Describing complex living systems in a quantitative, physically-based manner is extremely difficult. Through this Physics Frontiers Centers award the Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC) brings experimentalists and theorists together to address the technical challenges at the interface of physics and biology specifically on the cellular level. By the development and deployment of novel techniques from experimental, theoretical, and computational physics, the CPLC will create a dynamic narrative of living cells, expanding the physical description from molecular scales to whole cells and multicellular collections. Exploring such topics as real-time molecular mechanics and the statistical physics of intermediate size systems will inform and advance areas in both biology and physics. CPLC activities will foster the training and development of multidisciplinary scientists at the junction of physics and biology, including ''bootcamps'' and summer school workshops for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral researchers. The CPLC will also operate diverse outreach programs targeting high school teachers and students, bilingual communities, and the general public.

The CPLC seeks to transform the understanding of how cells function from molecular to macroscopic scales, communicate, respond to external stimuli, and even evolve. These goals will be approached through a variety of research activities including the development of new biophysical techniques that can measure individual molecules and cells and observe how cells interact to create new phenomena. Another activity concerns the quantification of intracellular complexity, including the measurement of RNA and protein dynamics. Further investigations involve probing how the properties of multicellular systems arise from the interactions of single cells. Experimentalists and theorists at the CPLC will collaborate closely to develop novel multi-scale computational tools to simulate systems on a wide range of times, scales, and complexity.

This Physics Frontiers Centers award is co-funded by the Physics Frontiers Centers program in the Division of Physics and the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Division of Chemistry within the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and by the Molecular Biophysics program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences within the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Physics (PHY)
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James Shank
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
United States
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