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Soft Condensed Matter Physics in Molecular and Cell Biology

29th March 2004 to 8th April 2004

International Organizing Committee: W. C. K. Poon (Director) D. Andelman (Director), F. C. Mackintosh, T. C. B. McLeish

Local Organizing Committee: W. C. K. Poon, S. U. Egelhaaf, D. T. F. Dryden, P. D. Berry


Biology is ‘living soft matter’ – biological surfactants (lipids) make up the membranes, while proteins and DNA are biological polymers. Brownian motion has a dominant role – diffusion on structures with reduced spatial dimensionality (2-dimensional on membranes and 1-dimensional on various filamentous structures such a microtubules) play a crucial role in transport and other processes, while diffusion in a very-high-dimensional free-energy landscape underlies protein folding. The new insights into soft matter gained by physicists over the last few decades can therefore be expected to have significant impact on the understanding of biological systems, from single biomolecules through to cells and (perhaps) beyond. In particular, the increasing attention paid by soft condensed matter physicists to non-equilibrium phenomena and dynamics are crucial to the interaction between the two fields – the two italicised words being almost synonymous with life itself! The purpose of this ASI/SUSSP is to gather together some of the principal scientists responsible for pushing back the frontiers of the application of soft matter physics to the understanding of biological systems and give them the opportunity to present the tools of their trade and some of the latest results to junior researchers.


The ASI/SUSSP is receiving additional sponsorship from:

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons