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Statistical mechanical theories of emergence in biological systems

Event description

Much current research in biophysics and systems biology focuses on the behaviour of large assemblies of cells and bacteria, ranging up to flocks and swarms and down to the molecular scale. A complete understanding demands a firm theoretical underpinning, similar to that achieved for physical systems at equilibrium. Progress towards this goal is impeded by the complexity of biological systems and their inherently far-from-equilibrium nature. In particular, it is not straightforward to deduce the emergent collective behaviour from the properties of the constituents.

Extending the equilibrium theory of statistical mechanics to these nonequilibrium settings offers a promising route to deal with this challenge. This workshop will bring together researchers who are applying theoretical and computational techniques from statistical mechanics in various biological contexts. These include individual-based and hydrodynamic models of assemblies of active particles, extensions to models from soft matter physics that augment free-energy considerations with irreversible processes, reaction-diffusion systems as models for intracellular processes and computational models for self-organisation.

This workshop is part-funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh through a Saltire Research Facilitation Network award, and will feature contributions from core groups at the University of Edinburgh, University of Göttingen and the Max-Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization who are supported by this grant. A list of members can be viewed on the collaboration website.

Confirmed external speakers are:

A substantial part of the programme will be dedicated to creating a wider research network.

The workshop will begin at 3pm on Wednesday 18th May and conclude with lunch on Friday 20th May.

Please note that places are limited (40) and registration deadline is 1 May 2022. There is no charge to attend to the workshop, and daytime refreshments will be provided. Early Career Researchers who require assistance with travel costs should contact to discuss their situation.

This meeting is now fully subscribed. If you are interested in attending, please contact for advice.

Co-funded by Royal Society Edinburgh


See the full timetable on Indico


Statistical mechanical theories of emergence in biological systems


Higgs Centre Seminar Room, JCMB (Find us on campus maps)
The Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics
School of Physics and Astronomy
James Clerk Maxwell Building, 4305
Peter Guthrie Tait Road


Key speakers

  • Étienne FODOR (Luxembourg)
  • Silke HENKES (LEI)
  • Demian LEVIS (Barcelona)
  • Julien TAILLEUR (Université Paris-Diderot)
  • Speck THOMAS (JGU)