Biology is a place where two major themes that currently lie at the frontier of condensed matter physics converge: first, the idea that "more is different" - that is, that interactions in complex systems at one scale lead to fundamentally new emergent principles at a larger scale - and second that a proper understanding of nonequilibrium fluctuations is crucial for scientific progress.

From this perspective, there is a wide variety of biological systems with interesting physical properties. These include the complex interaction networks formed by DNA and proteins inside the cell, fluctuations that occur in populations of organisms and active matter, such as swimming algae or bacteria, in which the constituent particles consume energy to perform mechanical work. In recent years, many condensed matter and statistical physicists have begun to investigate these and other topics. By seeing things with a fresh eye, and in particular being alert to the huge role played by noise effects, these physicists have brought many new insights and methods of analysis, and asked many new questions about the building blocks of life. This meeting will bring together physicists from around the world to share the intellectual challenges they face in this emerging area.

Organised by the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics and Institute of Physics.

This meeting will feature a series of keynote presentations from senior figures in the physics of biological and active systems.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Robert Austin (Princeton)
  • Tobias Bollenbach (IST Austria)
  • Ray Goldstein (Cambridge)
  • Jean-François Joanny (Institut Curie)
  • Rhoda Hawkins (Sheffield)
  • Cristina Marchetti (Syracuse)
  • Ben Simons (Cambridge)
  • Joel Stavans (Weizmann Institute)

In addition to the keynote talks, participants will have the opportunity to contribute to focus sessions on antimicrobial resistance, collective dynamics of motile organisms and subcellular statistical physics. A small number of contributions will be selected as short oral presentations in these sessions.

Other contributions can be presented as posters for the duration of the topical meeting. Contributions relevant to the physical principles of biological and active systems falling outside these three topical areas may also be submitted as poster presentations. We particularly encourage submissions from - and may give priority to - early career researchers (PhD students and postdoctoral researchers).

The topics covered in each of these sessions is as detailed below. The focus sessions will not run in parallel, so please aim your contribution at a broad audience.

  • Focus Session 1. Antimicrobial resistance
    Chair: Dr Bartek Waclaw
    The session will provide a forum to discuss recent applications of physics to biological evolution and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The topics will include (but do not have to be restricted to) new single-cell imaging methods in AMR research, physical methods of quantifying AMR, experimental and mathematical models of the evolution and transmission of AMR, and statistical characterization of AMR fitness landscapes.

  • Focus Session 2. Collective dynamics of motile organisms
    Chair: Prof Davide Marenduzzo
    This section will be focussed on multiscale descriptions of suspensions of self-motile active particles or organisms, and their emerging collective behaviour. The topics will include (but not be restricted to): statistical mechanics of bacterial suspensions; hydrodynamics of active gels and active fluids; models for cell motility and for collective behaviour in cells and cell suspensions; collective behaviour in systems of dividing cells or bacterial colonies.

  • Focus Session 3. Subcellular statistical physics
    Chair: Prof Martin Evans
    The session will be focussed on the subcellular arena where nonequilibrium conditions and stochasticity are the norm. The topics will include (but not be restricted to): active transport in biological systems; gene regulation; number fluctuations at small concentrations of messenger molecules; biochemical networks and their dynamics; search processes and their efficiency; modelling of intra- and intercellular signalling.

Key dates

  • Abstract submission deadline (extended):
    14 October 2015
  • Early registration deadline:
    11 November 2015
  • Registration deadline:
    10 December 2015