May 22 – 25, 2013
Ferry Stockholm-Mariehamn and Hotel Arkipelag, Mariehamn, Åland
Europe/Stockholm timezone


This meeting, which is now over, addressed applications of statistical mechanics to biological cooperativity, from molecules to populations.

Background to the field

The scientific interface between physics and biology is one of the most active areas of scientific research, as shown by its rapid evolution during the recent years. Biological cooperativity roughly includes all action in biology that cannot be explained linearly, from synergistic interactions on the molecular level up to games and strategic interactions in populations.

The regulation of gene expression is in its simplest form akin to a switch with the binding of transcription factor to DNA playing the role of a relay. However, as has become increasingly clear, the generic picture is more global and more intricate e.g. the rate of transcription of a gene generally depends on transcription factors acting in cooperation, on epigenetic changes and marks and even on the three-dimensional location of chromosomes in the nucleus. All these lead to interesting problems in statistical mechanics ranging from deterministic and stochastic models of gene expression, including Wentzel-Freidlin theory for rare events, to models of nucleosome positioning by entropic effects up to the fractal globule model and other exotic long-lived by only metastable polymer states.

Signalling is the process whereby biological information is transferred from the outside of the cell to regulate internal processes. Statistical mechanics has been used to construct models of chemotaxis, of quorum sensing, and to lymphocyte activation in response to antigens.

It is well known that there is a close analogy between non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and models in evolutionary and population genetics, where selection and mutations play the role of drift, and genetic drift, the (partly) random selection of individuals that survive from one generation to the next plays the role of noise. Over the last decade the fundamental understanding of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics has been revolutionized by the fluctuation relations, which hold also far from equilibrium; these have only very recently been introduced in population genetics, and may there have a much larger impact.

The meeting is generously supported by NORDITA, the Aalto Science Institute, and the National Graduate School in Materials Physics (Finland) NGSMP, and is carried out with the active participation of the European scientific coordination network Evolution, Regulation and signalling (ERS).

The venue is Hotel Arkipelag in downtown Mariehamn, the capital of the province of Åland, Finland. Note however that the program starts on a ferry from Stockholm to Mariehamn and your presence there is important information for the organizers.

There is no workshop fee. Travel on the ferry from Stockholm to Mariehamn, including dinner on the ferry, is free for all participants, as are coffee and lunches at the Workshop. In addition, a number of grants can be offered, to PhD students and to others, to cover accommodation in Mariehamn and, in special cases, travel to Stockholm. If you need such support, indicate so at registration.

Invited speakers

Uri AlonWeizmann
Ulrich Gerland LMU Munchen
Vincent Hakim ENS-Paris
Oskar Hallatschek MPI, Germany
Sui Huang ISB, Seattle, USA
Mogens Jensen Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen
Debora Marks Harvard Medical School
Olivier Martin U. Paris-Sud
Sergei Maslov Brookhaven National Laboratory
Ville Mustonen Sanger Centre
David R Nelson Harvard
Chris Sander Memorial Sloan Kettering
Aleksandra Walczak ENS-Paris
Chris Watkins Royal Holloway, University of London
Pieter Rein ten Wolde AMOLF, The Netherlands

Registration for this event is now closed

Practical information about the conference start

The conference begins on the Silja Line ferry sailing from Stockholm harbour to Helsinki on May 22, 2013, at 17.00 Swedish time. The ferry makes a stop-over in Mariehamn (where we get off). The trip to Mariehamn from Stockholm takes about five hours. We will have a lecture room and dinner on the ship.

It is recommended that you be in the ferry terminal at 16.15, at the latest. Someone from the organizing committee (Erik Aurell, Mikko Alava or Ralf Eichhorn) will be in the ferry terminal with the tickets from 15.45, at the latest.

Note that these (large) ferries leave on time, and wait for nobody.

Practical information about the return trip

The return trip from Mariehamn is the responsibility of the individual participants.

However, to simplify things, everyone except those who have explicitly indicated a contrary preference will be booked on Viking Line sailing from Mariehamn on Saturday May 25 at 14.25 (Finnish time), arriving in Stockholm at 18.55 (Swedish time). If you continue elsewhere by air travel from Stockholm that same evening you should count at least one hour from the ferry terminal to the airport (to be on the safe side).

Main sponsors:

Nordita Aalto

Ferry Stockholm-Mariehamn and Hotel Arkipelag, Mariehamn, Åland
The workshop begins on the Stockholm-Mariehamn ferry, departing from Stockholm on 22 May, 4.30 p.m. After the workshop you can conveniently return on a ferry either to Stockholm or to Turku on the Finnish mainland, with a train connection to Helsinki.