Physics Colloquium - Friday, March 30th, 2007, 4:00 P.M.

E300 Math/Science Center; Refreshments at 3:30 P.M. in Room E200

Greg Huber
Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling
Department of Cell Biology
University of Connecticut Health Center
Farmington, CT 06032

The Soft Geometry of Phospholipid Membranes: from Tethers to the Endoplasmic Reticulum

Phospholipid bilayers are thin membranes made up of two layers of amphiphilic molecules, molecules which have a hydrophilic polar head and a hydrophobic hydrocarbon tail. These fluctuating sheets form one of the physical bases of the architecture of the cell. They are also interesting from the point of view of the statistical mechanics of 2d extended objects and the differential geometry of 2d manifolds. Biological membranes in the cell are composite structures, which involve a great variety of proteins and other molecules, and are enormously more complex than the ideal membranes studied by theoretical physicists and mathematicians. Nonetheless, I'll focus on how a small number of geometric and physical quantities can be used to approach and solve problems posed by biologists.