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Statistical Mechanics of Molecular and Cellular Biological Systems

19th January 2004 to 9th July 2004

Organisers: Dr T Duke (Cambridge), Professor J Molloy (York), Professor T McLeish (Leeds), Professor W Poon (Edinburgh), Professor P Stockley (Leeds), Professor J Trinick (Leeds)

Programme theme

We are currently witnessing a remarkable period of interaction between physics and biology. Not for the first time are there very good reasons for synergy – the beginnings of molecular biology itself emerged from a previous period in which techniques from physics demonstrated huge potential to answer biological questions. The current surge of interest is remarkable because new experimental tools (single-molecule spectroscopy, AFM, fluorescence microscopy, micro-rheology etc.) are accompanied by a powerful body of mathematical techniques arising from the Statistical Mechanics of Soft Matter.

The distinctive issues of this programme, of four sub-themes, arise at the sub-micron domain in which Brownian Motion becomes important; where biochemical processes work with (or against) the tendency to approach thermodynamic equilibrium. Throughout is the creative tension between highly-evolved and specific biological form and function on the one hand, and the overarching statistical mechanics on the other.

The programme will structured along four linked themes:

  1. Single molecule biophysics (including protein dynamics, mechanical force spectroscopy)
  2. Membrane/cortical dynamics and self-assembly (including lipid phase separation. Motility and interaction with the extracellular matrix).
  3. Molecular motors (including modelling of single-molecule motors in the presence of noise, cooperative behaviour, etc.)
  4. Molecular and cellular aspects of gene expression (including DNA binding proteins and complexes, cell division, trans-membrane signalling, networks or polymerisation and depolymerisation).

While all four will be worked on throughout the 6-month period, there will be periods of more focus on each, when the theoretically-based scientists and mathematicians of the long-term programme will be visited on a shorter-term basis by key experimentalists working in these areas and their boundaries

Thematic Diary

22 January - 6 March
Single molecules and motors
15 - 19 March
Protein folding week
29 March - 8 April
Soft Condensed Matter Physics in Molecular and Cell Biology (A Satellite Meeting at Edinburgh)
April 12-May 14
Membranes and membrane interactions
May 17 - 28
More on motors
May 31 - July 9
Gene regulation
Final Scientific Report: 
University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute The Leverhulme Trust London Mathematical Society Microsoft Research NM Rothschild and Sons