Dr. Loretta Lambert Leive, 49, chief of the membrane biology section in the laboratory of structural biology at the National Institutes of Health, died of cancer Feb. 12 at George Washington University Hospital.

Dr. Leive, a resident of McLean, joined the staff at NIH in 1963 and was known in the scientific community for her research on the role of the bacterial cell surface in microbial physiology and pathogenesis.

She was born in New York City, graduated from Barnard College, earned a master's degree at Radcliffe College and a doctorate in bacteriology at Harvard. She did research on the metabolism of immunity cells at Oxford University in England during a sabbatical from NIH.

She was a member of the American Society of Biological Chemists, the American Society for Microbiology and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. She also edited several scientific journals and wrote about 50 scientific papers.

In 1985 Dr. Leive received the Alice Evans Award from the Committee on the Status of Women Microbiologists of the American Society for Microbiology for her work in bringing problems of women in science to the attention of the public.

Her marriage to David Leive ended in divorce.

Survivors include a daughter, Cindi Leive of McLean; her mother, Ann Carol of Fort Myers, Fla.; and a brother, Joseph Lambert of New York City.