Pistachios (Image: lenazap via iStock)

SFI External Professor Alan Hastings (UC Davis) has received an award from the National Science Foundation to support ongoing research into biological synchrony and phase transitions. Hastings' work uses physics-inspired approaches to understand why cicada populations boom at certain intervals, why trees in an orchard bear fruit at the same time, and, broadly, what drives systems where biological events happen in unison.

Hastings' award is one of 29 granted under the NSF's Understanding the Rules of Life initiative — one of  the agency’s “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments.” According to an NSF press release, "the awards, totaling $15 million, demonstrate NSF’s commitment to address some of the greatest challenges in understanding the living world, in all of its complex levels of organization, from the molecular scale through to the biosphere."

External Professor Jon Machta (UMass Amherst) is a co-principal investigator, along with Karen Abbott of Case Western Reserve University. Their award includes funds for collaborative science meetings at SFI, building upon a series of productive working groups (see "Flash Mobs" and "What drives biological synchrony?" and "Return of the Y2K bugs.")