IAM-PIMS-MITACS Distinguished Colloquium Series: Herbert Levine, Department of Physics (University of California at San Diego)

  • Date: 11/22/2010
Herbert Levine (Department of Physics, University of California at San Diego )

University of British Columbia


Making Decisions in a Noisy World: The Intelligent Dynamics of Microorganisms


Individual biological cells make decisions as to where to go for food,
when and how to divide, and when to engage in cooperative activities.
These choices must be made by nonlinear dynamical systems often buffeted
by large stochastic fluctuations. Understanding how this works,
therefore, requires a novel blend of non-equilibrium statistical
mechanics, mathematical modeling and cell biology. This talk will focus
on several prototypical examples, all from the world of microorganisms.
These include: amoeba chemotaxis (motion up chemical gradients) during
aggregation; E. Coli cell division, where the challenge is to divide in a
symmetric manner; and cooperative transitions between different types
of branching patterns seen in Paenibacillus colony growth.


Herb Levine received his doctoral degree from Princeton in 1979. He
is currently a Professor of Physics at UCSD and a member of the
Biophysics, Condensed Matter Physics, and Nonlinear Dynamics research
groups. He is interested in the physics of nonequilibrium systems,
especially in how these systems create nontrivial spatial patterns.
Nonequilibrium dynamics usually involves the time evolution of a
spatially extended set of degrees of freedom which evolve nonlinearly
while interacting with each other via transport processes. Falling
within this framework are problems that arise in physics and material
science, chemical reaction kinetics and biological morphogenesis. Most
recently, Herb's work has emphasized structures formed in micro-organism
aggregation (both bacteria colonies and cellular slime mold), rotating
waves that appear in a variety of nonlinear chemical systems (eg., CO
catalysis on a metal surface), and the use of field theoretic approaches
for the study of disordered and fractal patterns in crystallization. 


3:00pm-4:00pm, LSK 301


Other Information: 

This is the 1st lecture of the 2010-11 IAM-PIMS-MITACS
Distinguished Colloquium Series. For full details, visit: