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



Brussels, 1 - 3 April 2020 (ULB - Campus Plaine - Solvay Room)

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 reg- ulatory 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 transmis- sion, 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


Stefano Di Talia (Duke U., USA)
Miki Ebisuya (EMBL Barcelona, Spain)
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 (U. Basel, Switzerland)

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 (Ecole Normale Supérieure, 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


Fee and registration

Attendance is free of charge but registration is required (limited space).
To register, please click on ‘Click HERE to register’ at the top right of the webpage.
23 March 2020 is the deadline for registration.


Name badges and WIFI codes will be distributed on site on Wednesday 1 April from 8:30 a.m.


Poster session

A poster session will be organized on Wednesday 1st April, poster presentation from attendees is strongly encouraged.


If you wish to apply, please send a title and a short abstract (maximum 500 words including references)
to Isabelle Van Geet by email at, by 23 March 2020.

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

Please use a Word document format using the template below

Word template: abstract.doc


Size of poster board: 114cm x114cm (suitable for A0 and A1 portrait poster)



The workshop will be held at ULB (Université Libre de Bruxelles) - Campus Plaine - Bld de la Plaine
1050 Brussels (Building N.O. - 5th Floor - Solvay Room). Click HERE for the map of the Campus.


A banquet will be held on Thursday 2 April at 8:00 p.m.
For those who wish to attend, there will be a 50 Euro banquet fee to be paid cash on the first day of the workshop.

An email with the banquet registration details will be sent to all participants in March.

Getting here

Metro line 5 (direction "Hermann Debroux") - Station "Delta". Delta is the metro station on the campus.
Click HERE for the map of the metro.

For more information about public transport in Brussels go to the STIB's website.

If you come by car, please click HERE for directions.

Travel and accommodation

Attendees will have to arrange and pay for their own travel, accommodation, and subsistence costs.

Please see below links that might help you find accommodation in Brussels.


Brussels City Center:

Hôtel Atlas - Sleep Well - Bed & Brussels - - Hotel Saint-Nicolas

Hotel Queen Anne - Hotel Bloom - Max Hotel - Metropole Hotel - Plaza Hotel


Hotels close to the venue:

U-Residence: 1.2 km (12 minutes walk - tram number 25: 8 minutes)

Hotel Brussels: 3.6 km (25 minutes walk - tram number 8: 20 minutes)

Hotel Barsey by Warwick: 3,8 km (28 minutes walk - tram number 8: 21 minutes)

Hotel Ibis Styles Hotel Brussels Louise: 3.6 km (25 minutes walk - tram number 8: 20 minutes)

Hotel Capital: 3.3 km (19 minutes walk - tram number 8: 16 minutes)



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