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Statistical Mechanics of Molecular and Cellular Biological Systems

Participation in INI programmes is by invitation only. Anyone wishing to apply to participate in the associated workshop(s) should use the relevant workshop application form.

19th January 2004 to 9th July 2004
Tom McLeish University of Leeds
Thomas Duke University of Cambridge
JE Malloy University of York
Wilson Poon University of Edinburgh
Peter Stockley University of Leeds
John Trinick University of 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 London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons