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Musicians Join Scientists for NIMBioS BioSongs Project

October 9, 2009

Lizards, spiders and other biological organisms were the topics of conversation between scientists and songwriters at an all-day songwriting workshop held Oct. 14 at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) on the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus.

The NIMBioS BioSongs Project brought together singer-songwriters and local biologists and mathematicians to share stories about research and about the people who do it with the goal of sparking ideas for songs about modern biology.

Participating songwriters included Todd Steed, RB Morris, Jay Clark, Van Eaton, Maggie Longmire, Sean McCullough, and Rhonda and James "Sparky" Rucker. Some of the musicians also have science backgrounds; Clark has a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology, and Rhonda Rucker has a degree in medicine.

"The goal of this initial gathering is to spark songwriters' interest and hopefully lead to a collection of songs that can be used to educate general audiences about modern biology and the scientists who do it," said Louis Gross, NIMBioS Director and UT Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics.

The event was organized under the auspices of NIMBioS using support through UT's James R. Cox Endowment Fund. Cox was interested in environmental issues and music.

NIMBioS hopes to eventually establish formal NIMBioS Songwriting Fellows with whom NIMBioS would commission songs.

UT faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and students attending the event talk about their personal journey in science and what drew them to the field. Some used animals to help tell their tales.

"We wish to encourage several of our finest songwriters from the region to become knowledgeable about the f ascinating biological questions being investigated using quantitative methods, meet some of the researchers involved, learn from you about why you are so passionate about your work, and possibly get some ideas for songs that they might add to their repertoire," Gross added.


The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to investigate solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences. NIMBioS is supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

For more information, contact Catherine Crawley at 865-974-9350 or

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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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