Physical Biology of the Cell - Marseille 2022


It is a wonderful time to be thinking about the workings of the living world. Historic advances in molecular biology, structural biology and the use of biophysical techniques such as optical traps have provided an unprecedented window on the mechanics of the cell. The aim of this course is to study the cell and its components using whatever tools we need in order to make quantitative and predictive statements about cellular life. The main intellectual thread of the course will be the idea that the type of quantitative data which is becoming routine in biology calls for a corresponding quantitative modeling framework. The plan of this course is to elucidate general principles with exciting case studies.

Where and When?

Each day, the course will roughly proceed as outlined below. On occasion, we may insert computation sessions during the daytime based on the flow of discussion throughout the course.

Time Session
09h00 - 12h30 Lectures from Rob
12h30 - 13h30 Lunch Break
13h30 - 16h30 Lecture from Rob
16h45 - 19h00 Computation sessions with Soichi

Course Syllabus

Below is a tentative outline of the topics covered each day. However, some material may be taught earlier or later in the schedule if the conversation helps steer teaching in a particular direction.

Day Lecture Topics Computation Topics
Day 1 (Mon, May 2nd) A feeling for the organism: order of magnitude thinking, simple estimates in biology Cell growth rates: image analysis, regression
Day 2 (Tues, May 3rd) Dynamics across scales in biology: chemical master equations, applications in diffusion, morphogenesis, cytoskeletal length control Simulating diffusion, chemical master equations and coin flips, applications to FRAP experiments
Day 3 (Wed, May 4th) Probability as the language of biology: probability distributions and their applications Gene expression and stochastic simulations: counting proteins through coin flips, Gillespie simulations
Day 4 (Thurs, May 5th) The secret of life as defiance: ATP consumption and its biological consequences Adaptation in chemotaxis, kinetic proofreading
Day 5 (Fri, May 6th) Beyond the atoms: coarse-grained views of living matter None