BioDesign DCL Through the new BioDesign DCL, the MCB Core Programs aim to facilitate the translation of knowledge generated through research in the biological and engineering sciences to solutions and prototypes needed for societal and economic impacts.
Specifically, the DCL seeks to:
Encourage early-stage, transdisciplinary collaboration of two or more investigators doing research in biological and engineering sciences with the potential for bioinspired design applications; and
Accelerate the translation of research findings into projects with potential societal and economic impacts that could be ready for commercialization.
Both full proposals and supplemental funding requests will be accepted. All submissions should test hypotheses about the functioning of living things that are of interest to biologists and engineers; create an iterative process between foundational and use-inspired research to create a design that solves a practical problem; and develop prototypes based on these activities as part of a process of exploring pathways to larger societal and economic benefits.
Additional participating programs in the BIO, ENG, and TIP Directorates are listed at the end of the DCL. Investigators are strongly encouraged to speak to a participating program director (listed with email contacts in the BioDesign DCL) before submitting a proposal or supplemental funding request.
Convergence Accelerator Track M
This DCL alerts the community to an upcoming solicitation from NSF’s Convergence Accelerator with three tracks, including Track M: Bio-Inspired Design Innovations (the other tracks are also BIO-relevant so check them out). Track M aims to bring together cross-sector teams to develop concepts, approaches, and technologies that capitalize on millions of years of evolution to find novel solutions to major societal and economic challenges. The track was chosen based on the results of an NSF-funded community workshop on Bio-Inspired Design. Broad topics within this track may include – but are not limited to – the following:
Development of materials with features such as programmable self-assembly, multi-modal sensing, computation, memory, adaptation, and healing and regenerative capabilities.
Novel manufacturing capabilities that harness advances in synthetic biology, bioengineering, nanofabrication, and 3D printing.
Engineering complex systems with novel properties based on principles of synthetic biology, bioengineering, and robotics or organismal biology (e.g., organoids, microbial consortia, collective swarms).
Computational modeling and theory-enabled methods and tools for bio-inspired designs.
Applications in areas including, but not limited to, environmental monitoring, bioremediation and preservation, sustainable materials, biological manufacturing, personalized healthcare, resilient infrastructure, and agriculture and food production.
Broader impacts associated with NSF grants come in all forms and address issues such as:
public understanding of the science NSF funds
engaging the next generation of elementary school children in science to nurture the excitement of our future generation of science leaders
bringing computational science education to the biological sciences at the undergraduate level to ensure that the newest biologists to enter the field can succeed at the quantitative, predictive, theory driven cell and molecular biological sciences that NSF supports.
This week, the Editors share an example of Broader Impacts from a researcher supported by MCB that addresses the issue of unconscious bias and gender equity in science.
As part of her broader impacts, Dr. Karen Fleming, professor of Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University, is hosting a series of professional workshops focusing on gender equity in science. The goal of these workshops is to empower women in the STEM fields with tools for success. The workshops do this by facilitating a dialogue between graduate students, postdoctoral students and faculty members on diversity topics highlighted by readings from the social psychology literature. Topics covered to date include: unconscious bias, the confidence gap, and emotion in the workplace.
In her first workshop, Dr. Fleming discussed Jo Handelsman’s 2011 PNAS paper entitled “Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students.” This paper investigated women and men faculty’s response to hiring a male or female for a laboratory manager position based on the exact same application except the first name was either John or Jennifer. One extraordinary finding from this paper that contradicts what many would expect is that both men and women faculty discriminated against the female applicant. The reason for this observation is thought to be unconscious bias, which has been another subject of one of Dr. Fleming’s workshops. Prior to this meeting, attendees were encouraged to measure their own unconscious biases using online modules put forth by Project Implicit. Another key finding from the literature that was discussed this year included the confidence gap. Systematic confidence differences between men and women are documented – women exhibit a tendency to underrate themselves, while men overrate themselves. This confidence gap becomes detrimental to a woman’s career when it hinders her ability to take action in the workplace. The most recent workshop considered the topic of emotion in the workplace. This is not viewed equally for both genders: studies have shown that men and women displaying emotion in the workplace are rewarded and penalized, respectively.
After a brief review of the findings of each journal article, the studies are discussed in-depth along with the applications of the findings to the social context of academia. Although current graduate students have raised concerns about the future of equity in the academic science workplace, tenured faculty have noted the leaps towards gender equity that have occurred in the past decades. Discussions have concluded that fostering an attitude of awareness, openness, and accountability of both men and women in science will aid in achieving gender equity in science. Before these workshops were available at JHU, there were few opportunities to regularly discuss these issues because neither unconscious bias nor gender equity training is mandatory in the sciences at many universities, JHU included.
Future seminars in the 2015 academic calendar include a panel of tenured women faculty in various science departments who will answer questions and comment on their experiences with gender equity in science. Further reading and links to the primary literature mentioned above can be found on Dr. Karen Fleming’s blog on achieving gender equity in science.