Author: nsfmcb

Welcome to MCB Cliff Weil!

Cliff Weil joined MCB in July 2021 as a program director in the Genetic Mechanisms cluster.

What is your educational background?

I have a B.S. in Genetics from the University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. in Genetics and Development from Cornell University.

What were you doing before you came to NSF?

Before joining MCB in July 2021, I was a professor at Purdue University focused on genetics, molecular biology, and genomics of plants, particularly maize and sorghum. I have a special fondness for transposable elements, which were first described in maize, and their interactions with the DNA repair machinery. I’ve also worked on microtubules and as a part of groups trying to interface engineering with biology. From 2017-2020, I was a program director in the NSF Plant Genome Research Program in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS).

What attracted you to work for NSF?

I’m really excited about being able to facilitate getting the best science supported and about helping develop new directions for Molecular and Cellular Biology.. It is a great group of colleagues in MCB, and I really like the dedication to the work that everyone shares and the free flow of ideas. These are crazy times with the pandemic, but NSF has barely skipped a beat and there remains incredible opportunity to develop new ideas and to broaden the community of scientists. I’m thrilled to be a part of that.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about serving as a Program Director (*or applying to a position) at NSF?

Definitely do it! It’s a lot of work but totally worth it, interesting (sometimes in unexpected directions), and a lot of fun. You will learn a TON. I really like living in the DC area, so if you can do that, you should, but the remote working has been amazingly seamless.

When friends or colleagues find out that you work at NSF, what do they say or ask?

“Can you get me some money!?” I always tell them to send me a one-pager… I think my kids were least impressed with that answer.

NEW COLLABORATION BETWEEN NSF MCB AND GERMAN RESERCH FOUNDATION

The NSF Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) has announced a new opportunity for investigators to obtain support for international collaboration, specifically between the U.S. and German research communities. The Dear Colleague Letter, released under an MOU with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and  titled “NSF-DFG Lead Agency Opportunity in Molecular and Cellular Biology” (NSF 22-015), invites U.S. and German collaborators to submit joint proposals in the areas covered by NSF/MCB and DFG’s review board 201 “Basic Research in Biology and Medicine.”

The proposals should focus on basic research at a molecular, subcellular, or cellular level, including theoretical approaches. Please note the following exclusions:

  • Proposals encompassing tissues, organs or whole animals will not be considered.
  • Research in the areas of plant sciences, microbiology, immunology, and neurosciences is also excluded.

Proposals must provide a clear rationale for the need for US-German collaboration, including the unique expertise and synergy that the collaborating researchers will bring to the project.

Please note that proposals can be submitted from January 3rd, 2022 on a continuous basis. Please note that there is no deadline for submission to either agency.

For full details on submission guidelines, program priorities, and contact information, see DCL NSF 22-015.

Biology Integration Institutes (BII) Webinar

Repost from our friends at the DBInfo – Blog of the Division of Biological Infrastructure

Please join the Biology Integration Institutes (BII) program for a webinar on December 2nd, 2021 from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST. There will be a short presentation, followed by an open Q&A session with cognizant Program Officers.

The aim of the BII program is to bring researchers across biology’s many subdisciplines together around the common goal of understanding how the processes that sustain life and enable biological innovation operate and interact within and across different scales of organization, from molecules to cells, tissues to organisms, species, ecosystems, biomes and the entire Earth. The next deadline is January 12, 2022. To see more information about previously funded awards under this program, please see here.

Please register in advance for the webinar below, and share this invitation with anyone you think may be interested:

Register Here

Designer Cells Welcomes Proposals for the Second Year

In 2020, NSF’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences together with the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transports Systems (CBET) in the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) and the Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES) in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) launched a new solicitation, Designing Synthetic Cells Beyond the Bounds of Evolution (Designer Cells) NSF 21-531.  With this solicitation, NSF hoped to continue to support advances in building synthetic cells and leverage the success of programs like Understanding the Rules of Life: Building a Synthetic Cell. Projects submitted to the Designer Cells solicitation used synthetic biology to address at least one of the following research areas:

  1. identifying the minimal requirements for the processes of life;
  2. addressing fundamental questions in the evolution of life or to explore biological diversity beyond that which currently exists in nature;
  3. leveraging synthetic systems for innovative biotechnology applications. 

The program is now accepting proposals for its second cohort. The due date for proposals for the second year is February 1, 2022.

In its first cohort, the program made 12 awards.  These first awards explored a number of exciting themes including building synthetic organelles, exploring non-natural or synthetic approaches to information storage and decoding, and creating cells with new tunable properties.  One exciting thematic area represented in a number of 2021 Designer Cells awards was synthetic modifications that change information storage and decoding in cells.  A full list of the awards made in the first year of Designer Cells can be found here.  

In this second year of the solicitation, Program Director Anthony Garza says that he “hopes to see proposals that continue to push to boundaries of what cells can do, either by adding in new functionality, or minimizing cell components, but still getting functional synthetic cells.” Program Director Steve Peretti said he “would like to see the community exploit synthetic cell technology in new application areas.” 

