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Professor Hyejin Youn Receives NSF Big Ideas Grant

Congratulations to Hyejin Youn who was awarded an NSF 10 Big Ideas grant to develop a unified theory of regulatory functions and networks across biological and social systems.  This project will include the hiring of a post doc and research assistants at NICO who will collaborate with Professor Youn and Professors at the Santa Fe Institute (Geoffrey West, Chris Kempes, Sid Redner, and Vicky Chuqiao Yango).

Regulatory functions and mechanisms are a necessary, essential, and ubiquitous feature across all biological, social, and mechanical systems. For example, bacteria have regulatory genes, companies have managers, and car engines have engine control units. Indeed, the challenge for all complex adaptive systems that aim to survive in multi-faceted and competitive environments is to optimally manage internal functions and interactions. The presence of regulatory mechanisms in complex systems is therefore a universal rule of life, and network structures emerge under the rule of life. This goal of this grant is to develop a unified science of regulatory functions and their associated emergent structures to answer questions, such as:

Since 2017, NSF has been building a foundation for Big Ideas through pioneering research and pilot activities, investing $30 million in each area of study. The Big Idea for Professor Youn’s grant falls under the “Understanding the Rules of Life” Idea.  The concept is that life on our planet is arranged in levels of organization ranging from the molecular scale to the biosphere, and there exists a remarkable amount of complexity in the interactions within and between these levels of organization and across scales of time and space. There also exists an equal amount of complexity within the cells that comprise every living thing within that ecosystem.

The Rules of Life Big Idea has multiple goals, including: to enable discoveries that will allow us to better understand such interactions, to train the next generation of researchers to approach scientific inquiry in a way that crosses scientific disciplines, and to foster collaboration and convergent research by helping to consider multiple levels of organization and complexity in addressing key questions in the life sciences.

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