Cross-Disciplinary Workshops on Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention

The directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO); Computer Information Science and Engineering (CISE); Engineering (ENG); Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE); and the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) at NSF are jointly supporting a series of interdisciplinary workshops (Feb. 16-17; Feb. 22-23; Feb 25-26; additional workshops planned) to engage research communities around the topic of Predictive Intelligence for Pandemic Prevention.

The workshops will bring together experts in the biological, engineering, computer, and social and behavioral sciences to start conversations and catalyze ideas on

  • how to advance scientific understanding beyond state-of-the-art in pre-emergence and emergence forecasting; and
  • real-time monitoring, and detection of inflection point events in order to prevent and mitigate the occurrence of future pandemics.

Each workshop is expected to have up to 50 invited active participants. The community can participate in a listen-only mode and interact through chat and Q&A functions. Individuals are encouraged to participate in as many workshops as possible, as each will cover a different aspect of the topic and all will be interdisciplinary in nature.

Registration info and agendas for each workshop are available at

Workshop 1 (Feb. 16-17, 2021): Rapidly detect and assess the threat of emerging pathogens through advanced biosensing, surveillance, and the tracking of human and non-human populations for risk modeling and pandemic preparedness. Agenda

Workshop 2 (Feb. 22-23, 2021): Understanding of how the global behavior of an organism emerges from the interactions that begin occurring between components at the molecular, cellular, and physiological scales. Agenda

Workshop 3 (Feb. 25-26, 2021): Description: Identification of pre-emergence and the predictions of rare events in multiscale, complex, dynamical systems. Agenda

Additional workshops are currently being planned. Stay tuned.

Sharing MCB Science: The Dynamic Transcriptional Response to Oxidative Stress

A common source of molecular damage in organisms is through oxidation, which can occur through natural processes, such as aerobic respiration, and from exposure to toxins such as ultraviolet radiation or pollution. Molecules that cause oxidation, known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), cause damage to proteins and DNA in cells and create a cell state of oxidative stress. In a recent study published in PLOS Genetics, MCB-funded investigator Dr. Amy Schmid and her team of researchers at Duke University describe the hierarchical dynamic response to oxidative stress in archaea, a single-cell model organism which has a gene regulation system similar to bacteria and eukaryotic cells.

This dynamic response controls the expression of over 100 genes whose RNA and protein products work to repair cellular damage caused by exposure to ROS. A key characteristic of this response is the presence of regulatory proteins which facilitate a sequential process to control damage repair. First, the proteins target genes to address cellular damage, then target genes to restore normal cellular function. Because the regulatory proteins involved in the response to stress are of a hybrid ancestry, these findings suggest that the evolution of gene networks may have been influenced by environmental forces, such as oxidative stress. When asked about the broader implications of her work, Dr. Schmid responded, “The results demonstrate that regulatory proteins of ancient evolutionary ancestry in archaea provide mechanistic links between various stress responses as well as between the regulatory network and its effects on cell physiology (e.g. transcriptional regulation, metabolic activity, growth rate, and cell morphology). These results have made significant progress in understanding gene network function, how it may be integrated with cell physiology, and how the network may evolve in response to stress throughout the tree of life”

The reported research was conducted by a team of varied experience and comprised graduate student Peter Tonner, research associates Adrianne Pittman and Kriti Sharma, and undergraduate researcher Jordan Gulli. As a result, trainees were integrated into research that addressed open questions in the fields of microbiology and mathematical modeling. In addition, the Schmid group hosts undergraduate students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities for summer research experiences and teaches a weeklong immersion course for high school students in collaboration with K-12 teachers. In this course, an interdisciplinary team of computational and experimental graduate students teaches high school students about mathematical modeling of microbial growth and response to oxidative stress.