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NSF Career Compass Challenge Deadline is Dec. 31

The NSF Career Compass Challenge is a two-part, cash-prize competition seeking innovative solutions to modernize the American workforce. The Challenge addresses the changing nature of work with the goal of improving the workforce capacity to adapt to changing technologies and meet evolving workforce needs. Solvers are asked to go beyond the traditional “career path” thinking and “strategic workforce planning” methodology and to focus on concurrent learning and re-skilling for adults currently in the workforce. Solvers must beat least 14 years old; teachers are encouraged to enter on behalf of their classes.

In Part 1 of this challenge, solvers are asked to submit a concept white paper describing a solution to the challenges of continuous workforce re-skilling and the desire for increased mobility within and between NSF and other Federal agencies (and perhaps even the private sector) as an example. Between one and five papers will be selected, with a one-time cash prize of $5,000 per team. Winning concept papers will be posted on the challenge.gov site. The deadline for Part 1 is Dec. 31, 2018.

In Part 2 of the challenge, solvers are invited to develop a working prototype for government testing and evaluation. The prototype will be based on the winning concepts submitted in Part 1. The team submitting the selected prototype will be awarded a one-time cash prize of $75,000.

Full details and information on how to submit your ideas are available by clicking the “How to enter” tab on the Career Compass Challenge site.

Paid Internship: EBRC Industry Partnership Program

The Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC) invites PhD candidates at U.S. universities and colleges and small- to medium-sized biotechnology companies to apply for a four-month-long paid internship program to take place this summer (May-Sept). The goal of the program is to better prepare students to enter the “next generation biotech workforce.”

Interns will work on company-designed research projects and professional development activities to build stronger laboratory/analysis skills. Applications are due January 14, 2019.

EBRC is a non-profit, public-private partnership formed to advance the field of synthetic biology, connecting industrial and research communities to catalyze leading-edge research and education programs. EBRC is co-funded by the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences and by the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems under NSF award #1818248.

Focus on Graduate Student Career Preparation: NSF Research Traineeship (NRT)

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The NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program is seeking proposals that address the development and implementation of bold, new, and potentially transformative models for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate education training.

Letters of Intent, which are required, may be submitted between Nov. 25-Dec. 6 and annually thereafter.

Full proposals are due Feb. 6, 2019 and annually thereafter.

Proposals are requested in any interdisciplinary or convergent research theme of national priority, with special emphasis on the research areas in NSF’s 10 Big Ideas. The10 Big Ideas include Understanding the Rules of Life, an area of interest to the Directorate of Biology and the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.

The NRT program addresses workforce development, emphasizing broadening participation and institutional capacity building needs in graduate education. Strategic collaborations with the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, national laboratories, field stations, teaching and learning centers, informal science centers, and academic partners are encouraged.

NRT especially welcomes proposals that pair well with the efforts of NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES). INCLUDES aims to develop STEM talent from all sectors and groups in our society. Collaborations are encouraged between NRT proposals and existing NSF INCLUDES projects, provided the collaboration strengthens both projects.

Read the solicitation (NSF 19-522) for details.

Statement from the Acting Assistant Director for Biological Sciences on proposal submission limits

In August, the BIO directorate released new solicitations to its proposal submission process to eliminate deadlines and limit the number of proposals that could be submitted to a given division annually by a PI or co-PI. As BIO was receiving far more worthy proposals than it has money to support, this submission cap was established with a view to ensuring that BIO’s merit review process would not be overwhelmed with the move to no deadlines.

In the ensuing three months, the community expressed serious concern that this new policy would hinder collaboration as well as limit funding prospects for new investigators. BIO places a high value on collaboration and on fostering careers of new investigators; thus, we held internal discussions to consider ways to address these concerns. In addition, relatively few proposals have been submitted to BIO since the release of the solicitations.

Having listened to community concern and tracked the current low rate of submission, and following extensive internal consultation, BIO is lifting all PI or co-PI restrictions on proposal submission for FY 2019, effective immediately.

