Mary Wagner is interested in the fundamental mechanisms that govern a cell's decision to divide, mature or die. Armed with this information, she says, we can gain greater insight into many different diseases where these basic functions are altered. For example, cancer is characterized by uncontrolled cell division, and inappropriate cell death is the hallmark of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and muscular dystrophy. Mary is studying the role of ING (INhibitor of Growth), a protein that helps regulate these basic cell functions. While ING is also found in the cells of humans, mice, rats and yeast, Mary is studying the protein's role in the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs—a drastic and rapid transformation involving tail death, leg growth and brain remodeling. She is also investigating how environmental pollutants can act as hormones to disrupt normal cell development and function.