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49th IFF Spring School

Physics of Life

26 February – 09 March 2018 in Jülich, Germany



Spring School Programme 2018

The School provides about 50 hours of lectures, including discussions, and offers the opportunity to visit the participating institutes at Forschungszentrum Jülich. All lectures will be given in English. All registered participants will receive a book of lecture notes, which contains the material presented during the School. The lectures are grouped together in several sections thematically. All sections include an introduction to the fundamental concepts of the field and cover special fields of application and future technologies.

Download the  Lecture Schedule 2018 (PDF, 104 kB)

(Last update: 21 February 2018)

- Experimental and Theoretical Methods

The study of biological systems is particularly challenging since very often the macromolecular building blocks are inherently complex and the relevant length and time scales in these systems span many orders of magnitude. Success requires a combination of preparative techniques (synthesis), and the elucidation of structural and dynamical properties by scattering, microscopy, rheology and single molecule techniques. Lectures on experimental methods are complemented by theoretical frameworks of classical statistical mechanics, continuum hydrodynamics, and scaling theory.

Furthermore, since many biological phenomena are far too complex to be well-described by an analytical theory, simulation techniques, such as Molecular Dynamics, Monte Carlo, and mesoscale hydrodynamics simulations, are often necessary and will be introduced in the basic lectures.

- Basic Building Blocks: Bio-Macromolecules

Bio-macromolecules are the basic building blocks of any biological system. Examples include various proteins, DNA, and lipids, with their properties and mutual molecular interactions inducing the assembly of biomolecules into complex structures with a versatile biological functionality. Bio-macromolecules possess exquisitely designed structures required for fulfilling their specific tasks, and a malfunction in molecular structure or dynamics often leads to the development of disease.

- Membranes, Filaments, and Networks

Membranes, filaments, and networks are biomolecular assemblies with distinct functions in the cell. Membranes serve as the main barriers between different cellular compartments and cells, while filaments assemble into cytoskeletal networks defining cellular mechanics, motility, and function. The School will cover various biophysical aspects of lipid membranes, membrane-protein interactions, biological filaments (e.g. actin, microtubules, intermediate filaments), motor proteins, active cytoskeletal networks, and synapses.

- Biological Cells

Mechanics and the behaviour of cells determine the development and functionality of various tissues. It is well known that cells may act differently in different environments, a fascinating adaptation which is facilitated by various cell organelles and machinery. Here, the lectures will cover cellular mechanics and adhesion and how these properties and processes are modulated. In addition, cell division, motility, and signalling will be reviewed. Finally, an in-vitro cell model and the bridging of cells and electronics (i.e. bioelectronics) will be discussed.

- Multicellular Organization and Collective Behavior

The next level of biological organization is multicellular assemblies which constitute tissues. Currently, one of the most fascinating research directions is tissue growth and repair, because it opens a variety of avenues for biomedical applications. Other topics will include mechanical properties of tissues and rheology. In addition to multicellular organization, the lectures will touch upon other areas of living matter, such as the collective behaviour of swimming micro-organisms and bacterial biofilms. Finally, current developments in the theoretical description of the collective behaviour of active systems will be discussed.

- Systems Biology and Diseases

Systems biology aims to interconnect various biological components, in order to integrate information about specific biocomponents into a comprehensive picture for complex biological systems. Thus, it focuses on complex interactions within biological systems. Often, the malfunctioning or alteration of such interactions leads to different diseases and disorders. Several prominent examples are monogenetic diseases, Alzheimer’s and malaria. Finally, the topics of antibiotics resistance, disease spreading, and genetics and evolution will be addressed. Of course, in the end all the different levels and scales must work together, from molecules to information processing. This is illustrated for the important case of neurobiology.