BIO recognizes that it is important to track the effects of the no-deadline policy on proposal submission patterns, to ensure that a high-quality review process is sustained. Therefore, we are seeking approval from the Biological Sciences Advisory Committee to establish a subcommittee to assist in developing the evidence base for any future policy changes that may be needed.

Solicitations for proposals will be amended and released over the next few weeks to reflect these changes.

Special BIO Advisory Committee Meeting to be held 11/16

A recent update from the BIO OAD Blog: “The BIO advisory committee will hold a special meeting on Friday, November 16th from 2:30-4:30 PM to discuss immediately establishing a subcommittee to consider different options for addressing community concerns with the BIO proposal submission limits.

This meeting will be held via teleconference among the Advisory Committee members. Public visitors will be able to attend the meeting in person at NSF headquarters; please contact Alexis Patullo at apatullo@nsf.gov to request a visitor badge.

For more information on this meeting, please visit the NSF BIO Advisory Committee page.”

MCB Program Director Devaki Bhaya Named Fellow of California Academy of Sciences

Devaki is smiling into the camera and holding up a framed certificate from the California Academy of Sciences

MCB warmly congratulates Dr. Devaki Bhaya, Program Director in the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster, for being recently named a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. The honor was extended to a total of 14 researchers this year for their significant contributions to science or science education and communication. Fellows are nominated by their peers and selected by the Academy’s board as individuals whose research aligns with the Academy’s mission to “explore, explain, and sustain life”.

Dr. Bhaya is a research staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA, and holds a courtesy appointment as a Professor of Biology at Stanford University, Stanford, CA. Dr. Bhaya says, “I am thrilled to be elected a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, an organization that couples a remarkable natural history museum with a lively research institute.  My innumerable visits to the California Academy with friends, students, and family, have always been memorable and now I hope to participate more actively.”

Dr. Bhaya was selected for the Academy in part due to her work using molecular tools to understand how photosynthetic bacteria interact with their environment. More about the Academy and its newest group of Fellows is available via their website; more information about Dr. Bhaya and her research can be found on her lab web page.

 

AccelNet Letters of Intent due Dec. 21!

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Letters of intent for NSF 19-501, Accelerating Research through International Network-to-Network Collaborations (AccelNet), are due December 21.

AccelNet is a new solicitation that invites proposals creating international networks-of-networks in research areas aligned with either one of NSF’s Big Ideas or a community-identified scientific challenge with international dimensions. The networks-of-networks is intended to develop strategic links between U.S. research networks and complementary networks abroad. These networks could help address scientific challenges through the broader research and educational resources made available through international collaboration.

The program seeks to foster high-impact science and engineering by providing opportunities to create new collaborations and new combinations of resources and ideas among linked global networks. The goals of the AccelNet program are to:

  • accelerate the process of scientific discovery; and
  • prepare the next generation of U.S. researchers for multiteam international collaborations.

Letters of Intent are due December 21, 2018. For more information, read the solicitation.

Supplemental Funding Opportunity: INTERN

Attention, Principle Investigators and graduate students! DCL 18-102 provides up to $55,000 per student in funding for up to six months to allow recipients to participate in research-based internships in STEM or STEM education research fields in non-academic settings.* The goal is to enable students to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences that prepare them for entry into non-academic careers. This opportunity is open to PIs who are supporting graduate students through any active NSF award. To be eligible, a graduate student must have completed at least one academic year in their graduate (master's or doctoral) program and be making satisfactory progress towards degree completion. For a description of the activities supported, visit the announcement page, then contact your program officer to discuss your proposal. *Principle investigators who currently hold an active award from MCB may also apply directly to MCB with a supplemental funding request.

Attention, Principal Investigators and graduate students! DCL 18-102 provides up to $55,000 per student in funding for up to six months to allow recipients to participate in research-based internships in STEM or STEM education research fields in non-academic settings.* The goal is to enable students to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences that prepare them for entry into non-academic careers.

