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NSF 11-010

Dear Colleague Letter: Unsolicited Proposals at the Interface of the Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences

This document has been archived and replaced by NSF 12-057.

Divisions within the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) have seen increasing numbers of proposals in recent years that focus on biological systems at all levels of biological organization, ranging from the sub-cellular level to the environment. At the same time, divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) are receiving significantly more proposals that incorporate approaches and address questions that have traditionally been the domain of the mathematical and physical sciences. BIO and MPS therefore recognize that it is vital for biological, mathematical, and physical scientists to increase their collaborations, both in new research efforts and in ongoing research projects, to advance the frontiers of discovery and innovation. While many strong, vibrant interactions currently exist between the two directorates, this letter is to remind our research communities that MPS and BIO strongly encourage proposals from interdisciplinary research teams that involve collaborations among investigators from the biological, mathematical, and physical sciences and foster new interactions that span interfaces between MPS and BIO. Areas of potential mutual interest to MPS and BIO include:

  • Physical and chemical mechanisms and mathematical/statistical theories that underlie biological processes
  • The physical, chemical, mathematical and statistical basis of biology involving one or more levels of biological interaction or complexity
  • The physical, chemical, genetic, and epigenetic principles that constrain how living systems adapt to changing environments

Unsolicited research proposals, depending on their scientific focus, can be submitted to the CHE Chemistry of Life Processes Program, the DMR Biomaterials Program, the DMS Mathematical Biology Program, the PHY Physics of Living Systems Program, or to any of the divisions within the Directorate for Biological Sciences. Investigators are encouraged to contact appropriate program directors to discuss their research topic and objectives prior to submitting a proposal. Proposals that address the interface between the biological, mathematical and physical sciences should include the label "MPS-BIO:" at the beginning of the proposal title. Such proposals will be jointly considered by appropriate program directors in both MPS and BIO. PIs should also consult the following NSF web sites for additional information:

Chemistry (Submission windows July 1-31 and November 1-30 annually):

Materials Research (Submission window September 1-October 31 annually):

Mathematical Sciences (Submission window December 18-January 13 annually):

Physics (Target date July 31 annually):

Biological Infrastructure (Deadlines vary-please see webpage):

Environmental Biology (Deadlines January 9 and July 9 annually):

Integrative Organismal Systems (Deadlines January 12 and July 12 annually):

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (Deadlines January 12 and July 12 annually):

Proposals must be submitted in accordance with the deadlines and proposal submission windows specified for unsolicited proposals for the respective programs.

For questions related to programs within MPS, please contact:

  • Division of Chemistry, Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP), Dr. David Berkowitz, 703-292-4938,

  • Division of Materials Research, Biomaterials (BMAT), Dr. David Brant, 703-292-4941,

  • Division of Mathematical Sciences, Mathematical Biology, Dr. Mary Ann Horn, 703-292-4879,

  • Division of Physics, Physics of Living Systems (PoLS), Dr. Krastan Blagoev, 703-292-4666,

For questions related to programs within BIO, please contact:

  • Division of Biological Infrastructure, Dr. Anne Maglia, 703-292-7380,

  • Division of Environmental Biology, Dr. Samuel Scheiner, 703-292-7175,

  • Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, Dr. William Zamer, 703-292-7871,

  • Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, Dr. Richard Rodeward, 703-292-7140,



Dr. Joann Roskoski
Assistant Director (Acting)
Directorate for Biological Sciences


Dr. H. Edward Seidel
Assistant Director
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences