BIRS workshop: Mathematical Models in Biology - from Information Theory to Thermodynamics

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Banff International Research Station

Audience: Researchers in the topic
Conference dates: 27-Jul-2020 to 29-Jul-2020
Curator: BIRS Programme Coordinator*
*contact for this listing

All living things, from the simplest bacteria to human beings, are made of cells. Fundamental understanding of living systems, both in health and in disease, depends on understanding the complex interactions among and within living cells. Multiple scientific disciplines have separately shed light on the problems of communication and organization in living systems. Biochemistry, bioinformatics and systems biology describe the basic ingredients of cells: DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids, and their interactions. Information theory, founded by Claude Shannon, provides a framework for quantifying the flow of information through any communications system, whether living or engineered (or both, as in the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology). Statistical thermodynamics, the branch of physics concerned with transformations among different forms of energy as well as with the physics of information, sets fundamental limits on the energetic price cells must pay for the information they sense (from each other, from the environment, and from their own DNA).

In the last five years, significant advances in statistical thermodynamics and the information theory of biological systems have set the stage for a deeper understanding of how cells process and organize information, make decisions, predict the future, and learn from the past. An essential link between these traditionally disparate fields is the language of mathematics, which provides a common framework within which researchers can understand each other across disciplines. The workshop on Mathematical Models in Biology: from Information Theory to Thermodynamics will bring together leading experts and aspiring junior researchers from systems biology, statistical physics, information theory, and applied mathematics to develop the fundamental, linking ideas, to compare recent advances in their fields, and to establish new collaborations.

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