CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas.

Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are intended to foster entirely new directions of research by teams of scientists that ignore departmental boundaries. Up to six adventurous investigations may be funded each year. The period of the award is two years, with a starting date within three months of the announcement of the selected projects.

Awards will be distributed twice yearly following the proposal and review process, typically in April and October.

Key dates for upcoming cycle:

30 June 2017

Proposals due

late summer 2017 Announcement of awards

Proposals will be confidential and will be seen only by the review panel and Headquarters staff in Development. Unless the scientists state a preference otherwise on their cover page, these proposals will be shared with the Development department after the review panel, for potential efforts to raise funds for the projects.

Please address the following questions in your proposal (2 pages maximum after the cover page, 1-inch margins, at least 11-point font):

  • What question does this work aim to address, and why is it important?
  • Why are this team and this approach well suited to investigate this question? How does the project differ from prior work, on this topic and by the participating scientists?
  • What is the potential for discovery or technological innovation with the work proposed?
  • What does the team expect to be the greatest challenges? How will the team measure success?
  • What critical resources would this award enable? Describe the budget.

Review process:

The review panel will consist of representatives from each department along with members of the Board of Trustees, and Science Deputy Margaret Moerchen will serve as chair.

Reporting:

Award recipients will report on their progress at the halfway mark, i.e., after one year, and at the conclusion of the project period. The lifetime of the award begins at the first expenditure. No-cost extensions are possible if approval is sought more than six months before the end of the project period.

Eligibility:

Proposals should be led by at least one Carnegie staff scientist. Teams that include staff from more than one department are encouraged but not required. Collaborations with scientists from outside the Carnegie Institution for Science are fully eligible for these awards. However, the awarded funds may not provide direct support to other institutes (e.g., funds may not support a faculty salary at another institution or the purchase of an instrument that will not ultimately reside at Carnegie; a joint studentship or postdoc is an example of an expense that could be supported).

Criteria:

In reviewing proposals, the panel will consider the following potential strengths and weaknesses. These lists also reflect the discussions of the inaugural panel and their subsequent rankings. Representative comments similar to those made by the panel are given in italics.

What qualities strengthen a proposal?

High scientific quality

Creativity

Demonstration that the problem to be pursued is an important one

    (“I knew nothing about this field before this, but this proposal inspired me to read up on it, and I’m now convinced this is a key issue”)

Cooperative interdisciplinary approaches

     (“Wouldn’t have thought of pairing these scientists up, but for this project it makes perfect sense”)

Innovative techniques or instrumentation

     (“No one has done anything like this before and it’s within our reach”)

Making a clear distinction between the proposed work and past work

     (“This person is in my department, and while it aims at a question they work on now, this is a totally different approach”)

Potential for discovery and/or technical advances

     (“If this worked, it would revolutionize the field”)

Teams that include an unusual combination of skills, whether bridging labs or departments

     (“The two labs involved are indeed in the same department, but their work is night and day”)

     (“This is a great synergy between departments X and Y; can we make more of these connections in the institution?”)

Realistic scale of project for the funds available

 

What qualities weaken a proposal?

Direct extensions of prior work

     (“Proposer is excellent at this work, and this seems like more of the same”)

Teams that reflect already existing collaborations

     (“This standard team will likely do this whether they receive this funding or not”)

Unclear goals OR unclear paths to discovery

     (“So many free parameters that it’s not clear how degeneracy will be broken”)

Lack of exciting concept

     (“This is work worth doing, but it’s not appropriate for this call”)

Too large a project scale for the funding requested

     (“It’s hard to imagine even starting to make headway on this in less than two years”)

High dependency on people outside Carnegie

     (“It seems like most of the work will be done at a remote site and will only be directed from afar by the Carnegie staff scientists”)

Funds may be used for the following:

  • Research staff

  • Graduate/undergraduate students, or postdocs (proposed effort level should be specified, e.g., as FTE fraction)

  • Supplies and reagents

  • Instrumentation and equipment (should be less than ¼ to ⅓ of the budget)

  • Travel for collaborative meetings or conferences, or for inter-departmental visits

Proposals should be submitted to Margaret Moerchen in PDF format by mmoerchen@carnegiescience.edu. Please include a cover sheet (not part of the 2-page limit) that lists the proposal title and all collaborators with their departmental affiliations.
Funding is provided in part by contributions from The Ambrose Monell Foundation and from the Carnegie Board of Trustees.

