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Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences (2010)

Chapter: Appendix A: Statement of Task

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2010. Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12809.
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Appendix A
Statement of Task

The committee will:

  1. Develop a conceptual framework for the scientific forefronts at the interface between the physical and life sciences and conduct an assessment of this work.

  2. Identify and prioritize the most promising research opportunities at this interface, articulate the potential benefits to society, and recommend strategies for realizing them.

  3. Explore ways to enable and enhance effective interdisciplinary collaboration, such as education, training, instrumentation, and cyberinfrastructure, which bring together the life and physical sciences to address the most compelling opportunities.

The committee will explore areas such as biomolecular machines; gene regulation and signal transduction; mechanics and spatial structure of the cell; and the origin of self-replicating systems. The committee will also identify other key research areas in which the interaction of physical and life scientists is needed for scientific advancement.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2010. Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12809.
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 Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences
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Traditionally, the natural sciences have been divided into two branches: the biological sciences and the physical sciences. Today, an increasing number of scientists are addressing problems lying at the intersection of the two. These problems are most often biological in nature, but examining them through the lens of the physical sciences can yield exciting results and opportunities. For example, one area producing effective cross-discipline research opportunities centers on the dynamics of systems. Equilibrium, multistability, and stochastic behavior—concepts familiar to physicists and chemists—are now being used to tackle issues associated with living systems such as adaptation, feedback, and emergent behavior.

Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences discusses how some of the most important scientific and societal challenges can be addressed, at least in part, by collaborative research that lies at the intersection of traditional disciplines, including biology, chemistry, and physics. This book describes how some of the mysteries of the biological world are being addressed using tools and techniques developed in the physical sciences, and identifies five areas of potentially transformative research. Work in these areas would have significant impact in both research and society at large by expanding our understanding of the physical world and by revealing new opportunities for advancing public health, technology, and stewardship of the environment.

This book recommends several ways to accelerate such cross-discipline research. Many of these recommendations are directed toward those administering the faculties and resources of our great research institutions—and the stewards of our research funders, making this book an excellent resource for academic and research institutions, scientists, universities, and federal and private funding agencies.

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