Physical Biology of the Cell @ MBL

This intensive, several week mini-course explores the way that physical and mathematical models can be used to understand biological systems. The course begins by examining how simple order of magnitude estimates can be used to provide insights into a wide range of problems describing the natural world, including, in particular, the use of statistical mechanics to explore problems in regulatory biology. Some examples include the physics of post-translational modifications, how cells make transcriptional decisions, and the precision with which embryonic development takes place. Next, the course focuses on how organisms pack and access their genomes. We start with a description of the problem of viral DNA packing, and turn to the study of the eukaryotic nucleosome. From there, we turn to the study of organization in biological systems with emphasis on one-dimensional ordering in the filamentous structures of the cytoskeleton to the two-dimensional ordering seen at the cell membrane. In addition to these diverse topics, the course involves an intensive, hands-on project using Matlab to do image segmentation in order to find the fluorescence of individual cells and to use this fluorescence to compare to statistical mechanical models of gene regulation. An all-encompassing course, this brief, but intensive, excursion serves as an excellent introduction into some of the most important physical and mathematical concepts in biological systems.

Due to the 2020 PBoC course cancellation, please see the “Schedule” tab to the left of this page to register for the virtual speaker webinar series that will run from August 3 - August 22, 2020. While this speaker series is ordinarily part of the in-person course, the speakers have agreed to broadcast their talks publicly in a virtual speaker series. To learn more about the course or apply for PBoC 2021, visit this page.