JANUARY 2017 AWARD

Direct Shock Compression of Pre-synthesized Mantle Mineral to Super-Earth Interior Conditions

Yingwei Fei, a high-pressure experimentalist at the Geophysical Laboratory, and Peter Driscoll, theoretical geophysicist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, have been awarded a Carnegie Science Venture Grant for their project “Direct Shock Compression of Pre-synthesized Mantle Mineral to Super-Earth Interior Conditions.”The project is an entirely new approach to investigate the properties and dynamics of super-Earths—extrasolar planets with masses between one and 10 times that of Earth. They will use the world’s most powerful magnetic, pulsed-power radiation source, called the Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratory, to generate shock waves that can simulate the intense pressure conditions of these enormous bodies. Reaching such high pressures has not been possible before with conventional techniques. The results will be used to develop models and predictions of super-Earth interiors.  Below, Fei and Driscoll are in the lab. The Z Machine is at right. Z Machine Image courtesy Sandia Lab

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SUMMER 2016 AWARDS

Coral calcification and the future of reefsArt Grossman of Plant Biology is teaming up with Global Ecology’s Rebecca Albright, Ken Caldeira and others to develop a new model for understanding how coral calcification works at the cellular/molecular and community levels. This blends fieldwork with understanding the molecular mechanisms that coral use to remove calcium and inorganic carbon from the seawater for calcification. The objective is to create a model to understand how the system is affected by climate change in the face of the growing global coral reef demise. The team will collaborate with the California Academy of Sciences to build a laboratory-based coral model system and focus on the critical larval and metamorphosis period to look at the DNA, RNA and proteins involved when cells begin to calcify. There is also the potential for a biomedical spin-off including the generation of bone material for grafting.  

Far left image below: Healthy coral reefs like this example in the Great Barrier Reef are under severe attack worldwide. The Grossman,/Albright/Caldeira  team will develop a new model for understanding how coral calcification works at the cellular/molecular and community level to understand how the system is affected by climate change. Image courtesy David Kline

How do plants sense temperature and time their flowering?—This team will investigate the molecular mechanisms that control how plants sense temperature changes. Temperature changes affect carbon fixation, development, the timing of flowering, and more. The timing of flowering is particularly important with global temperature rise. Embryology’s Yixian Zheng’s lab recently looked at how a protein whose transition into a liquid state at physiological temperature promoted a cell division process. That protein, BuGZ, belongs to a protein class called intrinsically disordered proteins and is similar to a protein called SUF4 involved in regulating flowering in plants. She is teaming up with David Ehrhardt’s lab in Plant Biology lab to determine if a similar temperature-dependent “phase transition” of SUF4 is required to regulate the flowering process. The Zheng and Ehrhardt labs will tag the protein to observe SUF4 behavior. It is uses temperature-dependent phase transition to regulate the flowering process, it would establish a new paradigm for temperature sensing in biological systems.

Middle two images below: Embryology’s Yixian Zheng’s lab recently looked at how a protein, whose temperature-dependent transition into a liquid droplet state promoted a cell division process. That protein, BuGZ is shown in droplet form (second from left). She is teaming up with Dave Ehrhardt at Plant Biology to see if this transition to a liquid droplet state in a similar protein, SUF4, is involved in the flowering process in the model plant Arabidopsis ( third image from left) .

C-MOOR: The Carnegie Massive Open Online Research Platform—This grant will establish C-MOOR (pronounced “See More!”), an internet resource that allows select Carnegie data sets to be easily accessed and analyzed by citizen scientists. Frederick Tan and Zehra Nizami of Embryology are teaming up with Terrestrial Magnetism’s Alan Boss, Sergio Dieterich and Johanna Teske (also with the Observatories) to combine Carnegie’s experience in cell, molecular, and computational biology expertise with astronomical and astrophysical observations and programming experience. Other like-minded Carnegie researchers are invited to help establish a community website with tutorials, discussion forums, an “Ask a Scientist” query portal, and other engaging features. This platform targets users seeking course credit, scouting, or merit badges as well as those driven by sheer curiosity. 

Top right image below: Most astronomical objects are known only as coordinate and brightness entries in astronomical catalogs. These catalogs have hundreds of millions of entries and the vast majority of them remain unstudied or even unnoticed by scientists. By partnering with citizen scientists to sift through these data we hope to learn more about stars both as individual objects and as a population. This image exemplifies the fact that for every star we study closely, in this case Luhman 16 at the center of the image (number 42), there are countless others that remain as mere numbers in a catalog. Could astronomical secrets be hiding in plain sight in images such as this one? C-MOOR will address this and other questions with the help of citizen scientists.

