Living matter: how it smells, moves and eats
Living matter constitutes a special small part of all matter in the universe, with characteristics of complexity, locomotion, growth and interactions between its parts. Physics has always played a major role in unraveling this complexity, beginning notably with Erwin Schrödinger in his 1944 book “What is Life? “. Over the past two decades, this effort has evolved into a dynamic area of research in which theory and computation are widely used to make biology more quantitative and predictive.
Professor Robert Endres began his career in physics in Germany and the United States, studying charge transport in one-dimensional conductors and macromolecules such as DNA. Fascinated by the biological complexity and the important pioneering spirit required, he then turned to research in biology to work on individual cells and cell groups. His working hypothesis is that living matter, i.e. biology, is part of physics, and although physics cannot yet explain the origins of biology, it can describe biology.
In his inaugural lesson, he will discuss his own journey at the interface of physics and biology, and the challenges encountered when crossing national and scientific boundaries. His research questions focus on how cells perceive and process information, in order to move towards more favorable conditions (or away from toxic substances) and to engulf extracellular objects. Engulfment allows cells to eat (if it is a single-celled organism) or eliminate and destroy other cells (if it is an immune cell). These questions become particularly intriguing when cells communicate over long distances to organize themselves, leading to exotic emergent behaviors. Often, he works on these fundamental problems in close collaboration with experimenters. Now, more than a decade after becoming an independent group leader, he will also present his vision for the future, shifting the focus from individuals to collectives and using artificial intelligence to transform our ability to learn from complex data or simulations.
Join Professor Robert Endres to discuss fascinating living matter!
Robert Endres is Professor of Systems Biology in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London. His research group addresses fundamental problems of cell detection and signaling in collaboration with biologists. In 2016 he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society and in 2018 he received the Tom Duke Lecture Award from the Institute of Physics. To promote quantitative approaches in biology, he published an undergraduate textbook, designed systems biology courses, and organized cutting-edge conferences such as the Physics of Emergent Behavior series. Since 2019, he has been Director of the Network of Excellence in Life Physics at Imperial College.
Before starting at Imperial College in 2007, Robert was a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Ned Wingreen in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University, where he deciphered the remarkable signaling properties of bacterial chemotaxis and atomistically predicted protein-DNA binding sites. In 2002, he received a doctorate in physics from the University of California at Davis. His work, carried out in the group of Pr Daniel Cox, focused on charge transfer in biomolecules, in particular in DNA. In 1999, he obtained a master’s degree in physics from the University of Göttingen in Germany. Robert also spent the 1996/1997 academic year at the University of California, Santa Cruz.