Statistical Physics and Quantitative Biology
University of Cologne
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Evolutionary Biology and Genomics for Physicists
Summer Term 2021
Thursday 10:00 - 11:30 Online
Friday 10:00 - 11:30 Online

Natural selection is an important factor in biological evolution. This is expressed in the famous Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. According to this principle, populations should evolve towards a peak of a fitness landscape. However, selection competes with stochastic evolutionary forces, such as mutations, recombination, and reproductive fluctuations (genetic drift). Moreover, selection itself is often time-dependent and sometimes stochastic: fitness becomes a dynamic seascape rather than a static landscape. Stochastic forces drive populations away from fitness peaks - but where do they end up? In this course, we discuss the statistical mechanics of molecular evolution - within and away from equilibrium. We will emphasize recent theoretical developments, as well as applications to evolution experiments and genomic data.
1. Survival of the fittest: Evolution under natural selection
2. Survival of the flattest: Selection and mutations
3. Survival of the fattest: Evolution with reproductive fluctuations
4. Survival of the simplest: Evolutionary limits to organismic complexity
5. Survival of the fastest: Statistics of adaptive processes
6. Predicting evolution: Who will win?
Credits: 6 CP or 7.5 CP (with optional student's seminar talk)
Course level: Master
Course classification: Area of emphasis "Statistical and Biological Physics"