Cytoskeleton Four Ways, Artwork by Anna Maurer and DWP.

Public Lecture

Recreational Biology: Topological Puzzles at Cellular Scales

Manu Prakesh

Stanford University

Wed, Jan 4, 5:30–6:30pm

Flug Forum, Aspen Center for Physics

Recreational mathematics involves mathematical puzzles and games, often appealing to children and untrained adults, inspiring their further study of the subject. Can a similar analogy be drawn in biology? Without making any claims of usefulness, we will explore a wide range of topological puzzles in cellular physiology: Can single cells be toroidal in nature? Can cytoskeletal geometry encode behavior in free living protists? Can “Klein bottles” help us understand a fungal pathogen? Do cells get stuck forever in topological traps? Finally, we will reflect on role of curiosity as an engine for discovery in life sciences.

Manu Prakesh Headshot

About Manu Prakesh

Manu Prakash is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering and affiliate appointments in biology and the newly formed department of the ocean at Stanford University spanning the schools of engineering, medicine, and sustainability. He runs a curiosity-driven lab at Stanford combining his passion for basic science while also inventing ultra-affordable and accessible technologies (Frugal Science) that are used around the world for science education, research, and public health with the goal of democratizing access to scientific explorations. In an attempt to understand physical principles of living matter — his approach to biological problems often brings together ideas from soft-condensed matter, theory of computation, and geometry to new non-model biological systems at organismal, cellular and molecular scales. His numerous inventions include Foldscope (a one-dollar origami microscope), Paperfuge (a 20-cent centrifuge), Abuzz (a cellphone app for identifying mosquitoes) and Octopi (a malaria diagnostics tool). Manu grew up in India and got his PhD from MIT, was a Junior Fellow at Harvard Society of Fellows and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.

Learn more about Manu here.

Nick and Maggie DeWolf Public Lecture Series

The Nick and Maggie DeWolf Foundation has sponsored our winter public lecture series since their inception in 1985. The Nick and Maggie DeWolf Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Aspen, Colorado. Its core tenet is to provide support to groups and organizations interested in improving the quality of life and education in the world. During the winter, Aspen Center for Physics hosts week-long conferences, and during each conference one of the conference participants is asked to give a public physics talk. You can watch past talks on our YouTube channel here.

Nick DeWolf and fountain.