Imperial College London

Physics of Life Network Symposium


On 3 July Imperial’s Physics of Life Network ran a virtual symposium to identify open and motivating questions at the physics-biology interface.

The Physics of Life Network of Excellence is a focal point for academics from across Imperial and beyond to interrogate fundamental biological physics problems via a broad range of research themes. ‘The network aims to maximise Imperial’s existing problem-solving and technology development capabilities’, says Network Director, Professor Robert Endres, ‘and to develop new action plans for training and funding’.

‘In this symposium, we wanted to bring together excellent speakers in an engaging, accessible format’, he continues, ‘something to keep the students’ minds busy over the summer, and during the continued partial College closure due to COVID-19’.

The talks

Speakers were encouraged to focus on the research questions they are particularly interested in, rather than presenting purely technical talks. Dr Chiu Fan Lee, a co-director of the Network, emphasises how important facilitating a sense of cohort and community is, even if it needs to be done virtually during lockdown: ‘we were keen to get attendees chatting and discussing their ideas and motivations in between talks. The symposium was primarily aimed at Imperial students, wherever they are based in the world right now.’

‘We saw a wide-range of stimulating presentations from single-molecule simulations to collective emergent behaviour in cells, embryos, and plants,’ says Network Co-Director, Dr Chris Dunsby. ‘In fact, I was amazed by how well the format worked, and how good the informal discussions were. The virtual event allowed us to reach and engage many interested students in biological physics across campus and elsewhere.’

Watch again

Watch the whole event, or skip to specific talks via the links below:

  • Andela Saric (UCL) 4:20 | "Protein assembly: from non-living to living"
  • Nate Goehring (Crick) 26:27 | "Physical principles of symmetry breaking and pattern formation in cell polarity networks"
  • Chiu Fan Lee (ICL) 51:43 | "Biophysics across scales"
  • Chris Dunsby (ICL) 1:15:54 | "Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy in space and time"
  • Rosalba Garcia Millan (ICL) 1:33:54 | "In vivo properties of 3D genome organisation"
  • Giovanni Sena (ICL) 1:51:43 | "Feel the force: electrotropism in plant roots"
  • Robert Endres (ICL) 2:17:43 | "Morphospace and dimensionality of cell behaviour"
  • Jenny Poulton (ICL) 2:39:55 | "The long and the short of template copying"
  • Gunnar Pruessner (ICL) 2:58:54 | "Effective potentials for localised cell-ligand interaction"

Find out more

Although the Network’s focus is on biological physics, its membership and activities are open to anyone interested. Sign up to the mailing list to stay up-to-date on Physics of Life news and opportunities.

Imperial’s Networks of Excellence aim to establish and grow connections around an important multidisciplinary areas. Find out more about how the College recognises multi-faculty networks and centres.


Claudia Cannon

Claudia Cannon
Faculty of Natural Sciences