This opportunity is open to PIs who are supporting graduate students through any active NSF award. To be eligible, a graduate student must have completed at least one academic year in their graduate (master’s or doctoral) program and be making satisfactory progress towards degree completion.

For a description of the activities supported, visit the announcement page, then contact your program officer to discuss your proposal.

*Principal investigators who currently hold an active award from MCB may also apply directly to MCB with a supplemental funding request.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry

Congratulations to MCB funded-researcher Dr. Frances Arnold, recipient of the 2018 Noble Prize in chemistry. Dr. Arnold is honored for her role in developing the field of directed evolution. As a researcher at California Institute of Technology, Dr. Arnold based her work on the principles of evolution to improve enzyme function; she used error prone polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to introduce random mutations in a gene of interest, introduced those genes into an E. coli library, allowed the mutants to compete, and selected for mutants that improved function. Enzymes optimized through this process can improve results anywhere enzymes are used such as: medicine, biotechnology, biofuels, research, industrial production, and home cleaning and processing applications.

“Dr. Arnold transformed the field of protein engineering and did so at a time when there were very few women in the field.  She combatted gender bias in academia by excelling and demonstrating to those of us who followed her that it was possible,” observed Theresa Good, Deputy Division Director of MCB. Dr. Arnold’s award brings the total number of female awardees in chemistry to five of 180 recipients, representing 2.8 percent of awards in chemistry; the percent of all Nobel Prizes awarded to women is slightly less than six percent.

This year’s award is shared with Dr. George P. Smith, University of Missouri, and Dr. Gregory Winter, Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, for their work on phage display. Click on the link to read the Statement on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry by NSF Director Dr. Frances Córdova.

New Funding Opportunities: Rules of Life Solicitations

a picture of a hand dripping drops of water onto a small plant with dramatic sunlight in the backgroundThe National Science Foundation recently announced two new solicitations: Understanding the Rules of Life: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600), and Understanding the Rules of Life: Building a Synthetic Cell (NSF 18-599). These NSF-wide opportunities are part of Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype, one of NSF’s 10  “Big Ideas” for future investment.

 

A headline banner reading "Understanding the rules of life: epigenetics" underneath of which is a cartoon of a short strand of DNA wrapped around three histones like three beads on a single string

Understanding the Rules of Life: Epigenetics (NSF 18-600) invites proposals which investigate heritable biological or chemical mechanisms that produce a phenotypic effect without alteration of the DNA sequence.  Projects must integrate education perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline (e.g., biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geology, mathematics, physics, social and behavioral sciences).

Full proposals are due February 1, 2019 and can be submitted in one of two submission tracks:

(1) award duration of up to 3 years and a total budget of $500,000 or

(2) award duration of up to 5 years and a total budget of $3,000,000.

The specifics of the program priorities and areas of emphasis, as well as additional limitations and guidelines, can be found in the full solicitation.

 

A title banner reading "understanding the rules of life: building a synthetic cell" over an image of a plant root tip with each cell glowing green due to GFP attached to the cell wall

Understanding the Rules of life: Building a Synthetic Cell: An Ideas Lab Activity (NSF 18-599) invites researchers to apply to participate in an inter-disciplinary Ideas Lab focused on facilitating innovative research projects for designing, fabricating, and validating synthetic cells that express specified phenotypes. Up to $10,000,000 of funding is available for successful project proposals resulting from the Ideas Lab.

Building a synthetic cell is a grand challenge at the interface between biological, mathematical, computer and physical sciences and engineering.  Meeting this challenge requires simultaneous careful exploration of the social and ethical dimensions of such research as well as educating today’s students to engage in the activities and technologies required to develop and use synthetic cells.

To apply to this program, researchers should:

  • submit preliminary proposals due December 28, 2018,
  • participate, if selected, in the Ideas Lab workshop to be held February 25 – March 1, 2019, and
  • if invited to do so, submit, as part of a team, a full proposal due May 13, 2019.

Full details regarding the specifics of the research ideas, proposal limitations, and the application process can be found in the full solicitation.