Margaret McFall-Ngai & Edward (Ned) Ruby
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Margaret McFall-Ngai

Picture of Margaret McFall-Ngai

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 and the Eye Research Institute.  Her laboratory studies two areas: 1) the role of beneficial bacteria in health using the squid-vibrio model; 2) the biochemical and molecular ‘design’ of tissues that interact with light.  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. Dr. McFall-Ngai has been a Guggenheim fellow, and is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology (2002), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011), and the National Academy of Sciences (2014).

Edward (Ned) Ruby

Picture of Edward (Ned) Ruby

Dr. Ruby has worked for 30 years on beneficial bacterial-host interactions. He was hired into the Symbiosis Cluster at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004, where he held the Steenbock Chair of Microbiological Sciences, and was Vice-Chair of the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology. He has served on the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology, and been a visiting professor at HuaZhong U, China, and a EU/Marie Curie ITN Researcher at the Max-Planck Institute, Bremen, Germany. Recently, he was a Moore Scholar at the California Institute of Technology, and is currently Chair of the American Academy of Microbiology Awards Board.

In 2015, Dr. Ruby moved his lab back to the University of Hawaii. His current research uses (i) a broad-based approach to analyze how sequential signaling cascades and nutrient manipulation produce rhythmic patterns of bacterial metabolism that underlie the association’s persistence, (ii) new analytical and imaging approaches to discover novel pathways of signaling between the symbiont and its host, and (iii) comparative and functional genomics to discover principles controlling population-level interactions among symbionts.  

Research Philosophy

Divining the Essence of Symbiosis: Insights from the Squid-Vibrio Model

Development of experimental model systems reveals basic principles that underpin the essence of symbiosis and, more specifically, how one symbiosis, the squid-vibrio association, provides insight into the persistent microbial colonization of animal epithelial surfaces. 

Symbiotic Conversations Are Revealed Under Genetic Interrogation

This is an exciting time for biologists, and for microbiologists in particular, to begin to understand how animals and plants communicate with the many bacterial species that live in and on their tissues. Describing the genetic basis of this symbiotic conversation has become a new frontier of biology. 

Lab News

Oct 27, 2016 Documentary - The Microbes That Rule Our World

Margaret and Ned are featured in a National Geographic styled French documentary, The Microbes That Rule Our World, directed by Stéphane Bégoin, which will broadcast on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2016, on the internationally regarded French-German channel ARTE.  News Article

Oct 11, 2016 Post-Doc Position Available

Postdoctoral Position in McFall-Ngai and Ruby Laboratories, Kewalo Marine Laboratory & Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Mentors: Margaret McFall-Ngai, Edward Ruby, Janna Nawroth

Collaborators: Eva Kanso, Scott Fraser - University of Southern California

A postdoctoral position is available at the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) working at the interface of microbiome, biophysics, and molecular biology studies. Specifically, the project will investigate the role of ciliary actuation, sensing and signaling in the squid-vibrio symbiosis. the candidate will employ and develop a variety of biological imaging techniques and analysis tools and, in collaboration with the Kanso group at USC, perform computational modeling studies to unravel the biology and biophysics of bacteria-cilia interaction. The project will be conducted at PBRC's Kewalo Marine Laboratory in Honolulu. Ph.D. degree required. Expertise in microbiology, molecular biology, biological imaging, signal processing, and/or biophysics desired. The candidate will work with biologists, physicists, and methematicians as part of a grant from the NSF INSPIRE Program, which seeks to promote interdisciplinary research. The candidate will be expected to work both independently and in a team, and to acquire new skills and knowledge outside his or her area of expertise.

Position available immediately. Applications should include a CV and statement of research and career interests. The materials can be sent to mentors, McFall-Ngai (, Ruby ( and Nawroth ( News Article

May 26, 2016 UH Manoa Partners in National Microbiome Initiative

On May 13, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a new National Microbiome Initiative(NMI), a coordinated effort to better understand microbiomes—communities of microorganisms that live on and in people, plants, soil, oceans and the atmosphere—and to develop tools to protect and restore healthy microbiome function. This initiative represents a combined federal agency investment of more than $121 million.

