Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Core Programs

MCB supports research that promises to uncover the fundamental properties of living systems across atomic, molecular, subcellular, and cellular scales. The program gives high priority to projects that advance mechanistic understanding of the structure, function, and evolution of molecular, subcellular, and cellular systems, especially research that aims at quantitative and predictive knowledge of complex behavior and emergent properties. MCB encourages research exploring new concepts in molecular and cellular biology, while incorporating insights and approaches from other scientific disciplines, such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics, to illuminate principles that govern life at the molecular and cellular level. MCB also encourages research that exploits experimental and theoretical approaches and utilizes a diverse spectrum of model and non-model animals, plants, and microbes across the tree of life. Proposals that pursue potentially transformative ideas are welcome, even if these entail higher risk.

This solicitation calls for proposals in research areas supported by the four MCB core clusters, including: (i) structure, dynamics, and function of biomolecules and supramolecular assemblies, especially under physiological conditions (Molecular Biophysics); (ii) organization, processing, expression, regulation, and evolution of genetic and epigenetic information (Genetic Mechanisms); (iii) cellular structure, properties, and function across broad spatiotemporal scales (Cellular Dynamics and Function); and (iv) systems and/or synthetic biology to study complex interactions through modeling or manipulation or design of living systems at the molecular-to-cellular scale (Systems and Synthetic Biology). All MCB clusters prioritize projects that integrate across scales, investigate molecular and cellular evolution, synergize experimental research with computational or mathematical modeling, and/or develop innovative, broadly applicable methods and technologies. Projects that bridge the intellectual edges between MCB clusters are welcome. Projects that integrate molecular and cellular biosciences with other subdisciplines of biology are also welcome through the new Integrative Research in Biology (IntBIO) track.

MCB strives to achieve key goals laid out in the NSF Strategic Plan. Among these goals are: (i) to empower Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talent to fully participate in science and engineering; (ii) to enable creation of new knowledge by advancing the frontiers of research and enhancing research capability; and (iii) to benefit society through translation of knowledge into solutions. In line with these goals, MCB seeks to increase the diversity of individuals and institutions in the molecular and cellular biosciences community we support. Hence, to be competitive, proposers must be intentional regarding broadening participation in their projects through efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion of individuals traditionally underrepresented in STEM and of types of institutions, such as Minority-serving Institutions (MSIs), Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), two-year colleges, institutions in jurisdictions associated with the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), as well as major research institutions.

Also aligned with the NSF Strategic Plan, MCB encourages basic research ideas that are inspired by curiosity and/or by their potential use for societal benefit, especially pertaining to pressing challenges such as, but not limited to climate change, clean energy, feeding the world sustainably, or health. With regard to health-related challenges, it should be noted that research using biomedical model systems to address questions of basic scientific interest is permissible. However, in accordance with the PAPPG,MCB does not normally support biological research on mechanisms of disease in humans, including on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of disease or disorder. Similarly, MCB does not normally support biological research to develop animal models of such conditions or testing of procedures for their treatment. Proposals motivated by such disease-related goals will be returned without review.