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$731K Awarded to Early Career Scientists to Examine the Intersection of Biology and Physical Science

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Research Corporation for Science Advancement awarded 13 grants to five teams of investigators as part of 2015 Scialog: Molecules Come to Life. These grants, totaling $731K, enable awardees to pursue ambitious, high-risk, highly impactful discovery research on untested ideas in physical cell biology. Each investigator will receive $56,250 and work in teams of two or three.

The teams were formed at a Scialog conference called “Molecules Come to Life,” held at Biosphere 2 north of Tucson, Arizona. Scialog (Science + Dialog) is a conference format developed by Research Corporation for Science Advancement to support intensive dialog, team building and an “on-the-spot” research competition for newly formed collaborations at the conference.

During the meeting, nearly 50 leading young scientists from divergent fields of biology and physical sciences engaged in intensive discussions designed to produce creative ideas. While at the meeting, these early-career researchers formed teams and worked through the night to draft a new, blue-sky, high-risk research proposal that addresses a pressing question underlying complex biological phenomena.

“This conference and resulting awards exemplify our high-risk, high-reward approach to tackling important scientific problems in basic research,” said Moore Foundation program officer Gary Greenburg. “Through this endeavor, we are building a community of researchers that embrace the different approaches that biologists and physical scientists, theorists and experimentalists bring to bear on important biological questions, while extending our understanding of the physical biology of cells.”

The 2015 awardees are:

Building an Artificial Motile Tissue through Self-Organized Rhythmic Contractility

  • Michael Rust, University of Chicago
  • Jennifer Ross, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Rae Robertson-Anderson, University of San Diego

Immersive DNA Force Sensors and Predictive Mechanical Modeling for Tissue Morphogenesis

  • Justin Kinney, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Lisa Manning, Syracuse University
  • Margaret Gardel, University of Chicago

Rebooting the Gut Microbial Ecosystem using Bacterial Dueling

  • Raghuveer Parthasarathy, University of Oregon
  • Brian Hammer, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Joao Xavier, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Uncovering Essential Gene Functions by Exploiting Differentiation within a Biofilm

  • Gurol Suel, University of California, San Diego
  • K.C. Huang, Stanford University

Rethinking the Idea of Cell Type

  • Grégoire Altan-Bonnet, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Pankaj Mehta, Boston University

“Scialog aims to encourage collaborations between theorists and experimentalists,” said RCSA program director Richard Wiener. “And, we encourage approaches that are driven by theory and coarse-grained modeling, that are testable by experiments. Our goal is nothing less than major scientific advances by the best and brightest early career researchers.”

The five teams selected were recommended by an organizing committee of distinguished scientists, including four members of the National Academy of Sciences.

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation believes in ideas that create enduring impact in the areas of science, environmental conservation and patient care. Intel co-founder Gordon and his wife Betty established the foundation to create positive change around the world and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit or follow @MooreFound.

About Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Research Corporation for Science Advancement ( was founded in 1912 and is the second-oldest foundation in the United States (after the Carnegie Corporation) and the oldest foundation for science advancement. Research Corporation is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in America’s colleges and universities. 

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