Registration/Application Deadline: January 10, 2014
Birds flock! It is just one of the many remarkable examples of collective behavior found in nature. Physicists have been able to capture some of this behavior by modeling birds as tiny, flying magnetic spins that align with their neighbors according to simple rules. Thanks to these successes, flocking has become a paradigm for the behavior of living and non-living systems where a large number of individually driven units exhibit coherent organization at larger scales. Such systems include suspensions of swimming bacteria, layers of migrating cells, long biopolymers driven by proteins in the cell cytoskeleton and collections of synthetic microswimmers. Physicists, biologists and mathematicians are using statistical physics to model the complex behavior of these systems and to identify unifying principles.
This Teachers’ Conference, which will take place in conjunction with the interdisciplinary KITP program on “Active Matter: Cytoskeleton, Cells, Tissues and Flocks“, is intended to introduce high-school science teachers to this rapidly developing field by presenting examples of dynamical organization at various scales, from the complex hierarchical structures found inside cells, to the coordinated patterns of behavior of groups of animals.
- Jeffrey Guasto, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University, will speak on “The acrobatics of swimming bacteria”. He uses experimental methods, mainly microfluidics and high-speed imaging, to understand the dynamics of swimming microorganisms, such as bacteria and sperm cells. His recent work on marine microbes has been featured in an article by the MIT News Office.
- Vishwesha Guttal, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Ecological Sciences and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India, will speak on “The physics and biology of collective animal movement”. He uses mathematics and physical principles to model self-organization and abrupt changes in the ecosystem.
- Cristina Marchetti, the William R. Kenan Professor of Physics at Syracuse University and the Associate Director of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute, will speak on ‘Living’ matter. She is a theorist interested in understanding the emergent behavior of soft and biological materials, from layers of vibrated grains to bacterial suspensions, the cell cytoskeleton and living tissues.
- Xavier Trepat, a Group Leader at IBEC, the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, will speak on “Physical forces that drive cells”. His work on the mechanical forces that control the organized migration of cells and tissues is beginning to inform our understanding of important biological functions, such as wound healing, morphogenesis, and collective cell invasion in cancer, and has recently been featured on the cover of the journal Nature Materials.
A Unique Opportunity for Secondary School Science Teachers to Interact with Some of the World’s Leading Research Scientists
“I learned more here than I have at all of the other meetings and conferences I have been to combined.”
The KITP is dedicated to a series of one-day conferences designed to bring secondary school science teachers in the U.S. into close contact with some of the world’s leading experts in the most exciting current areas of forefront physics research. This is done in conjunction with KITP programs and conferences, which bring to Santa Barbara many of the world’s leaders in a given research area to advance the scientific frontiers in that area through discussion and research collaboration. The organizers of the teachers’ conference select speakers from this group known for their talents as expositors to general audiences, as well as for their stature as scientists.
The conferences are scheduled to give ample time for questions and discussions from the audience, with talks typically about 40 minutes followed by an interaction period of 15-20 minutes. At lunch teachers gather with the speakers and other scientists for informal discussion along with great food.