Margaret McFall Ngai (2011-2017) is a Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2004-present) and affiliate professor at the University of Hawaii (2004-present). She is one of the foremost life scientists encompassing the fields of immunology, symbiosis, and marine biology, and is considered an international leader and undisputed expert in the biological study of interactions between microbes and their animal hosts. Her work on the ability of squid to acquire and activate bioluminescent bacteria is considered as particularly captivating, cutting across the disciplines of physiology, ecology, immunology, and evolutionary biology. Her major research interests focus on symbiotic associations between animals and prokaryotes—in particular, signaling between partners during establishment and maintenance of a symbiosis, the influence of bacteria on animal development, the evolution of animal-bacterial interactions; and the ‘design’ of tissues that interact with light—the biochemical basis of transparency and reflectivity. She received her Ph.D. in Biology from UCLA in 1983.
Dr. McFall-Ngai is the recipient of numerous awards and honors that include (to name a few): EU/Marie Curie ITN Researcher, Max Planck Institute—Bremen (2010-2015); John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2009-2010); Finalist, International Prize —Japan (2010); University of San Francisco, Arthur Furst Distinguished Research Award (2008); University of Hawaii Regent’s Medal for Excellence in Research (2002); Meischer-Isida Prize for contributions to symbiosis-International Society of Endocytobiology (1999/2000); Albert S. Raubenheimer Outstanding Junior Faculty Award-The College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, University of Southern California (1994). Most recently (2011) she was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Global Health Initiative at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Lausanne, Switzerland, and Gordon and Betty Moore Endowed Sabbatical Professorship at California Institute of Technology. Her work is the subject of regular media coverage. She has produced a prolific output of research publications in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) and other top journals and is a strong advocate for science education in the United States.