EMBO Workshop “Physics of living systems: From molecules to tissues”

International workshop on unravelling the organization of life.

Seventy years ago, Erwin Schrödinger asked the question ’What is Life?’ in his well-known book from 1944. Last week, scientists met virtually in Dresden to discuss the latest physical insight into the mechanics and statistics of living matter, from molecules to cells to tissues.

From June 7-10, 2021, the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) hosted a 4-day EMBO workshop to discuss recent advances in the field of biological physics, focusing on emergent principles that govern the dynamic organization of living matter. 41 international speakers from biology, physics and computer science presented their latest findings on physics of living systems to more than 300 registered participants at this workshop. The physicists Prof. Stephan Grill (PoL, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics - MPI-CBG), Dr. Elisabeth Fischer-Friedrich (PoL), Dr. Jan Brugués (MPI-CBG, MPI-PKS), Prof. Frank Jülicher (Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems - MPI-PKS) and Prof. Guillaume Salbreux (University of Geneva) were in charge of the scientific organization.

The virtual event was funded by the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and served as a platform to debate living matter as a self-organizing and active form of soft condensed matter. “This approach will, as we believe, reveal original and new physics and establish a new perspective on dynamic biological processes as self-organizing dynamical systems.“ emphasizes organizer Elisabeth Fischer-Friedrich, research group leader at PoL.

Stephan Grill, Speaker of PoL and director at the MPI-CBG, adds: “We intend to identify physical principles of organization across scales - from molecules to cells to tissues. Therefore, we have selected a synergistic group of speakers from physics, biology, and computer science to embrace the interdisciplinarity of our scope.” The six workshop sessions were dedicated to the topics Active forces in Biological Systems, Self-organization of Living Systems, Compartmentalization of the Cytoplasm, Nuclear Organization, Tissue Mechanics, and Tissue Morphogenesis, which mirrors the research avenues of PoL.

The line-up of renowned international speakers was complemented with selected talks and poster presentations by the participants. Besides the communication of important scientific findings, conferences offer great opportunities for networking. To accomplish this in the virtual format the workshop encouraged interactions among the participants, such as question rounds, social meetup sessions and poster discussions with junior researchers.

On behalf of the entire organizing team, the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at TU Dresden would like to thank all sponsors, speakers and attendees for contributing to this event.

An overview of the program and speakers can be found on the workshop website: https://meetings.embo.org/event/20-physics-of-living-systems


Prof. Stephan Grill,
Speaker of the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) and
Director at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG)