Funding & Service

HBCU – EiR Informational Webinars: April 15 and 21

Two informational webinars on the HBCU-EiR solicitation are scheduled. One will be held April 15, 10-10:30 am EST. The other will take place April 21, 2-2:30 pm EST. Read the text below for information on how to register.

In April, MCB will offer two informational webinars reviewing relevant highlights of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Excellence in Research (HBCU – EiR) solicitation (NSF 20-542). The webinars will introduce the solicitation and encourage prospective principal investigators to communicate closely with program directors before submitting a Letter of Intent and will feature program directors from each of the four divisions of NSF’s Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO):

  • MCB – Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
  • DBI – Division of Biological Infrastructure
  • DEB – Division of Environmental Biology
  • IOS – Integrative and Organismal Systems

Faculty from eligible institutions are encouraged to attend the webinar. To register and receive the Zoom meeting link, please click on the following links for the session you wish to attend.


In June, MCB will also offer webinar-based, interactive workshops on proposal-writing and the merit review process to HBCU faculty and staff interested in submitting a proposal to the EiR solicitation. MCB has provided these workshops to HBCU institutions for the past two years, and they are making a difference.

Information about the June workshops will be emailed to department chairs or grants offices at HBCUs in the next few weeks. If you work at an HBCU and wish to receive these emails directly, email your request to webreg@nsf.gov. Please share this information with appropriate faculty and staff.

IMPORTANT UPDATES TO THE CAREER SOLICITATION

image saying "Update!" Image credit: SergioVas/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: SergioVas/Shutterstock.com

The Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) solicitation (NSF 20-525) contains key updates this year:

  • A single deadline has been implemented for all directorates. The deadline is July 27, 2020 and the fourth Monday of July annually thereafter.
  • Principal Investigators must hold at least a 50% tenure-track or equivalent position as an assistant professor to be eligible to apply.
  • This year’s applicants must meet all eligibility criteria as of July 27; future applicants must meet all eligibility criteria by each year’s respective deadline of the fourth Monday of July.

The CAREER Program offers the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty. Each year, NSF also selects nominees for the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from recent CAREER awardees. Approximately 500 CAREER awards are made each year; the total anticipated funding amount for this year’s awards is $250,000,000.  

To assist applicants in meeting the deadline, NSF has developed supplementary guidance on key milestones to complete before submitting your CAREER proposal. For example, CAREER proposals submitted through Grants.gov should be submitted by July 17 to allow for the additional processing required before they can be accepted by NSF. If submitting through FastLane or Research.gov, submit by July 20 to allow time for resolving any system errors and also to avoid high volume delays at NSF’s Help Desk.

New Solicitation: Future Manufacturing

an image of a welding assembly. Image credit: SasinTipchai/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: SasinTipchai/Shutterstock.com

In response to the Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing, a report by the National Science & Technology Council, NSF has released a new solicitation, Future Manufacturing (FM) (NSF 20-552). This solicitation aims to support fundamental research and education of a future workforce that will enable manufacturing that does not exist today or exists at such small scales that it is not viable (“Future Manufacturing”).

The solicitation is relevant to basic research in biology, says Dr. Elebeoba May, program officer in the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster. “This solicitation encourages interdisciplinary research that pushes the boundaries of what is currently possible in manufacturing. With respect to the biosciences, this is an opportunity to investigate how biology ‘manufactures’ from the molecular to the macroscale and use those insights to inform next-generation manufacturing products and practices.”

There are three thrust areas for FY20 submissions: Future Cyber Manufacturing Research, Future Eco Manufacturing Research, and Future Biomanufacturing Research. Additionally, the solicitation will support the following three award tracks:

Future Manufacturing Research Grants (FMRG) (two types)
Type I — $500,000 to $750,000 per year for up to five years,
Type II — $750,000 to $2,000,000 per year for up to five years; and
Future Manufacturing Seed Grants (FMSG)
Awards in this track will provide support for up to two years at a level not to exceed $250,000 per year; and
Future Manufacturing Networks (FMNet)
Awards in this track will provide up to five years of support at a total amount of $500,000.

Letters of intent are due April 10, 2020, with full proposals due June 5, 2020. Full details on program priorities, program officer contact information, and submission requirements can be found in the solicitation. A webinar will be held on Thursday, Mar. 26. Details will be available later.

Dear Colleague Letter on COVID-19

A new Dear Colleague Letter on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (NSF 20-052) invites non-medical, non-clinical-care research proposals that seek to explore how to model and understand the spread of COVID-19; to inform and educate about the science of virus transmission and prevention; and to encourage the development of processes and actions to address this global challenge.

