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The Theory of Biological Systems lab is a research group led by Richard G. Morris. Our focus is on applying and developing concepts from statistical and theoretical soft-condensed matter physics, as well as applied mathematics, to describe biological systems. The group is part of the EMBL Australia program, and works across the departments of Physics and Single Molecule Science at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. We are affiliated with the Australian Centre of Excellence for the Mathematical Analysis of Cellular Systems (MACSYS) and run a pan-Australia webinar series Theory Of Living Systems that aims to highlight some of the leading research in this area.


Modern approaches to research in the life sciences are more quantitative than they have ever been. Across a broad spectrum of fields, the precision, fidelity, and resolution of available data only continues to improve year on year. This has so far proved transformative, leading to an increasing role for theory and computation, and raising the prospect of truly integrated approaches to the study of animate, living systems.


Can science develop adequate, quantitative theories of living systems, such that experiment and theory work hand-in-glove, like much of modern fundamental physics? This is the overarching question that concerns our lab. The focus spans a range of length-scales, from molecular signalling on a sub-cellular scale, to emergent phenomena at the tissue scale and beyond.  We work closely with experimental partners, typically studying systems in which an interplay between geometry/morphology, activity, and fluctuations are important.

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