Mackenzie's research career has focused on the behaviour of strongly interacting electrons in metals and superconductors. His group places particular importance on achieving high levels of material purity in the single crystals that it grows and studies. He graduated with the 1986 Class Medal in Physics from the University of Edinburgh, worked at CERN in Geneva for year and then did his PhD at Cambridge, graduating in 1991. This was followed by research or staff positions at Cambridge (1991-97), Birmingham (1997-01), St Andrews (2001-) and the Max Planck Society (2012-).
Mackenzie is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the American Physical Society, and Director and Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society. He was a co-recipient of the 2004 Daiwa-Adrian Prize and recipient of the 2011 Mott Medal of the Institute of Physics, and held a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (1993-01) and Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award (2011-13). Prize lectures have included the 1999 Mott lecture and a 2007 Ehrenfest colloquium in Leiden.