The overall goal of Jim McNamara's research is to provide a sound biological basis for understanding how the face normally grows and how facial growth can be altered by experimental and therapeutic intervention. His past research involved studies of both normal and experimental alterations in the growth of the facial region in a non-human primate, using the rhesus monkey as a model of human craniofacial development.
More recently, McNamara has focused on clinical studies of the effects of orthodontic, orthopedic and surgical interventions on the growth of the face. He also serves as curator of The University of Michigan Elementary and Secondary School Growth Study, one of the largest longitudinal studies of untreated individuals in the world. This unique collection allows the study of facial development from the early juvenile period to middle age in the same group of untreated subjects, providing a basis of comparison for ongoing clinical investigations. His chief collaborators are Tiziano Baccetti and Lorenzo Franchi from the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Florence.
McNamara is the Editor-in-Chief of the 47 volume Craniofacial Growth Monograph Series. He received the 2008 Albert H. Ketcham Memorial Award given by the American Board of Orthodontics (the highest award in orthodontics worldwide).