Physics and Biology of Morphogenesis

Coordinators: Suzanne Eaton, Boris Shraiman

Note: This workshop is full and no longer accepting applications. Thank you for your interest.

For centuries natural scientists have pondered the complexity and beauty of living forms. Recently, molecular genetics has made it possible to identify genes and molecules with strong and sometimes dramatic effects on growth and morphology of embryonic and adult organisms, while fluorescent imaging has illuminated how developmental processes unfold in real time in live tissues. Yet, our understanding of how even known molecular interactions define the macroscopic form and organization of tissues remains limited. In connecting molecular and organismal scales, the central role is played by intercellular interactions that coordinate the behavior of cells. The emergent, collective behavior of cells that defines overall morphology invokes many aspects of interacting physical systems. Thus, one may hope that physics ideas and methods could provide a quantitative framework with which to bridge the gap between molecules and macroscopic forms.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together a group of biologists and physicists who, in the informal and interactive atmosphere of KITP, will articulate the problems and possible avenues of progress.  The workshop will address a variety of themes including:  the interplay of patterning and growth; morphological transformations; intercellular interactions and cell and tissue mechanics; planar cell polarity and cell geometry. 

Workshop is supported by NSF, NIGMS and Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.