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Science Philanthropies Fund Research at the Interface of Physics and Biology

TUCSON, AZ -- Three science-oriented U.S. philanthropies have come together to award grants to six teams comprised of 15 individual investigators -- $963,750 in all -- probing fundamental physical processes at the cellular level essential to living organisms.

The research teams were formed in April during Scialog: Molecules Come to Life, a cross-disciplinary conference with a unique format focused on science dialog, sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Additional funding is being provided by the Simons Foundation.

“Scialog aims to encourage collaborations between theorists and experimentalists,” said RCSA Senior Program Director Richard Wiener. “And, we want to catalyze the development of a community in which theory informs experiment, with both working together to achieve understanding of fundamental cellular processes.”

In the process, Scialog Fellows work toward the goals of identifying bottlenecks and finding avenues for breakthroughs, added Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Program Officer Gary Greenburg. 

The April meeting in Tucson, Arizona was the second Scialog conference on the connection between molecular phenomena and phenomena at the cellular systems level. The first, in 2015, resulted in awards to five teams of 13 investigators for a total of $731,000.

The latest round of Scialog awards – $50,000 direct funding per investigator – go to the following teams:

Moumita Das, Rochester Institute of Technology, Daniel Needleman, Harvard University, and Douglas Weibel, University of Wisconsin, Madison - Heteroplasmy: population dynamics of mitochondria in mammalian cells

Seppe Kuehn University of Illinois, and Paul Blainey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology - High-dimensional context dependence of a ubiquitous ecological interaction

Alvaro Sanchez, Yale University, and Pankaj Mehta, Boston University - What constrains microbial diversity? Deriving new ecological principles for the microbial world  

Kimberly Reynolds, University of Texas – Southwestern, and Adilson Motter, Northwestern University - Conditional gene essentiality as a function of cell metabolic state

Adriana Dawes, The Ohio State University, Matthew Ferguson, Boise State University, Dinah Loerke, University of Denver, and Megan Valentine, University of California, Santa Barbara - Deconstructing the cell’s mechanical circuits

Ibrahim Cissé, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Moumita Das, Rochester Institute of Technology,  Megan Valentine,  University of California, Santa Barbara, and Ali Yanik, University of California, Santa Cruz - Commoditizing advanced molecular imaging techniques

Scialog conferences are attended by 50 early career Scialog Fellows and 10 distinguished senior scientists. They include a limited number of keynote presentations to outline the outstanding research challenges in the multidisciplinary field of focus, and many small group discussions to encourage participant interactions. Scialog Fellows have the opportunity to form teams and write collaborative proposals “on-the-spot” to seed highly innovative ideas that emerge from the dialog.

The next Scialog: Molecules Come to Life conference is scheduled for April 27-30, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona.


About Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) 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. RCSA is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in America’s colleges and universities.

Media Contact:

Dan Huff

Director of Communications

Research Corporation for Science Advancement



About The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit or follow @MooreFound.

Media Contact:

Aditi Risbud, Ph.D.

Science Communications Officer

O 650.213.3024


About the Simons Foundation

The Simons Foundation is a private foundation based in New York City, co-founded by James and Marilyn Simons in 1994. The Simons Foundation's mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Anastasia Greenebaum

Director of Communications



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