Physics at Virginia

"Non-equilibrium statistical physics, population genetics and evolution"

Marija Vucelja , Rockefeller University
[Host: Joe Poon]
I will present a glimpse into the fascinating world of biological complexity from the perspective of theoretical physics. Currently the fields of evolution and population genetics are undergoing a renaissance, with the abundance of accessible sequencing data. In many cases the existing theories are unable to explain the experimental findings. The least understood aspects of evolution are intrinsically quantitative and statistical and we are missing a suitable theoretical description. It is not clear what sets the time scales of evolution, whether for antibiotic resistance, emergence of new animal species, or the diversification of life. I will try to convey that physicists are invaluable in framing such pertinent questions. The emerging picture of genetic evolution is that of a strongly interacting stochastic system with large numbers of components far from equilibrium. In this colloquium I plan to focus on the dynamics of evolution. I will discuss evolutionary dynamics on several levels. First on the microscopic level - an evolving population over its history explores a small part of the whole genomics sequence space. Next I will coarse-grain and review evolutionary dynamics on the phenotype level. I will also discuss the importance of spatial structures and temporal fluctuations. Along the way I will point out similarities with physical phenomena in condensed matter physics, polymer physics, spin-glasses and turbulence.
Friday, December 6, 2013
3:30 PM
Physics Building, Room 204
Note special room.

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