Invited speakers

Confirmed speakers at this event include:

Dante Chialvo, CONICET (National Research Council), Argentina
Title: The brain at the edge
Chialvo´s work explores the interface of physics and biology on a variety of problems. He is best known for proposing together with the late Per Bak that the critical state is the dynamics by which the brain as a collective can produce adaptive behavior. He is currently affiliated with the National Research Council (Conicet) of Argentina.

Marzena Ciszak, CNR-Istituto Nazionale di Ottica, Italy
Title: Signatures of swarming and synchronization dynamics in groups of growing plants
Marzena Ciszak received the PhD degree in physics from the University of Balearic Islands, Spain, in 2006. Since 2007, she is a post-doctoral researcher with the National Institute of Optics (INO) of CNR, Florence, Italy. Her current research interests include studies on nonlinear dynamics in optical and astrophysical systems, synchronization in neural networks, as well as studies on plant cells electric activity and plant behavior. For more information, please visit

Lucilla de Arcangelis
, Seconda Università degli Studi di Napoli, Italy
Title: Collective properties of multi-task learning in neuronal networks
Lucilla de Arcangelis is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Industrial & Information Engineering Department of the Second University of Naples. After undergraduate studies at the University of Naples, she received a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the Boston University. She first obtained a CNRS position at the ESPCI in Paris and then a Faculty position in Italy. At present, she has a visiting position at ETH Zurich. Her research interests span over a variety of problem in statistical mechanics: from percolation, fractals, cellular automata to spin glass, models for fracture and gelation. Recently, she has focused her research on the investigation of statistical properties of earthquake occurrence and neuronal activity on complex networks.  

Ben Fabry
, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
Title: Collective motion in penguin colonies
Ben Fabry is professor of physics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He has a long-standing interest in the mechanical properties of proteins, cells, and biological tissue. In recent years, he was lucky to be the supervisor of a gifted PhD student (Daniel Zitterbart) who, after becoming bored with measuring cancer cell migration, spent a year in the Antarctic to study Emperor penguins.

Nigel Franks
, University of Bristol, UK
Title: Social decision-making by ant colonies
Prof. Nigel R. Franks has been studying ants professionally for more than 30 years; not just for their own sake but because these are model organisms for understanding principles that are both fundamental and general in biology and beyond. Ants facilitate studies within many fields in biology. These include communication systems, division of labour, co-operation, cognition, decision-making systems, individual and collective intelligence, and self-organization and complexity. In addition, Prof. Franks has wide interests in evolutionary and mathematical biology. Thus, he has published studies on chimpanzees, cuckoos, C. elegans and even the mathematics of leaf shape. Nigel Franks is Professor of Animal Behaviour, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol. His career has included positions at Harvard University, where he worked with the eminent biologist E. O. Wilson, and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. Through his research in self-organisation he has helped to pioneer studies showing how simple rules of thumb employed by individual social insects, at a purely local level, can generate complex adaptive features at the level of the whole colony. The work of his Ant Lab, Bristol is ground-breaking as evidenced by his recent profile in Science (see

Raymond E Goldstein
, University of Cambridge, UK
Title: Fluid dynamics and self-organization of cytoplasmic streaming
Ray Goldstein received undergraduate degrees in physics and chemistry from MIT, and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Cornell University. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago and faculty positions in physics and applied mathematics at Princeton University and the University of Arizona, he moved to Cambridge as the Schlumberger Professor of Complex Physical Systems in 2006.
His research interests span from statistical physics to nonlinear dynamics and geophysics, with particular emphasis on biological physics, both theoretical and experimental. His work has been recognized by a Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a Presidential Faculty Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, the Stephanos Pnevmatikos Award in Nonlinear Science, and Fellowship in the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

Thomas Gregor
, Princeton University, USA
Title: Excitable signal relay and collective behaviors in social amoebae
Thomas Gregor studied physics and mathematics at the University of Geneva, received a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Princeton University, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo. In 2009 he started his independent research laboratory at Princeton University as an Assistant Professor of Physics and a member of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. Gregor's research focusses on a physics-style investigation of complex biological phenomena such as pattern formation and signaling networks in developing multicellular organisms. As such, he develops instrumentation to make precise measurements that can validate simple physical models. For more information, please visit

Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen
, Imperial College London, UK
Title: Emergence of complex structure through co-evolution: The Tangled Nature model of evolutionary ecology
Henrik Jeldtoft Jensen is a Professor of Mathematical Physics and Leader of the Complexity & Networks Group at Imperial College London. He has done research on the theory of magnetism, superconductivity, phase transitions and for many years worked on the statistical mechanics of complex systems in general. His research focuses in particular on the dynamics of such systems. Recently he has worked on neuroscience, evolutionary ecology, economics and finance. A current project focus on the use of information theoretic analysis of EEG data recorded during performance to identify the nature of the flow of information between performing musicians and from musicians to their audience. More information about his activities can be found at:

