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Open for everyone

What is Life? - Workshop by Johannes Jaeger

Wed 13 Feb 15:30 PM - 18:30 PM @ Learning Center Extension

What is Life? - Workshop by Johannes Jaeger

"Today we no longer study Life in our laboratories." Fran├žois Jacob, 'La Logique du Vivant', 1970

Over the last few decades, biologists have largely abandoned the study of life itself. Nobody asks what life is anymore, and in what sense it can be considered different from the non-living world. This is quite curious (to put it mildly) considering that biology is defined as the study of life! Instead of studying organisms, we look at parts of them in ever-increasing detail and quantity: genes, proteins, cells within tissues... But how do those components add up to a self-producing, self-maintaining system with a closed life cycle? There are a number of interesting new ideas on this topic that this course will review. They deserve our attention, not least since they have interesting potential consequences for the way we study biology, and the way we treat the living world.

This short workshop consists of an informal lecture and an extended moderated discussion session to examine the question of life itself. What is the kind of organisation that makes living systems alive? What would a systems biology look like that seriously tackled this question? Do we have the right kind of experimental and mathematical tools for this? What are the consequences of treating organisms as autonomous agents? For evolutionary biology, for determinism, what about ethics? These are some of the questions I would like to cover.

The workshop requires some background knowledge in molecular and evolutionary biology. It does not require any previous knowledge of mathematics or modelling techniques for systems biology, and should be accessible for a wide audience. The course is designed for PhD students. Curious MSc students or more senior faculty are very welcome to join.

Questions/suggestions: email