New NSF Solicitation: Understanding the Rules of Life, Epigenetics

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Solicitation  18-600



Full Proposal Deadline Date

    February 1, 2019



In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of “Big Ideas,” 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering (see The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Division of Emerging Frontiers in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO/EF), once received, the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors.

The purpose of the Understanding the Rules of Life: Epigenetics (URoL:Epigenetics) program is to enable innovative research and to promote multidisciplinary education and workforce training in the broad area of epigenetics. The URoL:Epigenetics program is a wide collaboration across Directorates/Offices within the National Science Foundation with a focus on understanding the relationship between epigenetic mechanisms associated with environmental change, the resultant phenotypes of organisms, and how these mechanisms lead to robustness and adaptability of organisms and populations.

Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL): Predicting Phenotype is one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas and is focused on predicting the set of observable characteristics (phenotype) from the genetic makeup of the individual and the nature of its environment. The development of new research tools has revolutionized our ability to manipulate and investigate the genome and to measure multiple aspects of biological, physical, and social environments. The opportunity now is to assimilate this new information into causal, mechanistic, and/or predictive relationships between the genomic and epigenetic makeup, the environmental experience, and the phenotypic characteristics of biological systems. These relationships are the basis for the Rules of Life – the theoretical constructs that explain and predict the characteristics of living systems, from molecular and sub-cellular components, to cells, whole organisms, communities and biomes.

The recognition that heritable phenotypic properties can occur without modification of an organism’s genome sequence is changing the understanding of the way heritable traits come about and manifest themselves as observable phenotypes within a particular static or changing environmental context. The impact of epigenetic inheritance occurs at the molecular, cellular, and organismal scales, and may have profound consequences for the higher-order organization of living systems, such as populations, communities, and ecosystems.

Successful projects of the URoL:Epigenetics Program are anticipated to use complementary, interdisciplinary approaches to investigate how epigenetic phenomena lead to emergent properties that explain the fundamental behavior of living systems. Ultimately, successful projects should identify general principles ("rules") that underlie a wide spectrum of biological phenomena across size, complexity (e.g., molecular, cellular, organismal, population) and temporal scales (from sub-second to geologic) in taxa from anywhere within the tree of life. URoL:Epigenetics projects must integrate perspectives and research approaches from more than one research discipline (e.g., biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geology, mathematics, physics, social and behavioral sciences). The interdisciplinary scope of URoL:Epigenetics projects also provides unique training and outreach possibilities to train the next generation of scientists in a diversity of approaches and to engage society more generally.  

The URoL:Epigenetics Program offers 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.


What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)


Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program

NASA Glenn- 1st Black Women in Engineering Science and Technology Summit

Event date(s): Friday, June 9, 2017 to Thursday, August 17, 2017
Location: NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH

Announcing the 1st Annual Black Women in Engineering Science & Technology Summit in Cleveland, OH at NASA Glenn Research Center.

Summit Dates

August 15–17, 2017


Interested presenters should submit no more than a one-page abstract by June 9, 2017 via email to Anita Alexander (Anita [dot] L [dot] Alexander [at] nasa [dot] gov).  (See specifications below)


Abstract Submission Deadline  

June 9, 2017

Notification of Acceptance

June 16, 2017

Final Presentation Slide Deck Due

July 14, 2017


For more information, download the Call for Abstracts here.

This summit organizing committee includes: Anita Alexander (GRC) (Anita [dot] L [dot] Alexander [at] nasa [dot] gov); Gynelle Steele (GRC) (Gynelle [dot] C [dot] Steele [at] nasa [dot] gov); Betsy Lavelle (GRC) (Betsy [dot] E [dot] Lavelle [at] nasa [dot] gov); Constance Meadors (ASGC) (cymeadors [at] gmail [dot] com)

Solicitation Released: NSF INFEWS

Event date(s): Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Location: NSF

Program Title:

Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS)

Program Deadline:

March 22, 2016

Synopsis of Program:

