Dr. Ngai earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Pomona College, Claremont, California, and Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech and at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons before starting his faculty position at the University of California at Berkeley.
During more than 25 years as a Berkeley faculty member, Dr. Ngai has trained 20 undergraduate students, 24 graduate students and 15 postdoctoral fellows in addition to teaching well over 1,000 students in the classroom. His lab uses a wide array of tools and techniques to study the cells and molecules behind olfaction, or the sense of smell, including fundamental research on how the nervous system detects odors and turns them into neural signals sent to the brain. Dr. Ngai is also interested in unraveling the diversity of cell types in the brain and understanding how the nervous system repairs itself following injury or degeneration. His work has led to the publication of more than 70 scientific articles in some of the field’s most prestigious journals and 10 U.S. and international patents. Dr. Ngai has received many awards including from the Sloan Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience.
As a faculty member, Dr. Ngai has served as the director of Berkeley’s Neuroscience Graduate Program and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. He has also provided extensive service on NIH study sections, councils and steering groups, including as previous co-chair of the NIH BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Consortium Steering Group.