Physics of Living Systems

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The program "Physics of Living Systems" (PoLS) in the Physics Division at the National Science Foundation targets theoretical and experimental research exploring the most fundamental physical processes that living systems utilize to perform their functions in dynamic and diverse environments. The focus should be on understanding basic physical principles that underlie biological function. Proposals that use physics only as a tool to study biological questions are of VERY low priority.

PoLS encourages research that emphasizes the physical principles of organization and function of living systems, including the exploration of artificial life forms. While the problems under study must be important to advancing our understanding of the living world in a quantitative way, particular emphasis will be placed on those projects in which lessons learned from the biological application also expand the intellectual range of physics. Awards will cover a broad spectrum of physics approaches in biology, ranging from the physical principles and mechanisms at the single cell level such as cellular organization (e.g. cytoskeleton), energy metabolism, gene regulation and intracellular and intercellular communication, to collective behavior and evolution of complexity in life forms and living populations of organisms. This systems approach in physics has been very successful in understanding inanimate systems, and has the potential to bring deep understanding of the world of animated, replicating systems, through testable phenomenological theories. The program funds individual investigators, although collaborative proposals between physicists and biological researchers are welcome. Proposals with potential societal impact such as renewable energy and human health are good examples of strong broader impact and are of interest to the program.

Deadline: Oct. 26, 2016; Fourth Wednesday in October, Annually Thereafter

Agency Website

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

October 26, 2016