Jumpstart Big Questions



Thank you for the submission of your questions at our Town Halls. NSF clustered, sometimes renamed and organized your questions into the broad areas below.

1) What is the unexplored potential in biological evolution?

  • Evolution provides researchers with “endless forms”; how does a deeper understanding of this diversity facilitate understanding the rules of life?

2) How do biological traits and phenotypes scale across life?

  • How do self-assembly, complexity, and integrated systems emerge at various levels in biology?
  • What mechanisms enable the success of biological entities comprising large numbers (e.g. cells in the brain, individuals in a population, populations within an ecosystem)?
  • Is there a general framework for understanding emergent properties when scaling from molecules to ecosystems?

3) How do biological entities interact and communicate through life?

  • How is information transferred and transformed within and across discrete levels of biological organization, and over time?
  • How does communication across the biological hierarchy impact phenotype?
  • How is information protected in a changing environment?
  • What is the nature and potential of information content in non-genetic material?

4) How do biological species and systems achieve resilience and robustness?

  • How do mechanisms leading to resilience and robustness scale from molecules to ecosystems?
  • How do these mechanisms enable stability and flexibility?
  • What principles of resource utilization enable defense or exploitation?
  • How do we connect mechanisms elucidated in the laboratory to the natural world?

5) How do we predict structure and function in biology?

  • How do self-assembly, complexity, and integrated systems emerge at various levels in biology?
  • How can knowledge from model systems accelerate understanding of biological diversity?
  • How do we share, leverage and refine new knowledge and technological advances?

6) How could we manipulate biological systems to further understand the rules of life?

  • How do we maintain coherence across scales?
  • How do we share, leverage and refine new knowledge and technological advances?
  • What principles will drive the balance between desired and unanticipated outcomes?


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