Proposals may be submitted through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism as well as through existing funding opportunities.

For more information, please read the full Dear Colleague Letter and reference the FAQs. All questions about this DCL should be directed either to a program officer managing an NSF program with which the research would be aligned or to rapid-covid19@nsf.gov.

Dear Colleague Letter: Plant Synthetic Biology

A new Dear Colleague Letter (NSF 20-045) was released to highlight NSFs interest in supporting the plant synthetic biology community through already existing programs. The Biology and Engineering Directorates support the community through funding synthetic biology basic research, tool development and applications, and proposals that emphasize the potential outcomes with benefits to society.

Proposals can be submitted to the Divisions of: Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS), Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB), and Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET). Proposals should be titled with the preface “PlantSynBio:” and submitted to the program most closely related to the proposed research. These programs all accept proposals without deadlines. For more information on topics of interest, contact information, and background see DCL 20-045.

MCB Workshop-based Webinars are Making a Difference

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences will host a series of workshop-based webinars on proposal writing for researchers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) this June. While most of the information presented is applicable to any potential proposal-writer, the webinars focus on the Research Initiation Awards (RIA) and the Excellence in Research (EiR) tracks of the HBCU-Undergraduate Programs (HBCU-UP) solicitation NSF 20-542. The goal of the webinars is to foster relationships with principal investigators (PIs) at HBCU institutions and to increase the number and competitiveness of proposals submitted to the EiR track of the HBCU-UP solicitation (NSF 20-542). An invitation to participate will be emailed to every HBCU that lists a life-sciences department contact on its website.

A total of 79 unique participants from 32 unique HBCU institutions have participated in the two previous webinars, held in 2018 and 2019. Participants gain a deeper understanding of the merit review process, participate in a mock proposal review, discuss tips for writing strong proposals, and interact with program directors from all divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO). 

Initially launched in 2018 by Dr. Casonya Johnson, a former program director in the Genetic Mechanisms cluster, the webinar has been well-received. Over 94% of the participants in last year’s workshop said they would recommend the workshop to a colleague. As a whole, the respondents agreed that they felt well prepared to develop a competitive proposal for submission to the National Science Foundation after completing the webinar. A preliminary analysis of proposal submissions from 2018 to 2019 finds that the percentage of proposals submitted by participating institutions rose from 7% in 2018 to 14% in 2019.

MCB continues to seek opportunities to help faculty and staff at under-represented institutions to increase the competitiveness of proposal submissions for all solicitations offered by MCB. Interested faculty are encouraged to contact their respective department chairs for registration details if they have not received information by April 8 or email mcbwebreg@nsf.gov. Details and registration information will also be posted here on the MCB blog.

MCB CAREER Awardee “Confab”

On October 28-29, 2019, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) hosted the first annual CAREER Awardees Conference, which was attended by 36 current principal investigators. The conference enabled awardees to share information on their research and broader impact programs with each other and NSF staff, discuss current and future directions in molecular and cellular biological sciences, and form new connections within the MCB CAREER awardee community.

The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-wide funding opportunity for early-career faculty. Recipients of the prestigious, five-year award are selected for their potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the missions of their respective departments or organizations.

The conference, anchored by seminars and a poster session, included activities to foster networking and stimulate collaborations amongst awardees. Program officers from each of the four divisions within the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO), as well as from the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), presented flash talks informing attendees about how MCB interfaces with other programs within NSF. Conference organizer Manju Hingorani (Program Director, Genetic Mechanisms cluster, MCB) noted that an important goal of the conference was for the attendees to come away with new ideas on advancing their research and educational programs.

The responses from attendees were overwhelmingly positive. “This has been a fantastic opportunity to meet other scientists across domains and feel better connected to the NSF,” said one. “Learning outside my area of expertise” was most rewarding, noted another. The conference gave one attendee “several new ideas that I am itching to try out. I also linked up with two to three people for potential collaborations” – a sentiment expressed by many others as well.

MCB plans to host this conference annually for CAREER awardees in their second and fifth years of the five-year award period in order to facilitate knowledge transfer between scientists at different points in their academic careers.  If you would like to find out more about the program, please visit the CAREER website. If you have questions or are interested in applying to the program, please contact a Program Director in MCB.

