Life Sciences

Extramural Basic Research Life Sciences

U.S. Army Research Office
P.O. Box 12211
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2211

Commercial: (919) 549-4323
DSN: 832-4323
Fax: (919) 549-4384

The Life Sciences Division supports research efforts to advance the Army and Nation's knowledge and understanding of the fundamental properties, principles, and processes governing DNA, RNA, proteins, organelles, prokaryotes, and eukaryotes, as well as multi- species communities, biofilms, individual humans, and groups of humans. The interests of the Life Sciences Division are primarily in the following areas: biochemistry, neuroscience, microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, genomics, proteomics, epigenetics, systems biology, bioinformatics, and social science. The results of fundamental research supported by this Division are expected to enable the creation of new technologies for optimizing warfighters' physical and cognitive performance capabilities, for protecting warfighters, and for creating new Army capabilities in the areas of biomaterials, energy, logistics, and intelligence.

Research in the Life Sciences Division will reveal previously unexplored avenues for new Army capabilities while also providing fundamental results to support (i) the ARL Human Sciences Campaign's goals to discover and predict human cognitive, physical, and social behaviors, as well as the role of training paradigms in building expertise, and to characterize the fundamental aspects of social network dynamics involving ethics, values, trust, social- cultural, economic, and geopolitical effects, (ii) the ARL Assessment and Analysis Campaign's goal to identify human capabilities and limitations, (iii) the ARL Information Sciences Campaign's goal to develop predictive models that consider the availability of power or food sources and the potential for social unrest or insurgency activity, (iv) the ARL Materials Research Campaign's goal to exploit the evolutionary solutions created by nature and create new capabilities using synthetic biology.

The Division's research programs are currently focused on the following research areas. The titles, scopes and points of contact for these programs, each of which address general aspects of basic research in life sciences, are listed in the following subsections. A small number of symposia, conferences and workshops are also supported in part or in whole to provide an exchange of ideas in areas of Army interest. For full descriptions and proposal submission requirements, refer to the ARO BAA (see link below).

Division Chief

Dr. Micheline Strand
(919) 549-4343

The Physics Division supports the following research areas:


Dr. Micheline Strand
(919) 549-4343

This Program supports basic research in genetics, molecular biology, genomics, epigenetics, and systems biology in areas that may enable the optimization of the Soldier's cognitive and physical performance capabilities, increase Soldier survivability, and improve Army capabilities in areas such as biomaterials, sensing, energy, and intelligence. This Program emphasizes innovative high-risk fundamental research in areas such as identification and characterization of gene function, gene regulation, genetic interactions, gene pathways, gene expression patterns, epigenetics, mitochondrial regulation and biogenesis, and nuclear and mitochondrial DNA replication, mutagenesis, oxidative stress, and DNA repair.

Organismal Genetics. The Organismal Genetics thrust is focused on identifying and characterizing the genetic pathways that affect warfighter survival and performance. This Program is interested in identifying and understanding the molecular factors that affect human physical and cognitive performance capabilities as well as human survival and protection under normal conditions and when affected by a variety of stressors likely to be encountered in battlefield situations, such as dehydration, heat, cold, sleep deprivation, fatigue, caloric insufficiency, pathogens, and physical and psychological stress.

Population Genetics. The Population Genetics thrust is focused on understanding genetic change at a population level. Areas of interest include mechanisms of prokaryotic adaptation, social insects, modeling species distributions, plant genetics, biological components of social instability, and biological systems for sensing and detection.


Dr. Stephanie McElhinny
(919) 549-4240

This Program emphasizes basic research focused on understanding and controlling the activity and assembly of biomolecules. Scientific advances supported by this Program are anticipated to enable the development of novel systems, materials and processes that enhance Soldier protection and performance. An overarching goal of the Program is to provide the scientific foundations to support biological activity outside of the natural biological context, including integration of biological systems with synthetic systems.

Biomolecular Specificity and Regulation. The Biomolecular Specificity and Regulation thrust is focused on elucidating the mechanisms by which biomolecules recognize and interact with their targets, as well as the regulatory mechanisms utilized to activate or inhibit biomolecular activity. This research thrust also includes novel engineered approaches to modulate and control biomolecular activity.

Biomolecular Assembly and Organization. The Biomolecular Assembly and Organization thrust is focused on understanding the molecular interactions and design rules that govern self-assembly of biomolecules into both naturally occurring biomolecular structures and designed architectures. This research thrust also includes novel approaches to control biomolecular assembly and approaches to utilize biomolecular architectures to organize biomolecular activity and/or achieve specialized properties.


