URI continues Darwin anniversary lecture series with discussion of ‘beneficial microbial partners’ Oct. 19

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 13, 2009 – As part of the University of Rhode Island’s continuing celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his On the Origin of Species, University of Wisconsin Professor Margaret McFall-Ngai will present a lecture on Oct. 19 entitled “In Sickness and in Health: Our Co-Dependence with our Beneficial Microbial Partners.”

The lecture, sponsored by the URI College of Pharmacy, is free and open to the public and will be held in the Ryan Family Auditorium in the URI Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences at 7:30 p.m.

McFall-Ngai is one of the leaders in the frontier field of the role of beneficial bacteria in health and disease. Her pioneering studies in this area began when she was a young faculty member at the University of Southern California, where she was given the Albert S. Raubenheimer Award for Outstanding Junior Faculty, and continued at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii where she was awarded the Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research. McFall-Ngai was elected to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2002.

Currently a professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and 2009-2010 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, McFall-Ngai studies host responses to interactions with beneficial microbes using the symbiotic relationship between the Hawaiian bobtail squid and bioluminescent bacteria as a model for laboratory study. Her work addresses the role of symbiosis in shaping the evolution of form and function in the immune system of animals, including humans.

Her lecture will illustrate how animals require persistent associations with hundreds of species of beneficial bacteria to maintain a healthy state.

The final speaker in the URI lecture series will be Debashish Bhattacharya, professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, who will discuss “Genomic Approaches to Understanding Red Tide” on Nov. 16.

The lecture series is sponsored by the University’s Alexander M. Cruickshank Endowed Lectureship, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, the College of Pharmacy, the Honors Program, and the URI chapters of Sigma Xi and Phi Beta Kappa.

For additional information, contact Dr. Christopher Lane at clane@mail.uri.edu or 401-874-2683.