1997

Recipient of the Canadian Society of Agronomy’s “Young Agronomist Award” – 1994

Work on low root zone temperature and soybean nodulation on the cover of the European Journal Plant and Soil – 1996

Selected as one of the top ten young researchers in Quebec – 1989.