Lorentz Center - Genome Mechanics at the Nuclear Scale from 10 Dec 2012 through 14 Dec 2012
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    Genome Mechanics at the Nuclear Scale
    from 10 Dec 2012 through 14 Dec 2012

Monday May 8: From DNA to chromatin

Scientific Report


This workshop was devoted to chromatin at large scales. Despite its importance and despite of tremendous efforts during several decades this field is still in a state of infancy, largely due to the absence of adequate experimental methods. However, experimental progress in very recent years led to a surge in modelling efforts especially in 2012 (already now called the year of chromosome models) so that this workshop was extremely timely. During the planning of the workshop the organizers had tried to forecast in which groups the main progress would occur and indeed most talks presented brand new, unpublished and highly relevant results.


The workshop had 37 participants from 8 different countries (Netherlands, France, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Italy) with a wide range of backgrounds (physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics). Remarkably, despite of (or because of) this wide range, the discussions in this workshop were extremely lively among all participants. In fact, none of the organisers has ever experienced a workshop that lively before. This can be attributed to the following points: (1) The subject of the workshop was extremely hot with many new ideas emerging. (2) Each talk had a full hour slot allowing to go in depth into the subject. (3) There was plenty of space  between most talks allowing to go overtime during discussions if necessary. This turned out to be always necessary. (4) A new idea was that no abstracts or titles of the speakers were given. The organisers knew what roughly to expect from each speaker but many participants did not. As a result the attendance was close to 100% throughout.


Major breakthroughs as a result of the exchange of new ideas between the participants during this workshop are expected. The organisers themselves found several promising ideas for new projects during this workshop, again more than in any other workshop before. We expect new approaches to questions like this: Do chromatin fibers exist inside living cells? How important is the second genetic code? Can the large scale structure of chromosomes been understood by equilibrium polymer physics?


The Lorentz Center has been an ideal setting for this workshop. The meeting was made possible by the generous financial support of the Center. Everything organisational has been taken care of by the excellent Lorentz staff so that even the scientific organisers themselves could feel like normal participants, unburdened by any organisational details. This is one of only very few places worldwide that can provide that kind of service. We thank the very friendly and highly professional staff of the Lorentz Center that made for a week the participants and organisers feel at home in the 3rd floor of the Oortgebouw!


R. Everaers (ENS London)

J. Maddocks (EPFL Lausanne)

H. Schiessel (Leiden University)