Field of Theoretical Biology
at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Bonn University

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The working group Theoretical Biology

at the Science Faculty of Bonn University existed as a subdepartment of the Botanical Institute (resp. IZMB) for 26 years, from 1986 to 2012. As an interdisciplinary group it consisted of more or less 5-12 diploma/doctor students and one postdoc coming from different areas as biology, applied mathematics and physics. Leader was Dr. Wolfgang Alt, originally an applied mathematician and since 1986 professor for Theoretical Biology. [more ...]

Featured example

The current bionic example features the simulation of an autonomous robot, which is moving on the inner wall of a tube by using the underlying biophysical principle of the adhesive cell migration as a propulsion system.

Robot in action

The robot model consists of two elastic chains, which are linked by radial segments. The vertices of the outer chain adhere to a surface (the blue line in this two-dimensional animation), which triggers simultaneously the successive alteration of the radial segments' elastic properties: the induced gradient of stiffness from the "sloppy" front to the "stiff" end is motorising the robot (red colouring is indicating stiffer segments). At the rear end the vertex's disruption is caused by reaching a force limit. The same principle is utilised by animal tissue cells (e. g. keratinocytes) as locomotion system on a surface. In this case the adhering cell cortex is inducing the gradient of stiffness by assembling and strengthening of microfilaments.

What is Theoretical Biology?

The aim of theoretical biology is to unveil general principles in the vast multitude of biological phenomena. Theoretical biology is the original and comprehensive term, but other names such as systems biology, integrative biology, and bioinformatics are also used, in particular to highlight special applications. Theoretical biology is inherently interdisciplinary and linked to many related fields, e.g., artificial life, complex adaptive systems, mathematical modelling, kybernetics, informatics, to name a few. [more ...]

Degrees and Teaching

We offered three degree courses, two for undergraduates and one for postgraduates

Besides basic instruction on mathematics for students of biology (in cooperation with the Institute of Applied Mathematics), we offered a hands on course with computers on statistics and a Simulation Studio for students during their first years. Teaching in graduate years was centered on seminars on various subjects of theoretical biology (e.g. on pattern formation and morphogenesis, game theory and evolution, polymer dynamics, swarm dynamics and many particle systems) and practical courses (Block-Praktika) on cellular motion, model aided statistical data analysis, models in microbiology, and ecological models.

Moreover, in the "Interdisziplinäres Kolloquium Komplexe Systeme" invited guests presented their work from mathematics, science and humanities. Aiming at the exchange of ideas across subjects, the talks take place regularly, in particular within the studium universale. [more ...]

25 Years of Theoretical Biology (German)

25 Years of Theoretical Biology tabular (German)



Our reseach interests focused on modelling, simulation and data analysis of interactive spatial dynamics in biological phenomena of motion, growth, and evolution.

In particular, we employed stochastic many particle models, continuous systems of partial differential equations, adaptive methods of two-dimensional image analysis, and statistical analysis in order to study the following subject areas:

[more ...]

Prof.Dr. Wolfgang Alt
Theoretische Biologie, Universität Bonn
53115 Bonn, Germany