Dr. Robert Kokoska
(919) 549-4342

This Program supports basic research in fundamental microbiology that can help advance needs in Soldier protection and performance. There are two primary research thrusts within this program: (i) Microbial Survival Mechanisms and (ii) Analysis and Engineering of Microbial Communities.

Microbial Survival Mechanisms. The Microbial Survival Mechanisms thrust focuses on the study of the cellular and genetic mechanisms and responses that underlie microbial survival in the face of environmental stress. These stressors include extremes in temperature, pH, or salinity; the presence of toxins including metals and toxic organic molecules; oxidative stress; and cellular starvation and the depletion of specific nutrients. Research approaches can include fundamental studies of microbial physiology and metabolism, cell biology, and molecular genetics that examine key cellular networks linked to survival, microbial cell membrane structure and the dissection of relevant critical signal transduction pathways and other sense-and-respond mechanisms.

Analysis and Engineering of Microbial Communities. The Analysis and Engineering of Microbial Communities thrust supports basic research that addresses the fundamental principles that drive the formation, proliferation, sustenance and robustness of microbial communities through reductionist, systems-level, ecological and evolutionary approaches. Bottom-up analysis of information exchange, signaling interactions and structure-function relationships for single and multi-species communities within the context of planktonic and biofilm architectures is considered. Of joint interest with the ARO Biomathematics Program, research efforts that advance the ability to work with complex biological data sets to increase understanding of microbiological systems marked by ever-increasing complexity are encouraged.

Neurophysiology and Cognition

Dr. Frederick Gregory

The Neurophysiology of Cognition program supports non-medically oriented basic research in neuroscience, the behavioral sciences, physiology and neuroengineering that might enable the optimization of Soldier's cognitive and physical performance capabilities. An overarching goal of the program is to provide foundational knowledge of molecular, cellular and systems-level neural codes underlying cognition and performance across multiple length and time scales. Research in this program can include a broad range of methodological and theoretical approaches applied to animal and human experimental systems including electrophysiology, neuroimaging and computational neurobiology. This includes the study of the psycho-physiological implications of brain-machine interfaces, the measurement and modeling of individual cognitive dynamics and decision making during real-world activity, and identifying how neuronal circuits generate desirable computations. In the long term, research in this area may enable the development of interfaces enabling humans to more efficiently control machines, new training methods and devices to predict and optimize individual performance, and the potential restoration from injury at the neural level. Basic research opportunities are sought in two primary research thrusts within this program: (i) Multisensory Synthesis and (ii) Neuronal Computation.

Multisensory Synthesis. The Multisensory Synthesis thrust aims to understand how the human brain functions in relation to the interaction of sensory, cognitive and motor processes during its performance of real-world tasks. Research focuses on mapping, quantifying and modeling distributed neural processes, physiological processes and mind- body interfaces that mediate these features to ultimately develop better understanding of cognition for eventual application to Soldier performance.

Neuronal Computation. The Neuronal Computation thrust is focused on understanding how living neuronal circuits generate desirable computations, affect how information is represented, show robustness to damage, incorporate learning and facilitate evolutionary change. Research focuses on determining how brains structure, process and refine inputs into efficient decisions and behaviors, and how these multiscale features are altered under stresses. Cell culture, brain slice and in vivo models are used to develop better understanding of small and large-scale living neural networks for eventual application in Army systems.

Social and Behavioral Science

Dr. Lisa Troyer
(919) 549-4230

The goal of this Program is to promote basic research on human and social behavior to discover the theoretical foundations of behavior at all levels, from individual actors to global societies. The goals of this Program include (i) developing reliable and valid measures of social and behavioral concepts, and (ii) discovering, modeling, and testing causal theories that describe, explain, and predict human, group, and societal responses to physical, environmental, psychological, or social stimuli.

Of particular interest is research that examines (1) the interrelationships among human, social, natural, and physical systems and (2) multi-level system dynamics. Examples might include, but are not limited to: (a) understanding how change in human-made and natural environments affects migration, urbanization, change in governance systems, collective action, deviance; (b) investigating the interrelationships between individual values, group identity, and interpersonal and intergroup cooperation and conflict; (c) studying how emerging technologies impact intra and intergroup dynamics; and (d) modeling the diffusion of values, beliefs, and influence from micro-to macro-levels of interactions among individuals, groups, and social systems along with the physical and natural contexts that impact pathways of diffusion.

Research in this program can include a broad range of methodological and theoretical approaches including empirical studies that require primary data collection, such as random control trials, quasi-experiments, laboratory and field experiments, surveys, comparative and observational studies, or the use of secondary data sources, such as media archives or area reports. Formal computational approaches are encouraged to aid in the development of testable dynamic models of individual, group, and population-level phenomena


Last Update / Reviewed: December 12, 2017