Lorentz Center - EMS-ESMTB Summer School “Mathematical Biology of Tissue Mechanics” from 25 Jul 2016 through 29 Jul 2016
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    EMS-ESMTB Summer School “Mathematical Biology of Tissue Mechanics”
    from 25 Jul 2016 through 29 Jul 2016


EMS-ESMTB Summer School

“Mathematical Biology of Tissue Mechanics”

25 Jul 2016 through 29 Jul 2016 @Oort


Description and aim

The objective of this summer school was to bring together young researchers in the quantitative life sciences and teach them a range of mathematical approaches to analyze and model the biomechanics of tissues and the collective behavior of cells.  The European Mathematical Society (EMS) and the European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology (ESMTB) jointly organized the workshop, which fitted into a series of annual workshops on mathematical biology organized together with the EMS (http://www.esmtb.org/schools).


The school focused on hands-on group work, with participants focusing on one out of four biological problems, each of which was suggested by one of the speakers.  The projects were:

(A)  Spatial effects in the pathogenesis of blood cancers, including leukemia, with mentors Anass Bouchnita, Alen Tosenberger and Vitaly Volpert, CNRS Lyon, France. The project focused on hybrid, cell-based models based on Lagrangian dynamics.

(B)  Modelling pigment cell interactions in zebrafish skin patterns, mentored by Roeland Merks, CWI and U Leiden, The Netherlands, and Anna Marciniak-Czochra, U Heidelberg, Germany. Mathematical methods included cellular automata and partial-differential equations

(C)  Modeling of planar cell polarity, mentored by Walter de Back and Andreas Deutsch (TU Dresden). Mathematical methods included reaction-diffusion systems and the Cellular Potts model

(D)  Zebrafish epiboly and formation of compartments in 3D tissues: coupling mechanical behavior and gene regulation, mentored by Nadine Peyriéras, CNRS Gif-sur-Yvette, France, and René Doursat, Manchester  Metropolitan University,  UK. Mathematical methods included Lagrangian particle-based methods and data analysis.


Tangible outcomes

Each of the project teams has delivered a number of first, preliminary results, ranging from technical developments to new modeling insights. These will be described in more detail in an online, open access proceedings volume (URL will follow as soon as it is known). Some of these proceedings articles will be considered as the “embryonic stages” of full journal articles; in addition, some developments in project D have been so useful that they will be included in ongoing work.



The format of the workshop with 34 participants (9 mentors/25 students) was perhaps best described as a “Hackathon” rather than a traditional summer school. The mentors guided their teams in an off-hands manner, with the participants taking the lead in their research. The mornings started with group work (9:00-11:00) followed by a plenary lecture that showcased exemplary stories that have combined mathematical modeling and experimental biology, as well as discuss a number of mathematical methods in-depth. The afternoons were dedicated to group work, followed by plenary progress reports. This format worked well, with small changes adopted throughout the week to ensure the availability of large blocks of ‘free’ working/discussion time. Organizers and mentors  deliberately offered a large range of available mathematical and computational techniques, so as to increase the emphasis on problem solving instead of development of techniques. Opinions on this were mixed: Some participants appreciated the variety, whereas others would have preferred a larger focus on a selection of one or a few techniques.  The participants very much appreciated the welcome party and the workshop dinner; some have proposed to move these events a bit during the week, as, e.g.,  the welcome party distracted a bit from the already intense discussions on Monday. We will write out an online survey to investigate these issues further, in particular because participants and mentors were so enthusiastic about the school, the format and the venue, that they would like to do it again.


Organizers: Andreas Deutsch (TU Dresden, Germany), Roeland Merks (CWI and Leiden U, the Netherlands), Vitaly Volpert (CNRS and U Lyon 1, France)