Future Colloquium

“Physics Meets Biology Webinar” : Liquid Crystals and the Origin of Life: Features of an Ancient Liquid  Crystal World by Prof. Noel Clark (University of Colorado, at Boulder)

Date: November 18, 2020

Invited by Prof. Jan Lagerwall, group leader of the Experimental Soft Matter Physics group within the Physics and Materials Science Department.
Date: Wednesday, 18th November 2020
Hour: 4:00 to 5:00 pm

The memory and transfer of genetic information in life is based on the self-assembly of nucleic acid (NA) polymers in solution into duplex columns of selectively paired and stacked aromatic hydrocarbon nanosheet bases.  One of the great mysteries of evolution is how such a spectacular scenario first appeared in the universe.
In the proposed prebiotic RNA world, oligomers which enable molecular selection, catalysis, and information transfer are structured by a similar duplex pairing and stacking scheme which is already robust, appearing to have come from some earlier mode of molecular selection and evolution.
I will describe observations made in a longstanding collaboration with Tommaso Bellini of the University of Milan of the LC phase behavior of high concentration aqueous solutions of NA monomers and ultra-short oligomers, including the discovery that polymerization is actually not needed for the stabilization of the duplex base-paired columnar structure of DNA.  Motivated by these results we have developed a model of a pre-RNA world era, a “liquid crystal world,” in which the duplex pairing and stacking evolves as the primary “purpose” of autocatalytic molecular selection and oligomerization.  Selection is achieved by the molecular gatekeeping of phase separated duplex columnar chromonic  NA liquid crystal droplets, which also serve as promoters of their own stability, templating the ligation of selected short oligomers into longer ones.


Noel Clark was born in 1940 in Cleveland, Ohio, where he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics from John Carroll University.  He received his Ph.D. from MIT in 1970 and joined the Harvard University Division of Applied Sciences as a research fellow and junior faculty.  He moved to Boulder in 1977 where he is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado.  Clark’s research has concerned various aspects of soft condensed matter and complex fluid physics, including liquid crystals, colloids and biophysics.  He has been involved in fundamental studies of liquid crystal ordering in a variety of systems, creating novel phases and exploring the role of chirality in soft materials.  In recent years his research has focused on the role of  liquid crystals sin the appearance of DNA in early life.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. In 2003 was awarded the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize of the American Physical Society, and in 2016 the first Pierre Gilles de Gennes Prize of the International Liquid Crystal Society for career achievement in liquid crystal science.

Invitation: 2020_11_18_Noel Clark_Physics meets Bio Webinar

Meeting link: https://unilu.webex.com/unilu/j.php?MTID=m97c131c4bfa630646a10d23ff1fc3613
Meeting number (access code): 163 286 3740
Password: 163 286 3740

Future Conference

Conference: Physics and Biology Systems 2020 – Ecole Polytechnique, France

Date: June 22-24, 2020

The 5th International Conference on Physics and Biological Systems will be held on Jun. 22-24 2020 at École polytechnique in Palaiseau, in the south of Paris. It aims to bring together a broad range of physical and life scientists working at the interface between the two disciplines around in-depth talks by first-rate international speakers. Attendance will be limited to 200 participants. We look forward to welcoming you in Palaiseau!

More details: http://lptms.u-psud.fr/physbio2020/


“Physics of Living Matter” Cross-disciplinary course

Master of Science in Physics – University of Luxembourg


Audience: Masters and PhD students coming from Physics, Life Sciences, Health and Environmental sciences/engineering

Lecturer: Associate Prof. SENGUPTA Anupam and GHOSHAL Arkajyoti



Cross Disciplinary course in Biological Physics targeted to Masters and PhD level students from PhyMS RU, LS RU, LCSB, RU ES, LIH, and LIST.

The cross-disciplinary field of biophysics has seen major expansion in the recent years, thanks to the advancements in physical, engineering and computational tools. Luxembourg is at the forefront of scientific activities in biological physics with its exciting landscape of experimental and theoretical research on biological questions that require a strong quantitative physical approach. The Physics and Materials Research Unit offers an introduction to this exciting interdisciplinary field, interfacing fluid mechanics, microbiology (of virus, bacteria, and algae), physical ecology, and materials physics. This course will explore how quantitative approaches in biological sciences could provide a mechanistic framework for the rich myriad of emergent phenomena observed in living systems.

Main Objectives
1. To be able to quantify biological processes at the level of individual cells, populations, and multi-species communities, and their relation to the environments they inhabit.
2. To have an overview of the main relevant experimental and statistical tools, and respective working principles, relevance, and limitations.
3. To understand cross-interactions between cellular behavior and physiology.
4. To understand how single cell dynamics lead to emergent functional properties at the scale of population and communities.

See more details and the course description