Boulder School 2019: Theoretical Biophysics

July 8-26, 2019

Scientific Coordinators

Thierry Mora (ENS, CNRS)
Ilya Nemenman (Emory)
Greg J Stephens (OIST & VU Amsterdam)
Aleksandra Walczak (ENS, CNRS)

Director: Leo Radzihovsky (CU Boulder)

Figures from Gordon Berman, Michael Desai, Eleni Katifori, and Leonid Mirny

From the point of view of physics, biological systems stand out due to their complexity and heterogeneity. Living systems span many length and timescales, and are constantly kept out of equilibrium by active energy-consuming processes. Understanding their functioning poses a major challenge to traditional physical approaches. It is often difficult to predict the overall behavior of a biological system just from knowing, often partially, the behavior of their individual components. Can we understand how a cell tissue collectively moves in response to an external stimuli, merely based on the contacts between neighboring cells? Similarly, can one predict how a swarm of birds or insects react to a threat? On another scale, how do interactions between pairs of amino acids in a protein determine its function? How does a neural network encode information about the collective activity of these cells? Can we predict the next dominant strain of influenza by studying its evolution in response to immune defenses of infected populations? Despite their diversity, these questions have in common the emergence of a global and collective phenomenon from a collection of local interactions. The 2019 Boulder Summer School will explore recent theoretical inroads into these and related questions.


All students are strongly urged to plan on staying for the duration of the School. Partial attendance is strongly discouraged. Small exceptions can be made is special cases but must be cleared with the organizers right away; a simple email request, explaining the situation is sufficient. Attendance for less than 3 weeks is not permitted as the spot can be more efficiently utilized by another student attending the entire school (contact organizers). There will be no travel support for shorter attendance.


Lecturers and seminar speakers

Gordon Berman (Emory) - “Animal Behavior”
Bill Bialek (Princeton) - “Renormalizing networks of neurons”
Michael Desai (Harvard) - “Evolution”
Eleni Katifori (Penn) - “Plants, Mechanics, Networks”
Mimi Koehl (Berkeley) - “Fluid dynamics and biomechanics”
Lisa Manning (Syracuse) - “Tissue Mechanics”
Leonid Mirny (MIT) - “Chromosomal packing and cancer evolution”
Andrew Mugler (Purdue) - “Cellular sensing”
Armita Nourmohammad (MPIDS/U Wash) - “Viral evolution” Stephanie Palmer (Chicago) - “Computational Neuroscience”
Orit Peleg (Boulder) - “Physics of social insects”
David Schwab (CUNY) - “Machine Learning”
Agnese Seminara (Nice) - “Navigation”
Massimo Vergassola (UCSD) - “Learning to soar”