Michael Shaw was brought up in mid-Devon but has spent most of his adult life elsewhere. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University (1973-76), beginning by studying physics and biology and finishing by specialising in population genetics. En route, he was introduced to the wonders of plant pathogens and fungi in particular by the teaching of John Rishbeth and Harry Hudson. After a master’s in Statistics at Newcastle University (1978) he worked briefly in the Economic Planning Staff of the then Ministry of Overseas Development. Realising his inability to cope with the inevitable frustrations between the worthwhile jobs in the civil service, he took a PhD at the University of East Anglia, in the population genetics of grasshoppers. After a period teaching population dynamics and modelling at the University of York, he moved to Long Ashton Research Station near Bristol as an epidemiologist and modeller. In 1989 he moved to the University of Reading and the Department of Agricultural Botany. He remains at Reading in the School of Biological Sciences where he was promoted to Professor of Plant Disease Ecology in 2006.
His research has concerned many aspects of the population biology of pathogens, including especially relations to weather and other aspects of the environment, the evolution of insensitivity to fungicides, and matters of spatial scale and dispersal. Diseases he and his colleagues have studied with a view to understanding dynamics, management or population structure include powdery mildews of wheat, tomatoes and oak trees, Sigatoka of banana, grass rusts and their hyperparasites, Botrytis cinerea as an endophyte, Phytophthora spp., Moniliophthora perniciosa of cocoa and a variety of viruses, and especially the septoria diseases of wheat.
Away from work, his interests include gardening, acting and various outdoor activities, though most of his exercise comes from cycling to work. He is married and has two grown-up children, neither of whom has much interest in plant pathology.