The Stephens Group is pioneering a new field – the physics of behavior: from individual organisms to entire societies. Overwhelmingly, the science of the living world is focused on the microscopic: the structure of DNA, the exquisite nanomachinery of cells or the pattern of electrical activity in the brain. Yet, these processes all serve larger evolutionary goals of the organism: to find food, avoid predators and reproduce. This is the behavioral scale, and despite it’s importance, a quantitative understanding of behavior is lacking. But how do we capture the emergent dynamics of entire organisms? What principles characterize living movement? Can we build an effective "physics of organisms" where microscopic details are often irrelevant? Research in our group addresses these fundamental questions with a modern biophysics approach and model systems ranging from the nematode C. elegans to zebrafish and honeybee collectives. We combine theoretical ideas from statistical physics, information theory and dynamical systems and work in close collaboration with scientists from the VU and around the world to seek unifying principles from novel, quantitative experiments of organisms in natural motion.
Contact: Dr. Greg Stephens, email email@example.com
A possible bachelor project: Is the information content of transcription factors sufficient to regulate gene expression in various organisms?