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Les Houches Summer school


Integrated structural and cell biology  
From molecules to cells and organisms: Thinking out of the box.  
43 participants attended the 4-weeks summer school, which took place in July at Les Houches in the Chamonix valley. The school aimed at preparing students and young researchers to new coming strategies also based on concepts in physics that open new ways of thinking biology. The participants, 35 doctoral students and 8 post-docs, came from 14 different countries, mainly European but also from China, India, United States and Canada, with 21 different citizenships. Roughly half of the participants have been initially trained in biology, and half in physics, and a few in chemistry. Based on 3 main biological topics, plant growth and flower development, interaction between viruses and host cells, membranes and transporters, the lectures illustrated various integrative approaches, and showed how concepts in physics and mathematics contribute to the understanding of biological processes from the molecular level to cells and organisms. In addition to the lectures and to a few practicals, the participants spontaneously organized late evening sessions on topics they had chosen themselves. Despite the bad weather, a few hiking and climbing sessions were also possible, and contributed to the extremely good ambiance and the interactivity of the students during the lectures. A 4-weeks school is a unique opportunity for an interdisciplinary teaching, and allowed additional explanations during lunch or afternoon breaks, not only from the lecturers but also in between the participants from biologists to physicists and vice-versa. A book will be edited by Oxford University Press, and should be a helpful guide in teaching at the interface between biology and physics.