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workshop held at ESRF-ILL, October 19 - 22, 2008

A selection of recent workshops and symposiums held at ILL

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Past events

Biological Physics at Large Facilities: from molecule to cell

Workshop held at ESRF-ILL, October 19 - 22, 2008

The workshop was organised by ESRF and ILL on the joint site, with support from the Institut de Biologie Structurale, the Société Française de Biophysique, EBSA, the EPS and the Région Rhône-Alpes.

Its aim was to bring together the Biology and Physics communities for a discussion on the state-of-the-art and future perspectives of physics instrumentation and methods for the study of biological structures and dynamics at neutron sources and synchrotron radiation facilities. The impact of using physics methods in the study of biological systems is growing rapidly with unique opportunities offered by new instrumentation and methodology at large facilities worldwide. Both ESRF and ILL are planning considerable upgrades, with biophysical methods at the forefront. An integrated approach is essential to understand the physics of biological processes.

About eighty participants registered for the event; there were 35 oral presentations and a poster session. It was appreciated that the sessions were organised in order to avoid topic specialisation, which ensured mutidisciplinary participation and cross-fertilisation of ideas. The workshop was opened by the President of the Division of Life Sciences of the EPS, who discussed the different length and time scales that are relevant to understanding biological processes, which span from atomic sizes (1/100 000 000 cm) to the metre size of organisms, and from the 1/10 000 000 000 000 sec of fast electronic processes involved in sight or respiration to the several minutes of cell division. The development of neutron and synchrotron radiation methodology and instrumentation appropriate to the study of each level of organisation were discussed in several contributions. Biological topics discussed included the molecular structures and dynamics of proteins, biological membranes and the large molecular machines  that are the basis of function inside living cells. At the larger size level there were contributions from groups that image cells and from paleontology, in which synchrotron radiation images of ancient fossils revealed the earliest evidence of human life developmental history.

By all accounts, the workshop was a success and more than fulfilled its original objectives. Through round-tables organised after each session, current and perspective challenges in the biological sciences were the objects of lively discussion, as was the development of physical methods and conceptual approaches that would make full use of the power of synchrotrons and neutron sources in these research areas. Oral presentations will be published and the discussions written up, in order to provide active input into the facility upgrade plans of the host institutes. 


See also the workshop website

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