This document has been archived. For current NSF funding opportunities, see
for Biological Sciences
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
The Division of Molecular and Cellular
Biosciences (MCB) supports research and related activities that contribute
to a fundamental understanding of life processes at the molecular, subcellular,
and cellular levels.
Investigator-initiated research proposals are considered
in the following clusters: Biomolecular Systems, Cellular Systems, and
Genes and Genome
Systems. Programs in MCB also support fundamental studies leading to
technological innovation, proposals with substantial computational
and multidisciplinary and small group research. MCB programs particularly
encourage submission of proposals involving microbial biology, plant
biology, theoretical and computational aspects of molecular and cellular
studies, and molecular evolution. Genomic approaches are encouraged
in all areas. The Division also coordinates a special BIO-wide competition
for Microbial Observatories and Microbial Interactions and Processes.
In addition, the Division supports a variety of NSF-wide activities
Biocomplexity in the Environment, Information Technology Research, Science
and Technology at the Nanoscale, and Foundation-wide activities designed
to promote integration of research and education, such as the Faculty
Early Career Development (CAREER) and the Research in Undergraduate
Institutions (RUI) Programs.
This cluster emphasizes the structure, function, dynamics, interactions,
and interconversions of biological molecules. The context for such studies
can range from investigations of individual macromolecules to the large-scale
integration of metabolic and energetic processes. Research supported
by this cluster includes development of cutting-edge technologies integrating
theoretical, computational, and experimental approaches; the study of
biological molecules and their functional complexes; mechanistic studies
of the regulation and catalysis of enzymes and RNA; and higher-order
characterization of the biochemical processes by which all organisms
acquire, transform, and utilize energy from substrates. This cluster
emphasizes the importance of multidisciplinary research carried out at
the interfaces of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer
science, and engineering.
The cluster includes the scientific themes of molecular biochemistry,
molecular biophysics, and metabolic biochemistry.
• Cellular Systems
This cluster supports research on the structure, function, and regulation
of plant, animal, and microbial cells and their interactions with the
environment and with one another. Areas supported include studies of
the structure, function, and assembly of cellular elements, such as the
cytoskeleton, membranes, organelles, intracellular compartments, intranuclear
structures, and extracellular matrix, including eukaryotic and prokaryotic
cell walls and envelopes. In addition, support is provided for the study
of intracellular and transmembrane signal transduction mechanisms and
functions; and cell-cell signaling processes, including those that occur
in biofilms. Research on cellular recognition and self-defense mechanisms
is included. Research utilizing both traditional and innovative methodologies,
multidisciplinary approaches, technique development, computation and
modeling, and approaches that exploit genomic information is encouraged.
Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of cellular systems, including
research carried out at the interfaces of biology, physics, chemistry,
mathematics, and computer science and engineering are also encouraged.
The cluster includes the scientific themes of cellular organization
and signal transduction and cellular regulation.
The Microbial Observatories and Microbial Interactions and Processes competition is also housed in this cluster. This expanded activity supports
integrative studies that explore novel microorganisms, their interactions
in consortia and communities, and aspects of their physiology, biochemistry,
and genomics in relationship to the processes that they carry out in
• Genes And Genome Systems
This cluster supports studies on genomes and genetic mechanisms in
all organisms, whether prokaryote, eukaryote, phage, or virus. Proposals
on the structure, maintenance, expression, transfer, and stability of
genetic information in DNA, RNA, and proteins, and how those processes
are regulated, are appropriate. Areas of interest include genome organization,
molecular and cellular evolution, replication, recombination, repair,
and vertical and lateral transmission of heritable information. Of equal
interest are the processes that mediate and regulate gene expression,
such as chromatin structure, epigenetic phenomena, transcription, RNA
processing, editing and degradation, and translation. The use of innovative
in vivo and/or in vitro approaches, including biochemical, physiological,
genetic, genomic, and/or computational methods, is encouraged, as is
research at the interfaces of biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics,
and computer science and engineering.
This cluster includes the scientific themes of eukaryotic genetics,
microbial genetics, and the biochemistry of gene expression.