Bottom right image below: Many of the modifications that occur in our genome are biased towards specific subsets of the 3 billion basepairs that form the fundamental building block of DNA. In this image, red regions represent changes in one type of modification, DNA methylation, that may alter the activity of nearby genes and transposable elements—segments of DNA that jump around—during mouse sperm development.  Carnegie scientists are interested in understanding what predisposes particular regions of the genome to these and other changes. This vast array of information and more can be sifted through by the citizen scientists participating in C-MOOR. Image courtesy of Valeriya Gaysinskaya and Alex Bortvin.

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FALL 2015 AWARDS

SWEET Transporters in Zebrafish
Steven Farber (Dept. of Embryology), Wolf Frommer (Dept. of Plant Biology)
Sugar homeostasis is critical for health – both under- and oversupply cause cellular and organismal damage. The Farber Lab from Carnegie’s Embryology and the Frommer lab from Carnegie’s Plant Biology have joined forces to better understand the regulation of sugar transport in the vertebrate intestine.  A novel sugar transporter discovered in plants (SLC50A; SWEET1) influences plant sugar transport, including plant vein loading, seed filling, gametophyte nutrition and nectar secretion.  Interestingly, SWEET1 is also present in vertebrates and has been shown to transport glucose although we know very little about its specific roles in digestive organs like the intestine.  Here we intend to establish the basis for understanding the role of SWEETs in humans by exploring the role and function of the single zebrafish version of SWEET1. Why are we performing this study in zebrafish?  Because the larval zebrafish is optically clear, so we can deploy fluorescent biosensors, developed in the Frommer lab, that measure sugar levels by changing their fluorescent properties.  The Farber lab has perfected ways of imaging the transport of another key nutrient (lipids) in single zebrafish intestinal cells so with these Frommer lab sensors they can more easily apply these same methods to the study of sugar transport. Currently, it is not possible to study subcellular nutrient transport inside a live digestive organ in a mammal like a mouse or human. We will use state-of-the-art genomic editing to create zebrafish with broken SWEET1 transporters (mutants) and study their phenotype and physiology with the help of theses glucose biosensors. It is our belief that the data from our studies will be relevant in the context of human nutrition, as well as diseases states such as Diabetes.

Carbon Isotope Ratio of Earth's Mantle
Erik Hauri (Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism), Anat Shahar (Geophysical Laboratory), Stephen Elardo (Geophysical Laboratory)
Traditionally, carbon isotopes have been used to trace the movement and cycling of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, and shallow subsurface environments. As high temperatures cause a decrease in equilibrium stable isotope fractionation, it was assumed for decades that carbon isotope fractionation in deep Earth conditions would be negligible. However, this may not be true.The silicate Earth has a carbon isotope signature that is quite different from those of meteorites, and other planetary and asteroidal bodies. However, it is thought that Earth, Mars, and the asteroids all received their volatiles, including carbon, from a similar source. So why is Earth’s carbon isotope ratio so different? Is it plausible that core formation, the single largest physical and chemical event in Earth’s history, could change the carbon isotopic signature of the entire planet? And if so, what would that mean for the composition of the core?We will try to understand this paradox by testing whether the differentiation of Earth’s core from mantle could have been accompanied by a significant shift in the carbon isotopic signature of the mantle by: 1. Determining the carbon isotopic fractionation factor between metal and silicate at high pressure and temperature for the first time, and 2. Placing an independent constraint on the amount of carbon in the Earth’s core.

Mapping Coral Bleaching
Greg Asner, Ken Caldeira, Rebecca Albright, Robin Martin (Dept. of Global Ecology)
Despite covering less than 0.1% of the world’s oceans, coral reefs harbor one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and are valued at ~$30 billion per year. Coral bleaching, a phenomenon whereby warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures stress corals causing them to expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, is one of the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs. In October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) declared the third ever global bleaching event; the epicenter of this event is Hawaii, which is currently experiencing record-breaking bleaching due to ocean warming associated with El Niño conditions. To document the extent of this bleaching event, the Asner and Caldeira labs are joining forces in an exciting new project to apply cutting edge remote sensing techniques to the marine environment. Asner is an expert in ecological remote sensing and has been conducting research in Hawaii for over 20 years. Caldeira is a climate scientist who has been researching the impacts of climate change on coral reefs for nearly two decades. This partnership represents an exciting new direction that promises to unfold relationships between ocean warming and coral stress, providing scientifically robust information to inform decision-makers and guide conservation-management. 

