Statistical and Biological Physics
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Broedersz Group - Theoretical statistical & biological physics

We study the physics of life. We use a theoretical physics perspective to uncover the fundamental principles of living matter. A central question of our research is how functional behavior in biological systems emerges from the collective dynamics of its interacting constituents. Our group tackles this question using approaches from statistical mechanics and soft condensed matter physics.

 

NEWS

Broken detailed balance and non-equilibrium dynamics in biological systems

Federico's, Federica's and Jannes' review is on the [arXive]

Cells contract and stiffen their surrounding matrix

Yu Long and Pierre's paper on nonlinear mechanical interactions between cells and the martix is on the arXive

Protein-DNA droplets in bacteria

We developed a new approach to describe protein-DNA droplets to provide insight into the chromosome segregation machinery. Read about it here and here

Physical limits to biomechanical sensing

Farzan's paper on mechanosensation is published Nature Communications, and is featured in in the news.

Broken detailed balance at mesoscopic scales in active biological systems

Our paper on quantifying non-equilibrium dynamics in biological systems is published in Science!

pnas_march2016

Fiber networks amplify active stress

Pierre’s paper on stress amplification in fiber networks is published in PNAS, and is featured on the cover. Congrats Pierre!

Broken detailed balance reveals stress heterogeneity in active matter

Jannes’ paper on broken detailed balance in motor activated gels is published in PRL.
Read all about it here.

 

Research

Non-equilibrium physics of biological systems

neq Living matter is active: Many fundamental biological processes in cells operate far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Typically, these processes are inherently noisy. A central biophysical question is whether the stochastic dynamics of these systems are governed by thermal fluctuations or rather by active, non-equilibrium fluctuations. We develop theoretical methods to diagnose, quantify, and study non-equilibrium dynamics in noisy biological systems. This will help us elucidate how non-equilibrium dynamics manifests on different length and time scales in biological systems, and how this impacts their functional behavior.

Read more about this topic here.

 

Chromosome dynamics and organization in bacteria

dna The DNA is roughly a thousand fold longer than the bacteria in which it is contained. Naively, we would expect this DNA to be condensed into an amorphous, random condensed polymer with small thermal fluctuations. Recent experiments have refuted this picture. The bacterial chromosome is highly organized in the cell and can exhibit vigorous non-equilibrium dynamics. The spatial organization of the DNA is in part due to a large number of interacting proteins, which collectively structure the chromosome. We are developing a theory for the statistical mechanics of the bacterial chromosome to understand how its organization and dynamics impact biological function.

Read more about this topic here.

 

Marginal biological networks in and around cells

Biological assemblies constitute a prime example of soft condensed matter. For instance, networks of protein fibers govern the mechanics of cells and the surrounding extracellular matrix. Physically, what sets these networks apart is their disordered nature and weak connectivity, which is only barely enough for them to be mechanically stable. This marginal stability has striking implications for their physical properties, including critical behavior and extreme mechanical properties. We study the basic physics of marginal fiber networks and its implications for biology.

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