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Margaret J. McFall-Ngai, PhD


Medical Microbiology and Immunology
School of Medicine and Public Health

5205 Microbial Sciences Building
1550 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706

(608) 262-2393 (608) 262-5952



BS 1973, Biology, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

PhD 1983, Biology, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA

Postdoctoral Fellow 1984-1986, UCLA, Jules Stein Eye Institute, Los Angeles, CA

Postdoctoral Fellow 1986-1988, UC San Diego, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, San Diego, CA

Research Interests

Dr McFall-Ngai's research focuses on host responses to interactions with beneficial microbes. Within this context, the studies of her laboratory address five major questions:

  1. How are environmentally rare bacteria harvested from the host's habitat during the onset of a horizontally transmitted symbiosis?

  2. By what mechanisms does the host recognize its specific symbiotic partner(s)?

  3. What are the influences of symbiotic bacteria on the development of the host tissues with which they associate?

  4. How is the symbiont population maintained in balance over the host's lifetime, such that neither does the symbiont overgrow the host nor does the host eliminate the symbiont?

  5. What are the similarities and differences between pathogenic and beneficial animal-bacterial interactions?

Her lab also studies the 'design' of tissues that interact with light (i.e., the biochemical basis of transparency and reflectivity).

Dr. McFall-Ngai has been elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2012) and the National Academy of Sciences (2014).

McFall-Ngai Lab


PubMed Listing of Publications