Opportunities to Learn More

Garza and Peretti are holding a Virtual Office Hour on Designer Cells and other new opportunities on November 17, 2021 at 2 PM EST.  You can register here

Dark Dimensions of the RNA Regulome (D2R2) – An Ideas Lab Activity (22-510)

NSF announces their support of a new Ideas Lab (NSF-22-510) to bring together interdisciplinary groups of investigators to explore new solutions to elucidate the function of parts of the genome.

Ideas Labs are intensive, facilitated workshops to find innovative solutions to grand challenge problems. The grand challenge problem here: can we make sense of biological dark matter? Specifically, what is the evolutionary and functional significance of non-coding RNA transcripts?

Image of lightbulb

Large parts of eukaryotic genomes, so-called “dark” regions, are transcribed into RNAs that do not encode proteins. We know very little about this part of the genome even though there are signatures of evolutionary conservation, unusual structural features, and/or non-random expression patterns that are suggestive of functional roles.

This Ideas Lab will bring together a diverse set of researchers from multiple disciplines during a 5-day in-person retreat to stimulate generation and execution of innovative research proposals that will advance our understanding of the origin, diversity, and functions of non-coding RNAs. A wealth of new biology awaits discovery, aided by innovations from other disciplines, as participants make progress on deciphering how the dark dimensions of the RNA regulome help shape and regulate the form and function of life on Earth.

The D2R2 Ideas lab will take place from June 13-17, 2022. It will be an in-person event at a location to be determined in Northern Virginia.

A two-page pre-proposal is required for all participants, due by January 31, 2022. Full details are available in the solicitation.

Q&A Session for the Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) Program Announced

The NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology (PRFB) program will be hosting a question and answer session 2 weeks prior to the PRFB Deadline. The Q&A session will be Nov. 16th, from 3-4 pm Eastern Time.  The PRFB deadline is December 6th, 2021.

Please register in advance for the webinar below, and share this invitation with anyone you think may be interested:

https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_Ogehn040SjGXPePi3GjeSg

Research and Mentoring for Postbaccalaureates in Biological Sciences (RaMP)

The Research and Mentoring for Postbaccalaureates (RaMP) in Biological Sciences program invites the submission of proposals to establish networks to support full-time research, mentoring, and training for recent college graduates who have had few or no research or training opportunities during college in research fields typically supported by the Directorate of Biological Sciences. Individuals from groups underrepresented in STEM, first generation college students, and students at under-resourced institutions frequently have limited opportunities to participate in the undergraduate research experiences that are necessary to be competitive for graduate programs or other STEM career pathways. This program will provide research experiences through RaMP networks.

The full proposal deadline is January 20, 2022.

Proposals submitted under this solicitation should focus on research-based inquiry projects that include analytical and technical training and professional development opportunities.

If you would like further information about this solicitation, please visit NSF 22-506. You can also learn more about RaMP on BIO Buzz, the blog of NSF’s Office of the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences.

Details of this funding opportunity will be featured, along with the new Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) program opportunity, in the upcoming IOS Virtual Office Hour on November 18, at 1pm ET.

Register at https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_QJdSn2DFQUOpIFOu_oW-Cg.

Learn more about this new BIO opportunity: Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) Solicitation NSF 22-500

BRC-BIO is a new solicitation intended to enhance research capacity and broaden participation of new faculty of biology at minority-serving institutions (MSIs), predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs), and other universities and colleges that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive and resourced institutions.

Some key information from the solicitation:

  • Primary investigators must hold at least a 50% tenure-track (or tenure-track equivalent) position as an assistant professor (or equivalent rank), who are untenured, have both research and teaching components to their appointment, and are within the first three years of their appointment.
  • Proposed projects should enable the establishment of research programs for new faculty to position them to apply for future grants to sustain their research and should also enrich undergraduate research experiences and thereby grow the STEM workforce.
  • Projects can include biology-focused research collaborations among those in academia, or partnerships with industry or other non-academic partners that advance the PI’s research program.
  • Beyond what is typically requested in BIO core proposals, budgets may include up to $50,000 equipment and funds to buy out teaching time in each year of the project.

Upcoming Opportunities to Learn More

Details of this funding opportunity will be featured, along with the new Research and Mentoring for Postbaccalaureates in Biological Sciences (RaMP) NSF 22-506 opportunity, in the upcoming IOS VOH on November 18, at 1pm ET. Register at https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_QJdSn2DFQUOpIFOu_oW-Cg.

You can also learn more about RaMP on BIO Buzz, the blog of NSF’s Office of the Assistant Director for Biological Sciences.

We also encourage institutions targeted in this solicitation to inquire about scheduling a virtual outreach event for faculty and administrators at your institution or in your region to learn details about this new opportunity. All questions should be directed to BRC-BIO@nsf.gov.  

Note: The initial submission window for BRC-BIO is January 3 through January 31, 2022. Please see the solicitation for subsequent submission windows.