A native of Sydney, N.S. Canada, Dr McDonald has degrees in physics from Dalhousie University (BSc, MSc) and Caltech (Ph.D) and fifteen honorary degrees.

He was Director of the SNO Institute from 1991-2003 and again from 2006-2009, and Associate Director of the SNOLAB Institute from 2009-2013. Since 1989, he has been Director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) Scientific Collaboration. Among the many awards he has received, he is a Companion of the Order of Canada and a Co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics with Dr. Takaaki Kajita of the SuperKamiokande experiment. He continues to be active in basic research in neutrinos and dark matter.