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Emergent and Adaptive Behaviors in Soft Matter and Living Systems (5257)

September 16, 2013 – September 19, 2013


Xiamen University, Xiamen, Fujian, China



Photo Credits:


Zhong-can Ou-Yang, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Science
Chen-Xu Wu, Xiamen University
Jianwei Shuai, Xiamen Univeristy


Event Website

Soft condensed matter physics (also known as complex fluids) studies systems that are mechanically soft such as colloids, emulsions, surfactants, polymers, liquid crystals, and various biomaterials, including DNA and proteins. In many cases, these systems display an adaptive behavior with respect to changes of external parameters (environment) which is manifested by a multitude of cross-over phenomena and phase transitions caused by variations in the environmental conditions. As a consequence, soft materials can display functional behaviors and change their properties in response to changes in the environment. Examples are functionalized polymer brushes which switch between hydrophilic or hydrophobic properties, or thermoplastic elastomers which display extreme temperature dependence.

Emergent phenomena are macroscopic properties that are not reducible to properties of the individual constituents of the system. Once again, soft condensed matter, as a consequence of its complex interplay between enthalpic and entropic interactions, is rich in manifestations of emergent behaviors. Examples are microphase segregation, pattern formation, or dynamical oscillations that critically depend on the choices of external parameters. These basic properties, when further refined, turn out to be fundamental for living matter in which the response to external conditions, switching of shapes and recognition of certain environmental properties are essential properties of life.

Life itself emerges from interactions among numerous biomolecules. The composition of the cellular molecules and their interaction networks are determined by the genetic information coded in the DNA. However, the genetic networks of a cell are dynamic, containing regulatory mechanisms and adaptive processes. This regulatory and adaptive gene system, combined with cell signaling networks, sets the stage for cell physiology. Thus, it has turned out to be most challenging for scientists to reveal the underlying   organizational   principles   of   cellular   networks   to   understand   their biological functions. How do the general phenomena emerge from interaction of subsystems? Do small subsystems bear features of the global network? How do the dynamic networks regulate their specific pathways to adapt to environmental change? Another aim of the workshop is therefore to focus on some living systems and to examine models of gene regulatory networks, cell signaling pathways, apoptotic signaling networks and cancer cells.

Modern biology and material science require a deep understanding of complex soft-matter systems based on solvable analytical models and large scale computation as well as experimental research on well defined model systems. Statistical physics and in particular polymer physics has provided standard models and simulation methods for understanding soft-matter systems. With increasing performance of both hardware and algorithms, the dynamic properties and functions of soft material systems, being of sufficient complexity to exhibit emergent or adaptive properties, can be simulated. Moreover, computational biology is able to deliver essential contributions to the research efforts in biology and medical science. Common mathematical and numerical models are used in all   fields of research in soft-condensed matter. This symposium provides a platform for scientific exchange between the different fields of soft-condensed and living matter to find synergies and new collaborations.

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