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INTERACTIVE TRAINING AND RESEARCH IN NONLINEAR SCIENCE FROM PHYSICS TO BIOLOGY

Final Activity Report Summary - PHYSBIO-N2A (Interactive training and research in nonlinear science from physics to biology)

A novel model of combined intensive training and research introduced in 2002 in Europe has been applied. The model consists of an 8-weeks session yearly. It has been implemented by having two Marie Curie events in one session, one Training Course at the beginning of the session followed by a period devoted to intensive individual research and terminated by a Scientific Conference.

The general topic of the project covered the multidisciplinary field of nonlinear science from physics of biology. One reason for the large popularity of the events is presumably the poor coverage of the topic in many university curricula.

Three events have been planned (one per year) for the total duration of the project concentrating on subjects listed below:
- Understanding and teaching nonlinear dynamics (2005).
- Stochastic processes, fluctuations and noise (2006).
- Systemic approaches to biological physics (2007).
All three events took place from the middle of August to the beginning of October (8 weeks) in the French village of St. Etienne de Tinée, in the French Alps Maritime. All objectives of the project formulated in the contract have been achieved. The number of envisaged participants has even been exceeded. An increasing interest of students could be detected with time and fortunately we were able to accept an increasing number of applicants: 49 in 2005, 55 in 2006 and 64 in 2007. These are the event participants eligible for funding, their total number is 168. The number of speakers did not change considerably from year to year: 19 in 2005, 21 in 2006 and 21 in 2007. The total number of participants makes up 229. Introductory talks and series of lectures have obviously been delivered by the invited speakers, moreover students have also given about 150 short talks.

Some specific features of the three events:
Period.1: Four lecturers gave a set of courses on the basics of nonlinear dynamics ranging from differential equations to complex spatio-temporal phenomena described by partial differential equations. Between the formal events, when students worked on their projects, short period visitors gave seminars and mini lecture courses. The project themes, including mathematical aspects of nonlinear dynamics, biophysical oriented problems and condensed matter physics problems are a testimony of the multidisciplinary character of the program.
Period.2: The aim was to bring together young and experienced researchers interested in the field of stochastic processes with emphasis on applications to the biological sciences. Seven professors gave a series of comprehensive lectures ranging from the basic theoretical concepts of Stochastic Processes to some applications to dynamical systems and Biology. An important part was devoted to the implementation of numerical stochastic algorithms (Monte Carlo, Langevin equations, Master equations, etc.). The idea was to reach a high level of activity during the whole period and this was successfully achieved. The final workshop attracted some first-class researchers who gave advanced talks on their current research.
Period.3: There has been a slight modification in the arrangement of the project: Initially the school was supposed to be separated from the training period and the conference. The first two periods were merged, however, there still remained an emphasis on the more scholarly introductory lectures during the first two weeks and more specialised talks during the training period. The advantage in this modification was a flexibility in the dates, that allowed us to attract better keynote speakers. Due to the limited size of the community working in biological physics this was an important step in order to achieve an excellent program of lectures. There were lectures during the training period, which fostered the networking aspect. The students also gave informal seminars on the topics of their research.

In conclusion, the events have been successfully conducted and all milestones have been reached.