Margaret J. McFall-Ngai

University of Hawaii at Manoa


Election Year: 2014
Primary Section: 44, Microbial Biology
Membership Type: Member

Biosketch

Dr. Margaret McFall-Ngai is a professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine and Public Health, and member of the Symbiosis Cluster group, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her laboratory studies the role of beneficial bacteria in health using the squid-vibrio model. In addition, she has been heavily involved in promoting microbiology as the cornerstone of the field of biology. Dr. McFall-Ngai also currently holds the positions of AD White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and EU Marie Curie ITN Professor. She was recently (2011-2013) a Moore Scholar at California Institute of Technology. She serves on the board of advisors for the Global Health Initiative at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Forum for Microbial Threats, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, USA. Dr. McFall-Ngai has been a principal organizer of a number of conferences in the US and Europe and has been vice-chair and chair of the planning committee for the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting for the last six years. She has been a Guggenheim fellow, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Microbiology.

Research Interests

My research program has combined training experiences in both organismal and molecular biology to develop two major focuses: 1) host-bacterial symbiosis; and, 2) the 'design' of tissues that interact with light. The experimental strategy for both areas of research relies on methods that have been developed for the study of the squid-vibrio association over the past 25 years. Using this model, my laboratory has explored the most critical questions about the phenomenon of beneficial animal-microbe associations: 1) With each generation, how does the animal harvest the often rare symbiont from the environment upon birth or hatching? 2) How do the host and symbiont recognize one another? 3) How does the bacterial partner influence the developmental program of the host? 4) How is stability achieved and maintained in the mature association? 5) What are the principal differences between how an animal interacts with pathogenic bacterial species and beneficial ones? In addition, I have a continuing interest in the history and development of the field of microbial symbiosis and its impact on biology; a focused effort in this area promises to drive an unprecedented integration across biology as a whole. Such integration will revolutionize the way we think about all aspects of the biosphere.

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