Theoretical Physics of Life

Dr. Chase Broedersz
Associate Professor

Our group studies the Physics of Life. The functionality of biological systems, such as chromosomes or the motility machinery of cells, depends on their spatial and temporal organization. By understanding the physics of this organization, we strive to provide insight into how processes down to the level of a single protein control emergent large-scale behavior.
We use a theoretical physics perspective to uncover the fundamental principles of living systems. Our research is guided by the overarching question: How does functional behavior in biological systems emerge from the collective dynamics of their interacting constituents?

We investigate this question within three research areas:
•    Cell and tissue dynamics
•    Chromosome organization
•    Non-equilibrium soft biological assemblies


Bottom-up Theory and Data-driven Theoretical Approaches
Understanding the physics of living matter poses fundamental challenges for theory. These are stochastic many-body systems operating far from thermal equilibrium, posing our systems of interest at the cutting edge of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and stochastic thermodynamics.

Recently, there has been a surge in the production of high-quality quantitative data on biological systems, such as chromosome capture experiments on bacteria or time-lapse microcopy experiments of the cytoskeletal machinery of migrating cells. These data reveal intricate stochastic dynamics and striking organizational features, but it is challenging to interpret such behaviors. We seek to unravel such complex data to uncover the physics underlying the organization and dynamics of biological systems directly from experiments. In addition to our work on bottom-up theoretical approaches, we therefore also invest strongly in data-driven theoretical approaches. We develop approaches to infer the large-scale organization of the bacterial chromosome from Hi-C data, determine the dynamics of confined cell migration, and to extract non-equilibrium information by monitoring the stochastic dynamics of living systems.

Projects and vacancies
If you are interested to do a project at the BSc or MSc thesis level in our group, or if you want to apply for a PhD or Postdoc position please contact us.