Biomechanics and Mechanobiology

National Science Foundation (NSF)

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Deadline: Rolling

Grant amount: US $5,000 - US $400,000

Fields of work: Biomechanics

Applicant type: Organizations, Faculty, Research Scientist

Funding uses: Research

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: United States


The Biomechanics and Mechanobiology (BMMB) program is part of the Mechanics of Materials cluster within the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation.

The BMMB program supports fundamental and transformative research that advances our understanding of engineering biomechanics and/or mechanobiology. The program emphasizes the study of biological mechanics across multiple domains, from sub-cellular to whole organism. Distinct from conventional engineering materials, the program encourages the consideration of diverse living tissues as smart materials that are self-designing.

BMMB projects must have a clear biological component, a clear mechanics component, and must improve our understanding of the mechanical behavior of a living system. Investigations of the mechanical behavior of biological molecules, cells, tissues, and living systems are welcome. An important concern is the influence of in vivo mechanical forces on cell and matrix biology in the histomorphogenesis, maintenance, regeneration, repair, and aging of tissues and organs. The program is also interested in efforts to translate recent biomechanical and mechanobiological discoveries into engineering science.

Multiscale mechanics approaches are encouraged but not required. Projects may include theoretical, computational, or experimental approaches, or a combination thereof. NSF does not support clinical trials; however, feasibility studies involving human volunteers or animal subjects may be supported if appropriate to the scientific objectives of the project.

Proposals should address the novelty and/or potentially transformative nature of the proposed work compared to previous work in the field. Also, it is essential to address why the proposed work is important in terms of engineering science, and to state the potential impact of success in the research on society and/or industry.

Innovative proposals outside of these specific areas of biomechanics and mechanobiology will be considered. However, prior to submission of particularly unique topics, it is strongly recommended that Principal Investigators (PIs) contact the program director to discuss how the proposed work fits within the scope of the program and avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.

Related programs also fund certain aspects of biomechanics and mechanobiology research, and PIs are encouraged to examine these to find the appropriate program for submission. Proposals with a heavy emphasis on tissue engineering or developing validated models of tissue and organ systems should consider the Engineering of Biomedical Systems (EBMS) program.Projects addressing biological questions about the physiological mechanisms and structural features of organisms should consult the Physiological Mechanisms & Biomechanics (PMB) program.Projects elucidating aspects of neural control may consider the Perception, Action, & Cognition (PAC) program or the Mind, Machine, and Motor Nexus (M3X) program if the project contains work relevant to human-machine interaction. Projects in rehabilitation engineering should consider the Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering (DARE) program. Projects focused on fundamental research related to design, characterization, and modification of biomaterials should consider the Biomaterials (BMAT) program. Manufacturing systems proposals should consider the Advanced Manufacturing (AM) program. Work on the interplay between structure, dynamics, and function of biomolecules without advancing our understanding of the mechanics of a living system should consider the Molecular Biophysics program. Researchers who believe their work may span multiple programs are particularly encouraged to contact the cognizant program directors well in advance of submission.

The duration of unsolicited proposal awards is generally up to three years; proposals for a shorter duration are welcome. Single-investigator award budgets typically include support for one graduate student (or equivalent trainee) and up to one month of PI time per year (awards for multiple investigator projects are typically larger). Proposal budgets or durations that are much larger than typical should be discussed with the program director prior to submission.

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  • Except where a program solicitation establishes more restrictive eligibility criteria, individuals and organizations in the following categories may submit proposals:
    • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members.
      • IHEs located outside the US fall under paragraph 6. below.
      • Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs
        • If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.
    • Non-profit, Non-academic Organizations -Independent museums, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations located in the US that are directly associated with educational or research activities.
    • For-profit Organizations - US commercial organizations, especially small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education.
      • An unsolicited proposal from a commercial organization may be funded when the project is of special concern from a national point of view, special resources are available for the work, or the proposed project is especially meritorious.
      • NSF is interested in supporting projects that couple industrial research resources and perspectives with those of universities; therefore, it especially welcomes proposals for cooperative projects involving both universities and the private commercial sector.
    • State and Local Governments - State educational offices or organizations and local school districts may submit proposals intended to broaden the impact, accelerate the pace, and increase the effectiveness of improvements in science, mathematics and engineering education in both K-12 and post-secondary levels.
    • Unaffiliated Individuals - Unaffiliated individuals in the US and US citizens rarely receive direct funding support from NSF.
      • Recipients of Federal funds must be able to demonstrate their ability to fully comply with the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.
      • As such, unaffiliated individuals are strongly encouraged to affiliate with an organization that is able to meet the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200.
      • Unaffiliated individuals must contact the cognizant Program Officer prior to preparing and submitting a proposal to NSF.
    • Foreign organizations - NSF rarely provides funding support to foreign organizations.
      • NSF will consider proposals for cooperative projects involving US and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the US portion of the collaborative effort.
      • In cases however, where the proposer considers the foreign organization’s involvement to be essential to the project (e.g., through subawards or consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain why local support is not feasible and why the foreign organization can carry out the activity more effectively.
      • In addition, the proposed activity must demonstrate how one or more of the following conditions have been met:
        • The foreign organization contributes a unique organization, facilities, geographic location and/or access to unique data resources not generally available to US investigators (or which would require significant effort or time to duplicate) or other resources that are essential to the success of the proposed project; and/or
        • The foreign organization to be supported offers significant science and engineering education, training or research opportunities to the US.
    • Other Federal Agencies - NSF does not normally support research or education activities by scientists, engineers or educators employed by Federal agencies or FFRDCs. Under unusual circumstances, other Federal agencies and FFRDCs may submit proposals directly to NSF.
      • A proposed project is only eligible for support if it meets one or more of the following exceptions, as determined by a cognizant NSF Program Officer:
        • Special Projects. Under exceptional circumstances, research or education projects at other Federal agencies or FFRDCs that can make unique contributions to the needs of researchers elsewhere or to other specific NSF objectives may receive NSF support.
        • National and International Programs. The Foundation may fund research and logistical support activities of other Government agencies or FFRDCs directed at meeting the goals of special national and international research programs for which the Foundation bears special responsibility, such as the US Antarctic Research Program.
        • International Travel Awards. In order to ensure appropriate representation or availability of a particular expertise at an international conference, staff researchers of other Federal agencies may receive NSF international travel awards.
      • Proposers who think their project may meet one of the exceptions listed above must contact a cognizant NSF Program Officer before preparing a proposal for submission.
        • In addition, a scientist, engineer or educator who has a joint appointment with a university and a Federal agency (such as a Veterans Administration Hospital, or with a university and a FFRDC) may submit proposals through the university and may receive support if he/she is a faculty member (or equivalent) of the university, although part of his/her salary may be provided by the Federal agency.
        • Preliminary inquiry must be made to the appropriate program before preparing a proposal for submission.

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This page was last reviewed May 22, 2023 and last updated May 22, 2023