Humanity is reliant upon the physical resources and natural systems of the Earth for the provision of food, energy, and water. It is becoming imperative that we determine how society can best integrate across the natural and built environments to provide for a growing demand for food, water and energy while maintaining appropriate ecosystem services. Factors contributing to stresses in the food, energy, and water (FEW) systems include increasing regional and social pressures and governance issues as result of land use change, climate variability, and heterogeneous resource distribution. These interconnections and interdependencies associated with the food, energy and water nexus create research grand challenges in understanding how the complex, coupled processes of society and the environment function now, and in the future. There is a critical need for research that enables new means of adapting to future challenges. The FEW systems must be defined broadly, incorporating physical processes (such as built infrastructure and new technologies for more efficient resource utilization), natural processes (such as biogeochemical and hydrologic cycles), biological processes (such as agroecosystem structure and productivity), social/behavioral processes (such as decision making and governance), and cyber elements. Investigations of these complex systems may produce discoveries that cannot emerge from research on food or energy or water systems alone. It is the synergy among these components in the context of sustainability that will open innovative science and engineering pathways to produce new knowledge and novel technologies to solve the challenges of scarcity and variability.

The overarching goal of INFEWS is to catalyze the well-integrated interdisciplinary research efforts to transform scientific understanding of the FEW nexus in order to improve system function and management, address system stress, increase resilience, and ensure sustainability. The NSF INFEWS initiative is designed specifically to attain the following goals:

  1. Significantly advance our understanding of the food-energy-water system through quantitative and computational modeling, including support for relevant cyberinfrastructure;
  2. Develop real-time, cyber-enabled interfaces that improve understanding of the behavior of FEW systems and increase decision support capability;
  3. Enable research that will lead to innovative system and technological solutions to critical FEW problems; and
  4. Grow the scientific workforce capable of studying and managing the FEW system, through education and other professional development opportunities.

This activity enables interagency cooperation on one of the most pressing problems of the millennium - understanding interactions across the food, energy and water nexus - how it is likely to affect our world, and how we can proactively plan for its consequences. It allows the partner agencies - National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA) and others - to combine resources to identify and fund the most meritorious and highest-impact projects that support their respective missions, while eliminating duplication of effort and fostering collaboration between agencies and the investigators they support.

NSF and USDA/NIFA are interested in promoting international cooperation that links scientists and engineers from a range of disciplines and organizations to solve the significant global challenges at the nexus of food, energy and water systems. Proposals including international collaboration are encouraged when those efforts enhance the merit of the proposed work by incorporating unique resources, expertise, facilities or sites of international partners. The U.S. team's international counterparts generally should have support or obtain funding through other non-NSF sources.

Below are the members of the INFEWS Working Group responsible for internal oversight of this solicitation. All questions regarding proposal submissions should be directed toINFEWSquestions [at] nsf [dot] gov or the program officers on the track teams responsible for the different tracks. See program description for descriptions of the different tracks. A complete list of the program officers on these track teams can be found on the program website

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

  • Thomas Torgersen, Co-Chair, Directorate for Geosciences, telephone: 703-292-4738, email: ttorgers [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • JoAnn Lighty, Co-Chair, Directorate for Engineering, telephone: 703-292-5382, email: jlighty [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • David Corman, Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering, telephone: 703-292-8754, email: dcorman [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Alan Tessier, Directorate for Biological Sciences, telephone: 703-292-7198, email: atessier [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Carol Bessel, Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences, telephone: 703-292-4906, email: cbessel [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Robert O'Connor, Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, telephone: 703-292-7263, email: roconnor [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • David Campbell, Directorate for Education & Human Resources, telephone: 703-292-5093, email: dcampbel [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Lara Campbell, Office of International Science and Engineering, telephone: 703-292-7049, email: lcampbel [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Audrey Levine, Office of Integrative Activities, telephone: 703-292-7374, email: alevine [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Rachel Melnick, USDA/NIFA, telephone: 202-401-4980, email: rmelnick [at] nifa [dot] usda [dot] gov
  • Bruce Hamilton, Directorate for Engineering, telephone: 703-292-7066, email: bhamilto [at] nsf [dot] gov
  • Patrick Harr, Directorate for Geosciences, telephone: 703-292-8523, email: pharr [at] nsf [dot] gov