Biological Frontiers of Polymer and Soft Matter Physics

in partnership with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and NIGMS

Coordinators: Alexander Y. Grosberg, Katharina Ribbeck, Michael Rubinstein

This program will explore dynamic and non-equilibrium phenomena on molecular and larger scales in biological systems. The field of non-equilibrium dynamics is presently blossoming, driven largely by novel experimental techniques at single molecule, sub-cellular, and multi-cellular levels. The subjects of study are as diverse as the mobility of DNA segments inside chromatin, molecular and cellular mechanisms of swimming, dynamics of the cytoskeleton, self-assembly of viruses, DNA translocation through nuclear pores in vivo or nanopores in vitro, andthe driven dynamics of molecular motors or the replication fork. Theoretical models and methods employed in non-equilibrium dynamics studies on molecular and cellular scale are in deep mathematical connection with dynamics on larger scales, such as models of evolution, epidemics, extinction. This program will bring together experts working at the interface of physics and biology to discuss both exciting fields in context of each other.

In addition to the group of theorists spending an extensive period each on site, we intend to have a steady stream of experimentalists coming for shorter periods of time, sufficient however for thorough interactions with the theorists. Thus theorists participating in the program will be learning about the experimental findings and will be developing theories addressing experimentally posed challenges.

In close connection with the program, we are organizing a conference entitled Soft Matter Physics Approaches to Biology during the week of May 23-27, 2011.  The purpose of the conference will be to present the progress and the challenges in experimental and theoretical studies at the biological frontier of soft matter and polymer physics.  Further information will posted when it becomes available.