For years, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been making substantial investments—through faculty hires, endowments and facilities—and plans to continue to build capacity in the emerging field of microbiome research.

UH Mānoa is a powerhouse in the realm of microbiome research,” said UH Mānoa Vice Chancellor for Research Michael Bruno. “There are few, if any, universities with the number of world leaders in this domain—UH Mānoa has three members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) who specialize in this field.”

Along with long-established UH Mānoa scientists, recent and upcoming hires of faculty will support the NMI and advance related research discoveries. In the past two years, and with an allocation of $2.2 million, UH Mānoa has hired three professors, two junior faculty, and two related positions—all of whom address microbiomes. Further, theUH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) will invest $1 million in hiring two additional faculty to explore complex microbial ecosystems.

“Major challenges facing mankind, including sustainability of the environment, human health, and energy and food production, have the microbial world as a principal driving force in both the creation of the problems as well as strategies for the development of solutions. We have a great opportunity here in Hawaiʻi to participate as pioneers in the research of our microbial biosphere,” said Margaret McFall-NgaiNAS member and director of PBRC.


In 2014, the Pavel family announced an endowment of $2 million to theCenter for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education (C-MORE). Professor David Karl, co-founder of the Hawaiʻi Ocean Time-seriesprogram and C-MORE director, is the inaugural recipient of the Victor and Peggy Brandstrom Pavel chair in Oceanography.

UH Mānoa has invested nearly $37 million in construction and renovation of facilities that primarily support microbiome research. The majority of this ($22.5 million) went toward construction of the Daniel K. Inouye C-MOREHale, a state-of-the-art LEED Platinum building, which was dedicated in 2010. C-MORE, as a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center, required a cost share from UH—a contribution of approximately $9 million as cash or in-kind support. The university will continue to support shorefront and ocean-going assets that provide unparalleled access to the coastal and deep-water environments in which many microbiome researchers work. These additional future investments are expected to be greater than $5 million over the next 5 years.

Microbiomes maintain healthy function of diverse ecosystems, influencing diverse features of the planet—human health, climate change, and food security. UH Mānoa, as a partner in the NMI, will advance the understanding of microbiome behavior and enable protection and restoration of healthy microbiome function. From medicine to global climate change to deep sea mining, microbiome research is proving to be the next frontier—an area of research that is yielding new understanding and paradigm-shifting discoveries about the world around, and in, us.


Numerous internationally recognized faculty at Mānoa actively contribute to this field of discovery. A sampling of some of these faculty and their research emphasis are listed below:

  • Rosie Alegado (C-MORE):  Influence of bacteria on animal origins
  • Anthony Amend (Botany): Environmental and biogeographic processes that shape the composition of symbiotic microbial communities and how differences impact hosts 
  • Gordon Bennett (Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences): Microbe-insect symbioses in native Hawaiian and pest insect systems
  • Edward DeLong (C-MORE): Develops and applies advanced genomic and robotic technologies to study dynamics of marine microbial communities from surface waters to the deep-sea
  • Ruth Gates (Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology): Microbiomes of reef corals and their contribution to coral health and response to environmental stress
  • Michael Hadfield (PBRC): Mechanisms by which surface microbial films induce the settlement of invertebrate larvae and thus strongly influence sea floor ecosystems
  • Wei Jia (University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center): Microbe-host interactions in the human gut microbiome that underlie the development of gastrointestinal cancer and metabolic disorders such as diabetes
  • Dave Karl (C-MORE): Microbial processes that determine how energy, nutrients and chemicals cycle through the open ocean
  • Margaret McFall-Ngai (PBRC): Uses simple invertebrate model systems to study how microbiomes colonize the surfaces of animal epithelia, the most common type of host-microbe interaction
  • Ned Ruby (PBRC): Mechanisms underlying microbe-microbe and microbe-host communication 


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Margaret McFall-Ngai & Edward Ruby

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McFall-Ngai Lab
Margaret McFall-Ngai
Phone: (808) 539-7331

Ruby Lab
Edward (Ned) Ruby
Phone: 808-539-7300