Statistical Physics of Biological Evolution


Guest Lecturer: Joachim Krug

 Institute for Biological Physics, University of Cologne




The mathematical theory of evolution is concerned with the changes in the genetic composition of populations that occur under the influence of the evolutionary forces of selection, mutation and demographic noise. In its focus on noisy, collective behaviour in large ensembles of (relatively) simple constituents it displays many conceptual similarities to statistical physics, which have given rise to a fruitful interaction between the two fields in recent years. The aim of these lectures is to introduce the basic concepts and describe some topics of current interest to students and postdocs with little or no prior knowledge of population genetics and evolutionary theory

Lecturer: Rosalind Allen and Chris Brackley
Institution: Edinburgh
Hours Equivalent Credit: 12

This is a level 11 undergraduate course organised by the University of Edinburgh. It would provide a physics based introduction to Biological Physics for students who have not taken such a course as undergraduates. This course will be taught to SUPA students as a Distance Learning course.

Course Summary

There is an increased research effort in the school devoted to problems at the interface between biology and physics. There is also increasing recognition that physics can provide a very real - and very valuable - insight into the behaviour of complex biological systems, and that a physical approach to biological problems can provide a new way of looking at the world. This course will introduce the students to the basics of biological systems, and then provide examples of how familiar physical principles (thermodynamics, statistical mechanics) underlie complex biological phenomena.  This course will introduce you to the wonders of biology: the organisms, cells, and molecules that make up the living world. We will demonstrate the power of physical concepts to understand and make powerful predictions about biological systems, from the folding of a protein into a unique three-dimensional structure within a reasonable timeframe, through the motions of proteins to drive biological processes, to the locomotion of bacterial cells. The physical concepts will be substantially familiar, but their applications will be novel. Where possible, examples will be drawn from the recent scientific literature.

Hours Equivalent Credit: 12