Margaret McFall-Ngai

Position title: Professor Emeritus of Medical Microbiology & Immunology


No longer on campus


1973, BS in Biology, University of San Francisco
1983, Ph.D. in Biology, UCLA
1984-1986, Postdoctoral Fellow, Jules Stein Eye Inst, UCLA
1986-1988, Postdoctoral Fellow, Scripps Inst of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Areas of Study


Research Overview

Our research focuses on host responses to interactions with beneficial microbes. Within this context, the studies of my 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 developmental 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?


  • 2012, Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2010, Finalist, International Prize (Japan)
  • 2009, Guggenheim Fellow
  • 2008, Member, Board of Life Sciences, National Academy of Sciences; Member of NAS committee, “A new biology for the 21st century: Ensuring the US leads the coming biology revolution”
  • 2005, Member, Board of Life Sciences, National Academy of Sciences; Member of NAS committee, “New directions in the study of antimicrobial therapeutics: Immunomodulation”
  • 2002, Professor in Residence, INSA de Lyon, Louis Pasteur, Villeurbanne, France
  • 2002, Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2002, Regent’s Medal for Excellence in Research, University of Hawaii
  • 2001, Chair, Rhodes Scholar Committee, State of Hawaii
  • 2001, Miescher-Ishida Prize (co-recipient) for contributions to the field of symbiosis