Project Details


The National Synthesis Center for Emergence in the Molecular and Cellular Sciences (NCEMS) is a national resource driving innovation by enabling interdisciplinary teams of scientists to synthesize diverse data and computational methodologies to gain deeper and broader insights into living systems. Recognizing the untapped potential in the unprecedented growth of data on the smallest scales in biology, NCEMS will catalyze and support a suite of activities to understand how new cellular features and phenomena central to life emerge from the properties and interactions of molecules. Initially, NCEMS will focus on characterizing emergent properties at the mesoscale – defined as the spatial scale between molecules and cellular organelles – and their influence on higher order subcellular and cellular systems. The center will accomplish this mission by accelerating synthesis research across themes, including: (1) emergence of mesoscale biomolecular organization and function, (2) data-driven discovery of emergent properties, (3) dissection of emergent properties through cross-species comparisons, (4) modeling emergent properties using dense mesoscale data, and (5) applying cross-cutting data science techniques including Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. NCEMS will realize its vision to expedite large-scale synthesis research and open new frontiers in molecular and cellular biosciences by lowering barriers to diverse data integration by scientists across different disciplines, supporting transfer of methodologies across fields, and ensuring that working knowledge is widely available. In parallel, NCEMS will advance training and broad participation of the community in data-intensive science by integrating innovative and inclusive learning approaches in all center activities. NCEMS is a transformative force in data-driven research on emergent properties in molecular and cellular systems. The center's scientific vision is to understand the appearance of new biological system properties at different scales of composition, space, time, energy, information, and motion. The complexity and lack of understanding of mesoscale phenomena and the availability of vast amounts of publicly available data spanning molecular to phenotypic properties make this an ideal initial focus for the center. These data continue to be generated at a prodigious rate through next-generation sequencing, mass spectrometry, Cryo-EM and -ET, imaging, and high-throughput biochemical techniques on diverse organisms under many conditions. NCEMS leverages the data and brings together scientists with diverse expertise and perspectives from the physical, biological, and data sciences, and supports them with computational and human resources to tackle the most confounding synthesis questions and pursue pathbreaking ideas in this area. Specifically, NCEMS supports the community in carrying out team and open science; enables collaboration through cloud-agnostic cyberinfrastructure provided by CyVerse at the University of Arizona; provides training in essential elements of data science, machine learning, statistics, and reproducible science; and offers nationwide opportunities to participate in NCEMS research remotely. NCEMS is also building a robust program for undergraduate students, particularly those underrepresented in STEM disciplines, to participate in synthesis research and benefit from mentorship and experiential learning opportunities. Initial partners in this program include Claflin, Alcorn State, and Fayetteville State Universities. All NCEMS educational activities emphasize broad participation of the community through workshops, training events, and research-based learning opportunities aimed at developing a workforce competent in computational and data sciences.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date5/1/244/30/29


  • National Science Foundation: $19,999,000.00


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