TT24 Morning of Theoretical Physics

'Physics of living systems

Theoretical physicists use simplified models to identify and understand generic properties and rely on state-of-the art imaging to motivate and check their theories. Biology is inherently complex, so can we use similar approaches to help understand living systems?

Date: Saturday, 25 May 2024 - 10:30-13:40

Venue: Martin Wood Lecture Theatre, Clarendon Laboratory

The booking system is now closed, so please emaill if you would like to attend, giving your matriculation year and college.


Prof Julia Yeomans FRS

'Statistical physics of living systems'

Epithelial tissues cover the outer surfaces of the body and line the body’s internal cavities. The motion of epithelial cells is key to many life processes: turnover of skin cells, embryogenesis, the spread of cancer and wound healing. Much remains to be understood about the ways in which cells interact and move together. I will describe how mechanical models are being extended to incorporate the unique properties of living systems. 




Dr Adrien Hallou

'Imaging living systems'

Over the last 10 years, advances in microscopy and genome sequencing have revolutionised our understanding of how molecular programmes contained in the genome control cellular behaviours such as cell division, differentiation or death, and how these behaviours are influenced by biochemical and mechanical signals from the cell environment. In this talk, I will present a new methodology called 'spatial mechano-transcriptomics', which allows the simultaneous measurement of the mechanical and transcriptional states of cells in a multicellular tissue at single cell resolution. This new framework provides a generic scheme for exploring the interplay of biomolecular and mechanical cues in tissues in a variety of contexts, such as embryonic development, tissue homeostasis and regeneration, but also in diseases such as cancer.



Prof Alexander Mietke

'Chirality in living systems'

Chirality describes objects and features that are distinct from their mirror image, a property that can be found in many biological systems ranging from spiral patterns of seashells over helical swimming paths of sperm cells to the shape of our hands and feet. This is rather surprising, given that most organisms develop from a single, round cell which shows no obvious signs of chirality. The physics of chirality in biological systems is a research area within the modern field of living matter that aims to identify the physical principals that underlie how chirality emerges during organism development and how the chiral nature of biological materials contributes to their highly unconventional mechanical properties. In this presentation, I will discuss recent findings in this field that have linked chirality in living systems to the formation of a left-right body axis in organisms and to a new kind of elasticity that is found in crystals formed by starfish embryos.