News Release

UC Irvine receives $15 million NSF grant for integrative movement research

Monica Daley to lead multidisciplinary effort to explore muscle dynamics

Grant and Award Announcement

University of California - Irvine

Irvine, Calif. March 4, 2024 — The National Science Foundation has granted $15 million to the Integrative Movement Sciences Institute at the University of California, Irvine. This six-year funding, part of the NSF’s Biology Integration Institutes program, will support groundbreaking research led by Monica Daley, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at the UCI School of Biological Sciences.

The research funded by this grant aims to understand the intricate mechanics of muscle control during rapid, unsteady movements in complex environments. Muscle function plays a crucial role in driving the agility and performance of movement in animals, including humans.

“Understanding how muscle controls movement is crucial for understanding the evolution of diversity among animals, athletic performance in humans and for maintaining human health throughout life,” said Daley. “However, existing models fail to accurately predict muscle function during fast and unsteady movement. This research will bridge gaps between historically isolated fields to advance our understanding of how mechanical, neural and sensory systems are integrated for agile movement.”

Daley, also the director of the UCI Center for Integrative Movement Sciences, will collaborate with co-principal investigators Jill McNitt-Gray from USC, Kiisa Nishikawa from Northern Arizona University, Anne Silverman from Colorado School of Mines and Simon Sponberg from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Integrative Movement Sciences Institute will bring together experts from 21 institutions across the U.S. for interdisciplinary research and training. By integrating investigations across different scales and timescales, from molecules to organisms and nanoseconds to generations, the institute aims to drive innovation in biophysics, physiology, biomechanics, neuroscience and engineering.

The research cores of IMSI will focus on intrinsic muscle dynamics, neuromechanical control, resilience and versatility, risk-reward and learning, and diversity and convergence in motor systems. These cores will critically examine assumptions of current approaches, develop new experiments and models and construct a dynamic muscle movement paradigm to transform basic science, clinical applications, and technological advancements.

The outcomes of this research are expected to have wide-reaching applications in biotechnology and the bio-economy, including the design of movement therapies, rehabilitation programs and mobility assistance devices.

Through team-based science and mentorship, IMSI aims to foster a collaborative community and provide over 450 trainees with a wide network of mentors over the next six years. This inclusive approach will create a training pipeline from undergraduates to faculty, transforming movement sciences by integrating disciplines, organisms and structural scales.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit

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