Mathematics of the Cell: Integrating Genes, Biochemistry and Mechanics (14w5075)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Sunday, September 7 and departing Friday September 12, 2014


(University of British Columbia)

(The Ohio State University)

(New York University)

David Sept (University of Michigan)


One of the most effective ways to achieve these goals of collaboration and integration of theoretical and experimental approaches is to organize small to mid-size meetings at which mathematicians and biologists discuss in depth recent advances, new paradigms and trends, and plan future collaborations. The format of a BIRS 5-day workshop is ideal for such a meeting. We started to pursue the goals described above 5 years ago, with the first meeting focused on Mathematical Biology of the Cell, and devoted to defining this discipline. The meeting was a big success, and was followed by the second in 2011. In the second meeting we concentrated on the narrower area of mathematics of cytoskeleton and cell motility and division, which has attracted a large number of modeling efforts. One of the best signs of its success is that a great number of collaborations were started at that meeting.We would like to continue Mathematical Biology of the Cell meetings once every 3 years, thus having the next meeting in 2014, and hope that BIRS will continue to support our efforts. We want to emphasize that this area is not settling down into a comfortable routine. In fact, the emerging challenge we are facing is that we have to go past successful mathematical modeling of certain aspects (i.e. biochemical or mechanical) of cell behavior, and start integrating genetic, biochemical and mechanical models into multi-scale mathematical platforms that will allow for prediction of cell behavior in physiological circumstances. This poses a set of mathematical, computational and biological problems that we hope to discuss, define and start planning to solve in 2014.Participants The organizers are: Alex Mogilner (U of California – Davis), mathematician and biologist, is one of the leaders of modeling cell motility and division; Adriana Dawes (Ohio State U), mathematician and biologist, is young female Assistant Professor, who pioneered quantitative understanding of C. elegans embryo polarization; Eric Cytrynbaum (U British Columbia), mathematician, is in the middle of his career (Assoc Prof) and is well known for his modeling of microtubules and bacterial cell division; David Sept (U Michigan), biomedical engineer, is one of the leaders in the fields of cytoskeletal protein structure and dynamics, pharmacokinetics and drug design. The organizers have broad expertise spanning math, biology and engineering, include a Canadian and a female, and represent all levels of academic career. The key to success of our meeting will be the participants. A list of about 25 confirmed participants (including the organizers) - who are committed to attending the workshop if it is approved - is entered below. Many of them have already experienced the exciting atmosphere that was created by the first two workshops. The list includes biophysicists and mathematicians who have made fundamental contributions to the understanding of the cell (George Oster, Alex Mogilner, David Sept, Leah Edelstein-Keshet, Cecile Sykes) as well as cell biologists whose work has pushed the boundaries of the known biology (Tom Pollard, Julie Theriot, Orion Weiner, Gaudenz Danuser, John Condeelis). We are committed to vertical (senior to junior) and horizontal (math to biology to physics to engineering) integration of the participants: Some of the invitees, like Ewa Paluch, are exceptional young scientists with great insights and accomplishments. Others, like Tom Pollard and John Condeelis, are senior leaders (Nat Acad members) in the biological field that can help to make connections, and put disparate aspects into a common unified context. The participants will include cell biologists (Pollard, Weiner, Theriot, Condeelis), mathematicians (Cytrynbaum, Mogilner, Allard, Nessy), physicists (Carlsson, Vavylonis, Keren), engineers (Danuser, Odde, Sept). In fact, for many participants, it is hard to define them in disciplinary terms (Danuser is as much a biologist as an engineer; Dawes – as much a mathematician as biologist; Keren – as much biologist as physicist), which is the sign of success of the integration.The list of confirmed participants includes eleven female scientists, five young scientists at the Assistant Professor level, and four postdocs. If the workshop is approved, we will expand our list to include students as well. Last, we plan to celebrate the career of Leah Edelstein-Keshet, who has been and continues to be one of the most prominent leaders and founders of Mathematical Cell Biology.Tentative agenda and themes of the workshop We plan to subdivide the workshop by biological levels, ranging from the molecular level to the cellular level to the tissue level. On each of the days described below, we will include both talks from experimentalists and modelers working on related problems. We will also have talks involving traditional mathematical modeling techniques and novel, systems-level, integrative approaches. We will also schedule ample discussion time, aside from the formal lectures.Opening lecture (Sunday night): Given by George Oster, to set the stage and develop the big picture questions, and to provide a solid base of biological knowledge about the cell. Day 1: We plan to concentrate on mathematics of the gene regulation networks (Naama Barkai (bio) and Muriel Vazquez (math) will be the key speakers) as well as key complex molecules (signaling proteins, molecular motors, cytoskeletal polymers) and respective stochastic aspects of mathematics needed to understand them (David Sept and Anders Carlsson will be the key speakers). Day 2: We will highlight the modeling of networks and pathways (biochemical and mechanical) crucial for governing the cell. John Condeelis, Leah Edelstein-Keshet, Thomas Pollard and Orion Weiner will be the key speakers on this day. Day 3: We will plan to develop the theme of understanding integrated mechanochemistry of the whole cell. Here the experimental work of David Odde, Margaret Gardel, Ewa Paluch and Kinneret Keren, as well as models of Alex Mogilner, Eric Cytrynbaum and Dimitrios Vavylonis will form the highlights. Day 4: Here we will focus on multicellular aspects of Mathematical Cell Biology and on the spatio-temporal phenomena uncovered in physiological and medical aplications. The work of Jennifer Zallen, Adriana Dawes, Cecile Sykes, Ewa Paluch and Gaudenz Danuser will contribute to this subtheme. Day 5: As this day is fairly short, we will have a short-lecture format by a number of postdocs and students, as well as a concluding discussion to identify the important questions that merit further research in the contact between the experimental and the theoretical sciences. Poster session: In the evenings, we will have a poster session, where all non-speaking participants and any of the speaking ones who wish, will present their work.