Spring 2014 Physics Colloquium
Thursday, March 27th
Dr. Jeff Groff, Shepard University
Thursday, April 4th
Dr. JiaJia Dong, Bucknell University
"Applications of Nonequilibrium Statistical Mechanics "
Statistical mechanics (SM) for systems in thermal equilibrium, founded over a century ago, forms part of the current physics core curriculum. However, like most homework problems do not directly apply to real situations, textbook equilibrium SM falls short of characterization of systems in non-equilibrium (NE), such as biological systems. An overarching theoretical framework of NESM remains elusive and has been attracting increasing interest from physicists.
In this talk, I first contrast the key features of NESM with the familiar ESM. To illustrate how tools developed in NESM help untangle the complex biological process, I then zoom in on modeling protein synthesis in bacteria through a particle transport model (the totally asymmetric simple exclusion process, or TASEP). Quantitative effects of different elongation rates, associated with different codons, on the overall protein production rate are to be discussed. I conclude with some ongoing projects and open questions that nestle on the interface of physics and biology to set the stage for further investigation in this field.