Life and death in biophysics

Timothy Newman

Timothy Newman
Professor of Biophysics
SULSA Research Chair of Systems Biology
College of Life Sciences
Presented in the Embryo Physics Course, May 9, 2012


I will discuss nine ways in which physical and biological systems differ, and how this should affect the way physical scientists approach biology. The talk will follow the mnemonic:

L-ength scales
I-ndependence of scales
F-eedback between scales

E-mergence of complexity
A-ctive processes
T-hat which is optimised

This talk is based on an editorial I wrote for Physical Biology.




Timothy Newman received his BA in Physics from the University of Oxford in 1988, and his PhD in Theoretical Physics from the University of Manchester in 1991. His doctoral and post-doctoral training focused on the quantitative understanding of non-equilibrium processes in physical systems. In 2000, while at the University of Virginia, Prof Newman began studying biological systems, focusing initially on population dynamics. He joined the physics faculty of Arizona State University in 2002, and around that time his interests shifted more to multicellular, cellular, and intracellular dynamics. In 2008 Prof Newman became Director of the Arizona State University Center for Biological Physics. He accepted the position of Professor of Biophysics and SULSA Research Chair in Systems Biology at the University of Dundee in January 2011, and, on moving to the UK, became the new Editor-in-Chief of the UK biophysics journal, Physical Biology. The main emphasis of his work is understanding and quantifying the effect of fluctuations due to the discreteness of components in complex biological systems. His research utilises both large-scale computer simulations and analysis of stochastic processes. He is currently working on three main problems: multicellular dynamics in embryo development, rare event statistics of metastasis formation, and spatio-temporal fluctuations in intracellular interactions.


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