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Up Directory CCL 08.04.21 IMA Design Principles in Biological Systems, Minneapolis, MN
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Date: Sat Oct 13 13:43:24 2007
Subject: 08.04.21 IMA Design Principles in Biological Systems, Minneapolis, MN
IMA Design Principles in Biological Systems
April 21-25, 2008
Minneapolis, MN

Bud Mishra  Computer Science, Mathematics, Cell Biology, New York University
Partha Mitra   Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

 Workshop Background and Goals:

Evolution and Engineering Principles: Evolution is a process of
retaining accidentally found solutions to problems that living organisms
have to solve in order to survive. Even though the solutions or designs
are found accidentally through the process of evolution, the premise of
the workshop is that they may be studied in their current form by
understanding engineering solutions to the problems being solved.
Therefore, a primary goal of this workshop is pedagogy in existing
engineering disciplines in relation to biological function.

In addition to studying current engineering theories, it is also
important to study the origin of design principles in the evolutionary
process, a subject that is currently in its infancy. This connection
will be explored in one or more workshop sessions. Also central to the
premise of the workshop is the notion of convergent evolution, the
extent of which will also be examined.

Physico-chemical and Engineering theories: There are two classes of
theoretical explanations in biology:

      (a) Physico-chemical mechanisms ("analysis")
      (b) Engineering theories, or function-solution pairs ("synthesis")

In the past, theoretical biology has largely focused on (a). While (b)
has also been studied in a relatively ad hoc manner, it has not been
approached from a disciplinary perspective.

A new generation of theoretical biology is currently taking shape with
more formal emphasis on design or engineering principles. As part of
this workshop we hope to help refine the taxonomy of such principles and
emphasize the roots in existing engineering disciplines.

Same principles across scales: While the initial development in this
field has largely been in the area of cellular biochemical networks, our
premise is that the same design principle may apply to disparate scales
and systems. In particular, it is of interest to examine the theoretical
parallels between cellular level systems (e.g. biochemical networks in
bacteria), and organism level systems (e.g. neural systems) or systems
comprising multiple organisms. Therefore, speakers at the workshop will
be drawn from investigators working at these different scales of

Session descriptions:

Sessions will be divided along the lines of existing engineering
theories, while recognizing that biological function does not
necessarily fall into compartments defined by these theories. The
workshop will include sessions on Dynamics and Control Theory; Game
theory; Communication theory; Computation; Machine Learning. Each
session will start with a pedagogical lecture in the engineering
discipline and will be followed by biological examples at different
scales, specifically including bacterial biochemical networks and neural
systems. There will also be sessions on Evolution and Synthetic Biology.
Each session will be followed by an extended discussion period, and
breaks will be provided to allow the participants to explore
collaborative opportunities.
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