Scientific Area: 

Explore Carnegie Science

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, NASA/JPL-Caltech
September 5, 2017

Washington, DC— New work from a team of Carnegie scientists (and one Carnegie alumnus) asked whether any gas giant planets could potentially orbit TRAPPIST-1 at distances greater than that of the star’s seven known planets. If gas giant planets are found in this system’s outer edges, it could help scientists understand how our own Solar System’s gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn formed.

Earlier this year, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope thrilled the world as it revealed that TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool dwarf star in the Aquarius constellation, was the first-known system of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a single star. Three of these planets are in the so-called habitable zone—

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, Alan Boss
August 3, 2017

Washington, DC— According to one longstanding theory, our Solar System’s formation was triggered by a shock wave from an exploding supernova. The shock wave injected material from the exploding star into a neighboring cloud of dust and gas, causing it to collapse in on itself and form the Sun and its surrounding planets.

New work from Carnegie’s Alan Boss offers fresh evidence supporting this theory, modeling the Solar System’s formation beyond the initial cloud collapse and into the intermediate stages of star formation. It is published by The Astrophysical Journal.

One very important constraint for testing theories of Solar System formation is meteorite chemistry.

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science, RRUFF
August 1, 2017

Washington, DC—Applying big data analysis to mineralogy offers a way to predict minerals missing from those known to science, as well as where to find new deposits, according to a groundbreaking study.

In a paper published by American Mineralogist, scientists report the first application to mineralogy of network theory (best known for analysis of e.g. the spread of disease, terrorist networks, or Facebook connections).

The results, they say, pioneer a potential way to reveal mineral diversity and distribution worldwide, their evolution through deep time, new trends, and new deposits of valuable minerals such as gold or copper.

Led by Shaunna Morrison of the Deep

July 20, 2017

Several of our geochemistry, cosmochemistry, and astrobiology experts at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism and Geophysical Laboratory study the Moon—how it formed and the source of its water and minerals. For Moon day, we're taking a look back at some of our favorite Carnegie Moon news from the past few years. Take a look! 

Research may solve lunar fire fountain mystery

Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon’s surface. Now, scientists from Brown University and the Carnegie Institution for Science have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions.   MORE

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Established in June of 2016 with a generous gift of $50,000 from Marilyn Fogel and Christopher Swarth, the Marilyn Fogel Endowed Fund for Internships will provide support for “very young budding scientists” who wish to “spend a summer getting their feet wet in research for the very first time.”  The income from this endowed fund will enable high school students and undergraduates to conduct mentored internships at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC starting in the summer of 2017.

Marilyn Fogel’s thirty-three year career at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory (1977-2013), followed by four years at the University of California,

Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet environment are scheduled from an approximate orbit of 10 km from the comet. The COSAC instrument is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer that will measure the abundance of volatile gases and organic carbon compounds in the coma and solid samples of the comet.

Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines,

Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines, forging a

Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc conducts a series of research projects on the properties of young and distant galaxies, the large-scale structure of the universe, the nature of Dark Energy—the mysterious repulsive force, the process of star formation at galactic scales, and the measurement of chemical abundances in galaxies.

To conduct this work, he takes a multi-wavelength approach including observations in the UV,

Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also studies mantle plumes; the integration of geodynamics with seismology; geochemistry and mineral physics. He uses parallel computing and scientific visualization in this work.

He received his BS and Ph D from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. Prior to joining Carnegie he was on the faculty of the University of Michigan.

Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates the Earth’s inner core structure; core-mantle coupling; tectonic-volatile cycling; orbital migration—how Earth’s orbit moves—and tidal dissipation—the dissipation of tidal forces between two closely orbiting bodies. He is also interested in planetary interiors, dynamos, upper planetary atmospheres and exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars. He uses large-scale numerical simulations in much of his research

Andrew Newman works in several areas in extragalactic astronomy, including the distribution of dark matter--the mysterious, invisible  matter that makes up most of the universe--on galaxies, the evolution of the structure and dynamics of massive early galaxies including dwarf galaxies, ellipticals and cluster. He uses tools such as gravitational lensing, stellar dynamics, and stellar population synthesis from data gathered from the Magellan, Keck, Palomar, and Hubble telescopes.

Newman received his AB in physics and mathematics from the Washington University in St. Louis, and his MS and Ph D in astrophysics from Caltech. Before becomming a staff astronomer in 2015, he was a