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Solvay Workshop on "Physics of living systems: from molecules, to cells, to whole organisms"

Brussels, 2 - 4 December 2020 - ONLINE

Living systems are dynamic and complex at all levels, ranging from the interaction of
many molecules in the cell, to the coordinated behavior of many cells in multicellular

organisms. Understanding this biological complexity requires an interdisciplinary

approach. Therefore, this workshop brings together scientists with various backgrounds

to tackle several fundamental questions in biology.

Molecules. The number of different molecules present in each cell is regulated by a large

network that integrates metabolism, protein interactions and gene regulatory elements.

How do these multiple regulatory mechanisms work in concert and enable cells to

make decisions? How do cells deal with the intrinsic stochasticity inherent to small DNA

copy number and small numbers of molecules? Do specific regulatory network

architectures optimize different physical quantities such as information transmission,

energetic costs or dissipation?


Cells. It is known that the number of molecules also strongly depends on the location within

the cell. The spatiotemporal organization of molecules in the cytoplasm and in various

organelles plays a key role in coordinating cellular behavior, such as division, growth

and locomotion. Perhaps one of the most in- triguing open questions is how a cell senses

and regulates its own size and shape, and how it controls the number and location of its

various organelles. Molecular mechanisms and physical principles underlying cellular

organization in general will be explored.

Organisms. Whole organisms rely on the coordinated behavior of many cells to function.

How is a developing embryo able to robustly create its body plan based on individual

cell properties and cell- cell communication? Different strategies have been selected by

different organisms, such as relying on morphogen gradients or using mosaic development

to dictate spatial patterning of the embryo. General principles that lie at the heart of

embryonic development will be discussed.


Invited Speakers

Click HERE to view the list of speakers and their presentation titles.


Stefano Di Talia (Duke U., USA)
James Ferrell (Stanford, USA)

Kristina Ganzinger (AMOLF, The Netherlands)

Hernan Garcia (UC Berkeley, USA)

Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo (Pompeu Fabra U., Spain)

Stephan Grill (TU Dresden, Germany)

Anna Kicheva (IST, Austria)

Aneta Koseska (MPI, Dortmund, Germany)

James Locke (SLCU, U. of Cambridge, UK)

Thierry Mora (ENS, France)

Pieter Rein ten Wolde (AMOLF, The Netherlands)
Simone Reber (Humboldt U., Germany)

Silvia Santos (Francis Crick Institute, UK)
Katharina Sonnen (Hubrecht Institute, The Netherlands)

Jens Timmer (U. of Freiburg, Germany)
Erik van Nimwegen (U. Basel, Switzerland)

Nadine Vastenhouw (MPI, Dresden, Germany)
Aleksandra Walczak (ENS, France)

Scientific and Organising Committee

Sophie de Buyl (VUB, Belgium)
Geneviève Dupont (ULB, Belgium) 
Lendert Gelens (KUL & VUB, Belgium) 
Didier Gonze (ULB, Belgium)

Practical information for attendees

Unfortunately, the evolution of the sanitary situation does not allow for the workshop to take place in a hybrid format as planned.

The workshop will be held in a virtual-only format.



We have encountered technical issues with our registration form, making it difficult for some of you to register.

In principle, after registering you should receive an automatic response confirming that your registration has been submitted.

This message is then followed by an email confirming your participation.

If you do not receive your confirmation email within 48 hours after you registered, please email Isabelle Van Geet at


Please note that attendance is free of charge but registration is required.


Registration is now closed.

For any enquiries, please contact Isabelle Van Geet (

Break-out sessions - Meet the speakers

Break-out sessions will be organised between sessions, allowing attendees to interact virtually with the speaker(s) of their choice. When
registering, add the names of four speakers you wish to interact with, along with the subject you wish to discuss (i.e. your own research,
the speaker's research, research management, mentoring, ...). Please click HERE for the list of speakers and their presentation titles.


Young Researcher Award - Video submisson

A Young Researcher Award session will be organized for young researchers (PhDs and Postdocs). 

If you wish to apply, please submit a 1 minute video about your research. A prize will be awarded to the best three participants.

Please send your video to Isabelle Van Geet by email or by WeTransfer at, by 30 November 2020.


Notifications regarding the status of your submission will be sent once the review process is complete. 




***For any enquiries, please contact Isabelle Van Geet (