At the frontiers of combining physics and biology: Workshop photo gallery and participant experiences

This three-day, international event included talks, poster presentations, and cross-disciplinary collaboration
A group of several dozen people pose for a photo outside at Aalto University.
Workshop attendees pose for a photo outside at Aalto University. Photo: Johannes Haataja/Aalto University

Students, researchers and professors alike gathered for a three-day, cross disciplinary workshop at Aalto University on August 16-18, 2023. Participants travelled from around the globe, including leading experts hailing from across Europe, the United States, and Asia.

The organizing groups included Aalto University, the University of Helsinki, and Loughborough University. The workshop focus covered the work of two Research Council of Finland Centers of Excellence: Life-Inspired Hybrid Materials (LIBER) and Biological Barrier Mechanics and Disease (BARRIERFORCE). 

The workshop—titled Challenges in the Physics of Active and Biological Matter 2023—featured talks covering topics including meso- and microscopic organisms’ swimming behaviour, bacterial motility in liquid, soft matter physics of cellular aggregates, among a host of other topics. Discussions covered both theoretical and experimental researchers, allowing for exciting dialogue between experts across the field.

See photo highlights from the event below, as well as anecdotes from attendees spanning the academic spectrum.

Reflections from participants

“As a doctoral student navigating the intersection of physics and biology via computational modelling, this workshop was a perfect opportunity to foster meaningful interdisciplinary discussions and possible collaborations that bridge the gap between simulations, theory and experiments in biological active systems.”

—Adam Harmat, Doctoral student, Soft Materials Modelling Group, Aalto University

“I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and found it highly inspiring. The event featured captivating talks by outstanding speakers on a diverse range of topics. As a master's student, I valued the opportunity to acquaint myself with a broader subset of the ongoing research in active and biological matter, as well as the accomplished researchers driving this work.”

—Emil Stråka, M.Sc. student, Soft Materials Modelling Group, Aalto University

“Great interdisciplinary atmosphere and inspiring talks! The organizers managed to create a compact and cohesive workshop of an extensive field - which is impressive.”

—Tytti Kärki, Doctoral student, Active Matter Group, Aalto University

“The workshop was a very positive experience. The broad selection of topics presented and discussed gave light to the scale and range of the topics currently in the field of active and soft matter, which was very informative for me as a current Master student. In addition, the participation in practical duties of the workshop provided vital insight into creating and organizing a conference of this kind.”

—Senna Luntama, M.Sc. student, Active Matter Group, Aalto University

"I was super excited to present my research and impressed by the many excellent talks that included both theoretical and experimental works in active matter physics. Three days were not enough time for me to interact with so many great researchers, so I strongly hope that a second workshop will be held in the future."

—Kazusa Beppu, Post-doctoral researcher, Active Matter Group, Aalto University

“This workshop was the first conference that I have ever participated. I learned a lot. I got a good overview of research in the field and of methods that I mostly was not familiar with before the workshop. I understood during the workshop how important it is for a researcher to be able to present their work clearly and interestingly.”

—Antti Mäkynen, B.Sc. student, Active Matter Group, Aalto University

Workshop organizers:

Prof. Jaakko Timonen, Aalto University (Active Matter Group)

Dr. Maria Sammalkorpi, Aalto University (Soft Materials Modelling Group)

Prof. Tapio Ala-Nissilä, Aalto University (Multiscale Statistical and Quantum Physics Group)

Prof. Ilpo Vattulainen, University of Helsinki (Biological Physics and Soft Matter Group)

Dr. Marco Mazza, Loughborough Univesity (Nonequilibrium Soft Matter Group)

Soft Materials Modelling group Aalto University

Soft Materials Modelling

Group led by Professor Maria Sammalkorpi

Department of Chemistry and Materials Science
Electrohydrodynamics in Active Matter Group, Aalto University, Finland

Active Matter

Research group focused on physics of soft and living materials

Department of Applied Physics
LIBER community

The LIBER Centre of Excellence

LIBER aims to create dynamic and soft hybrid materials with a capability to learn, adapt or response to the environment. LIBER combines eight research groups with expertise on molecular self-assembly, soft robotics, surfaces and interfaces, genetic engineering of proteins, biotechnological production of engineered biomolecules, and computational modelling.

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