CHANGES TO THE EDGE SOLICITATION

The two tracks for submission to the “Enabling Discovery through GEnomic Tools (EDGE)” solicitation (NSF 20-532) have changed. EDGE now supports research in all BIO divisions — which includes the division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB).

The two tracks are titled “Functional Genomic Tools” and “Complex Multigenic Traits.”

The Functional Genomic Tools track combines the comprehensive and targeted tracks from the previous EDGE solicitation (NSF 19-527) and is intended for proposals aimed at developing tools for gene manipulation and/or phenotyping, analytical approaches or infrastructure to overcome one or more blocks to direct tests of gene function on demand.

The Complex Multigenic Traits track is for proposals focused on hypothesis-driven research to understand causal mechanisms connecting genomes and complex multigenic organismal phenomes across a variety of environmental, developmental, social, and/or genomic contexts.

Contact a relevant program director for more information. Read the full solicitation for submission guidelines. There is no letter of intent required and proposals are accepted at any time.

Supplemental Funding Pays

Did you know that supplemental funding awards are available to help cover unexpected costs that arise during the course of NSF-funded research? Supplements allow a Principal Investigator to accomplish the original scope of the parent award when unforeseen circumstances occur.  Read on to find out how a supplemental equipment award enabled Dr. Mechthild Pohlschröder to continue her research.

Dr Pohlschroder's graduate student in front of a microscope next to a computer with biofilm samples displayed on the screen
Dr. Pohlschröder’s graduate student Zuha Mutan using the new camera to examine biofilm samples.

As a professor and the undergraduate chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pohlschröder’s lab investigates how archaea, specifically Haloferax volcanii, forms biofilms, a common phenomenon where microorganisms aggregate, allowing them to survive in harsh environments.

Earlier this year, when a neighboring lab moved to a new location on campus, the Pohlschröder lab lost access to shared resources, including a microscope camera used to capture high-quality images of cells and structures, an essential component of the research funded by NSF (NSF 1817518).  A supplemental award enabled the lab to purchase a Leica DFC9000 digital camera, enabling the Dr. Pohlschröder’s group to continue with their pioneering work on archaea.

The new camera will also benefit the lab’s outreach and educational activities, which have broader impacts in the surrounding community. Dr. Pohlschröder’s science education programs reach middle and high school students across the Philadelphia metro area, including in underserved schools in West Philadelphia. The lab develops microbiology experiments designed for schools with limited resources. Further strengthening its reach, the Pohlschröder lab hosts training workshops for science teachers from Philadelphia and other cities, so that good science can reach even more students. The new, state-of-the-art imaging technology will play a role in advancing all of these outreach activities.

If you currently have an award from MCB and are interested in learning more about supplemental funding, please contact a Program Director in MCB to discuss.

From The AD: New Funding Opportunities for Understanding the Rules of Life

Dear Colleagues,

BIO is excited to announce to the biological sciences community two new funding opportunities under the Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) Big Idea: 1) Epigenetics and 2) Microbiome Theory and Mechanisms (MTM). The URoL Big Idea seeks to create a new paradigm at the convergence of science, engineering, and technology that will elucidate theoretical frameworks (rules) to enable prediction of the diversity of evolutionary solutions that biological systems use to support life processes seen across the planet. The National Science Foundation has recently invested $36 million in the first projects under the URoL portfolio from two separate solicitations and across more than thirty institutions.

The Epigenetics and MTM opportunities represent a collaboration across Directorates and Offices within the National Science Foundation. Specifically, Epigenetics intends to enable innovative research and promote multidisciplinary education and workforce training in the broad area of epigenetics, while MTM aims to understand and establish theory and mechanisms that govern the structure and function of microbiomes.

Integrative perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline are welcomed, as this is a cross-Directorate effort. The interdisciplinary scope of both programs aims to provide unique training and outreach opportunities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of scientific approaches and to engage society more generally.

Both programs offer two submission tracks:

  • Track 1 – for projects with a total budget of up to $500,000 and an award duration of up to 3 years, and
  • Track 2 – for projects with a total budget of up to $3,000,000 and award duration of up to 5 years.

For complete details on deadlines and submission guidelines, refer to the Epigenetics program website or contact the Epigenetics Team (epigen@nsf.gov), and the MTM program website or the MTM Team (microbiome@nsf.gov).

BIO looks forward to continuing working on this cross-Directorate venture.

Sincerely,

Image of the signature of Dr. Joanne Tornow, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

Joanne Tornow, PhD
Assistant Director for Biological Sciences

Re-posted from Bio-Buzz