Mathematics of the Cell: Integrating Signaling, Transport and Mechanics (21w5154)


Bill Holmes (Vanderbilt)

(Duke University)

(University of Notre Dame)

Jay Newby (University of Alberta)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Mathematics of the Cell: Integrating Signaling, Transport and Mechanics" workshop in Banff from October 17 to October 22, 2021.

An aspiration of modern cell biology is to 1) understand how the various cellular components assemble into a cell and 2) understand how cell function arises from the interaction of those components. How do cells form with a specific shape and size? How do they divide and how do cells decide where to divide? How does transport occur in the crowded cellular environment inside a cell? Mathematics has a role in helping answer such questions. Understanding of these phenomena also presents the opportunity to discover new deep mathematical concepts, particularly because it involves chemistry and physics acting across length-scales, from molecules to cells and tissues. BIRS has played a foundational role in the development of what has become known as Mathematical Biology of the Cell, by hosting regular workshops that have helped reveal principles behind how cellular components assemble and organize themselves to form discrete structures, distinct cellular compartments, and form patterns.

The underlying goal of this meeting of interdisciplinary and diverse scientists is to understand the fundamental principles connecting cell signaling, geometry, transport, and mechanics. This leads to many important and ambitious questions at multiple scales, from single protein molecules segregating and generating signaling involved in cell polarity, to cargo-motor interactions in promoting effective intracellular transport, to environmental signals and mechanical forces involved in cell migration and spreading. Many of these processes involve the spatiotemporal dynamics and remodeling of the cytoskeleton, which is responsible for transport and organization of intracellular components in all eukaryotic cells, as well as for regulating cell shape and motility. The workshop participants’ expertise covers all scales of cytoskeletal arrays, from actin filaments and their network structure, to intermediate filaments with space-filling properties, to microtubules that provide long-range transport tracks for various cellular cargoes. These problems have applications going beyond fundamental science research; confirmed participants work on understanding single and multicellular wounding and repair, dynamics of epithelium tissues, antibody immune responses against pathogens, and brain cancer progression.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).