This program is aimed at Master's- and PhD-level students who wish to be exposed to interesting problems in biology that lie at the biology-physics interface. Besides familiarity with basic biology, they will be expected to have an adequate background in physics and/or mathematics. The school will consist of formal lectures as well as informal tutorial sessions.
Two themes form the background to the school. First, evolution by natural selection, while being the chief mode of adaptive evolution, is subject to significant constraints, for example, because of intra-molecular correlations between amino acids in proteins or physical forces in multicellular development. Second, some long-term evolutionary outcomes resemble the short-term behaviour of physico-chemical matter that is based on generic, which is to say mechanical and chemical, properties of solids and liquids.
The topics to be covered in the lectures are based on these themes and can be outlined in terms of four questions.
(a) Do physical constraints impede or favour the adaptation of evolving systems?
(b) To what extent can evolutionary outcomes be explained in terms of the short-term behaviour of physical systems?
(c) How may mathematical models help in understanding fundamental principles of spatio-temporal organisation in living systems?
(d) Can quantitative experiments and large-scale data provide new conceptual insights on living matter?
These questions will be illustrated in a range of contexts from molecular evolution to ecology through cell and tissue dynamics.