Novel Physics in Living Systems?

French-German WE-Heraeus-Seminar

02 Sep - 06 Sep 2019


Station Biologique de Roscoff, Brittany, France

Scientific organizers:

Prof. Dr. Theo Geisel, MPI für Dynamik und Selbstorganisation, Göttingen • Prof. Dr. Hugues Chaté, CNRS-CEA Saclay

Living systems are subject to the laws of physics like all other systems on earth and many of them can be studied with the conventional tools of physics. On the other hand biology also provides systems, for which one does not readily find appropriate theoretical and experimental methods in the traditional toolbox of physics. Some examples are the dynamics of interacting nerve cells in the networks of our brains, for which the many-body techniques developed for interacting particles are of no help, or interacting species in evolving ecologies and the swarming of birds and bacteria.

This first French-German Wilhelm and Else Heraeus seminar will be dedicated to biological physics and will focus specifically on new challenges for physics posed by biological systems. We will ask, e.g., which are the biological problems that provide novel physics? Where are differences between nonequilibrium biology and nonequilibrium physics? Are there new physical principles, if not laws, that drive biological evolution?

The seminar will be held at the CNRS-run conference center of the “Station Biologique de Roscoff” in Britanny and will consist of invited talks, a limited number of contributed talks, and poster sessions; conference language will be English. We encourage applications of advanced PhD students and postdocs in the field. Attendance is limited to about 60 participants. The Wilhelm and Else Heraeus-Foundation will bear the cost of full-board accommodation for all participants.


On the initiative of the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation, the German Physical Society (DPG) together with the Foundation is pursuing a novel project called “Binational Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Seminars”. Considering the unfortunate fact of increasing and prevalent scepticism regarding the European integration, these seminars are meant to set an example of commonly organised physics workshops between Germany and one of the countries France, the United Kingdom, and Poland, as a signal of conducive partnership and scientific cooperation between those countries and their learned societies. In particular, the idea is to initiate new or foster existing collaborations between research groups in these countries and Germany. An additional reason for focussing on the above mentioned countries is the long tradition of prestigious jointly-awarded prizes, namely the Gentner-Kastler-Award (Société Française de Physique & DPG), the Max-Born-Award (Institute of Physics & DPG), and the Marian Smoluchowski - Emil Warburg Physics Prize (Polskie Towarzystwo Fizyczne & DPG). In recognition of this notable tradition, the recent prize winners are invited to (co)organize one of the seminars.