Jens Krause
, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Germany
Title: Collective behaviour and collective cognition

Alfonso Martinez Arias
, University of Cambridge, UK
Title: Brachyury and the genetic control of the velocity and steerage of cells during gastrulation
Alfonso Martinez Arias is a developmental biologist who believes that living systems need to be understood from the perspectve of the physical scinces. From this perspective, he is interested in the structure and function of Living Matter with a special focus on the processes that generate tissues and organs from single cells through interactions between protein and gene regulatory networks. It has become clear that cells use these networks to create and read programmes of gene expression which serve to generate the multiple cell types that configure the building blocks of an organism. His research is focused on the principles that underlie the activity of such molecular networks and how they are used to build tissues for organs. He addresses this problem through a combination of classical genetics, quantitative cell biology, image analysis and modelling (

David Peak, Utah State University, USA
Title: The physics of emergent computation in stomatal networks
David Peak professes and practices physics at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, USA. In between, he also collaborates with Keith Mott, a plant physiologist. Their students and they are actively pursuing evidence supporting the somewhat heretical notion that aspects of plant behavior are explained by relatively simple physics and the certainly heretical idea that this behavior might be a kind of computation. For his professing efforts, Peak has received awards for teaching excellence at three universities, a prize from the American Physical Society for research done with undergraduates, and a citation from the Carnegie Foundation as one of its US Professors of the Year.

Peter Swain
, University of Edinburgh, UK
Title: The physics of microbial mating decisions
Peter Swain studied Mathematics at Cambridge University and Imperial College London and then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, the Department of Physics at Tel Aviv University, and the Center for Studies in Physics and Biology at the Rockefeller University. Before coming to Scotland, he was an Assistant and then Associate Professor of Physiology at McGill University and holder of a Canada Research Chair in Systems Biology. He currently is a SULSA Professor of Systems Biology at the University of Edinburgh.

Matthew Turner, University of Warwick, UK
Title: Realistic long-ranged interactions and density regulation in flocks and swarms
Turner did his PhD in theoretical soft matter physics at Cambridge University where he worked on polymers that exchange mass under the supervision of M. E. Cates. This was followed by a postdoc with J-F Joanny at the CNRS in Strasbourg working to understand complex self-assembly in a number of systems. At that time he was elected a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge (under "title A") and later a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in Cambridge. During this period he spent more than a year at the University of California at Santa Barbara, based in the KITP, where he worked mainly on soft matter systems near interfaces. He was then appointed to the faculty at Warwick University before leaving, almost immediately, to become the W M Keck fellow in the Centre for Studies in Physics and Biology, Rockefeller University from 1998-2000. His primary interest in Biology dates from this period and was followed by work on protein polymerisation, genetic networks, molecular motors, mixed and active membranes, theoretical neuroscience and, more recently, collective behaviour in animals and non-equilibrium systems in general. He is currently a Professor of Physics at Warwick where he holds an EPSRC Leadership Fellowship. For several years he has also held a Joliot-Curie visiting fellowship at ESPCI, Paris.

Massimo Vergassola
, Institut Pasteur, France
Title: Bacterial chemotaxis
Massimo Vergassola holds a joint position as Directeur de Recherche CNRS and head of the group Physics of Biological Systems at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Over the past 20 years, he has been involved in research on Lattice Gas, the formation of cosmological large-scale structures, the statistical physics of turbulent flows and transport, random matrices, computational and physical biology. He had visiting positions at various research institutions, including Rockefeller University, IAS, IHES, KITP, and currently has a teaching position at Ecole Polytechnique. His scientific activity has been recognized by a CNRS Bronze Medal, the EADS Prize from the French Academy of Science, the Biomedical Prize Lebrasseur from the Fondation de France and the Equipe FRM award from the French Foundation for Medical Research (FRM).

Tamás Vicsek, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Eötvös University, Hungary
Title: Context-dependent hierarchies in animal societies
Tamas Vicsek is a Professor of Physics at the Biological Physics Department of Eotvos University and a head of the Statistical and Biological Physics research group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Over the past 30 years he has been involved in doing computational and experimental research on fractals, pattern formation, granular materials, collective motion (bacterial colonies, flocks, crowds) and the and structure and evolution of complex networks. He has had visiting positions at various research insitutes and universities, including Emory University, Yale University and the University of Notre Dame. Tamas Vicsek is a fellow of the APS and member of Academiae Europaea and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.



Key dates

  • Abstract submission deadline:
    extended to 2 May 2013
  • Early registration deadline:
    22 May 2013
  • Registration deadline:
    17 June 2013

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