Biological Physics Theory Unit (Greg Stephens)
The Biological Physics Theory Unit is pioneering a new field – the physics of behavior: from individual organisms to entire societies. The science of the living world is overwhelmingly focused on the microscopic: the structure of DNA, the machinery of cells that can convert energy and transport materials, or the pattern of electrical activity in our brains from which thoughts arise. Yet, all of these processes serve the greater evolutionary goals of the organism: to find food, avoid predators and reproduce. This is the behavioral scale, and despite it’s importance, our quantitative understanding of behavior is much less advanced. But how do we quantify the emergent dynamics of entire organisms? What principles characterize living movement? Research in our unit addresses these fundamental questions with a modern biophysics approach and model systems ranging from the nematode C. elegans to zebrafish and honeybee collectives. We combine theoretical ideas from statistical physics, information theory and dynamical systems and work in close collaboration with scientists from OIST and around the world to develop and analyze novel, quantitative experiments of organisms in natural motion.