Physicist William Bialek to present Indiana University Patten Lectures

  • Oct. 14, 2013


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- William Bialek, a world-renowned theoretical physicist whose work bridges the gap between physical and life sciences, will present Indiana University Bloomington’s Patten Lectures this month.

Bialek is the John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor of Physics at Princeton University and a member of Princeton's multidisciplinary Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. He is also visiting Presidential Professor of Physics at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. 

His lectures will address the topic "The Galilean Imperative: A Physicist's Search for Understanding" in two parts:

  • "What Have We Learned, and How Should We Teach?" on Monday, Oct. 28.
  • "Toward the Physics of Life Itself" on Wednesday, Oct. 30.

Both will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall. They are free and open to the public.

In the first part, Bialek will discuss the fact that, to a remarkable extent, our understanding of the natural world is built from a small set of very deep ideas. He will give a sense of the nature of these ideas, explain what we mean by "understanding" and speak about cultural gaps that separate scientists who understand these ideas from other scientists and the public.

In the second part, he will examine the circumstance that there is no theoretical framework tying together discoveries concerning the machinery of life. He will explore the idea that "proximity to perfection" in the operation of biological systems may provide the ingredients for a theoretical physics of life, while providing an appreciation for some of life's most striking and surprising phenomena.

Bialek's research focuses on understanding how physical principles underlie the performance of biological systems. His work is informed by close collaborations with experimentalists from psychology, biology, chemistry and physics and with theorists of physics, computer science and mathematics. His ideas have left their mark on several distinct areas, including neuroscience, animal behavior, and cell and developmental biology.  He also has been at the forefront of developments in higher education, especially in training a new generation of scientists in methods of quantitative reasoning.

He has published more than 140 empirical and theoretical papers and review articles and is co-author of two books, "The Vertebrate Inner Ear" and "Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code," editor of "Princeton Lectures on Biophysics" and author of "Biophysics: Searching for Principles."

The William T. Patten Foundation

The William T. Patten Foundation, endowed by a student of the IU Class of 1893, provides funds to bring to the Bloomington campus for a week people of extraordinary national and international distinction in the sciences, the humanities and the arts. For more information, including more about Bialek and his lectures, contact or visit the Patten Foundation website.

Related Links

William Bialek

William Bialek

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Indermohan Virk

Executive director

  • William T. Patten Foundation
  • Office 812-855-5788