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CPET Seminar by Professor Rob Phillips, Recipient of the 2021 Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Monday, December 6, 2021
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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A Language Whose Characters are Triangles

Join CPET and the CTLO in engaging with Professor Rob Phillips, who shares the following:

"Receiving the Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching is one of the signature honors of my entire life. The greatest scientific honor of them all has been the opportunity to use ideas from physics, mathematics, and biology to explore the mysteries of the natural world. One of the most intriguing outcomes of casting our thinking about the world around us in mathematical terms is that phenomena that were thought to be quite distinct are instead revealed as being the 'same.' Thinkers as long ago as Pliny the Elder made observations on living matter such as flocks of birds noting: 'It is a peculiarity of the starling to fly in troops, as it were, and then to wheel round in a globular mass like a ball, the central troop acting as a pivot for the rest.' In this talk I will describe the emergence of the modern theory of active matter as a prelude to describing the complex motions of a class of single-celled eukaryotes such as the causative agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis. I will then show how we have used this theory at a billion-fold smaller scale than the animal flocks that inspired it to describe the motion of 'flocks' of actin that power the movement of these cells. The goal of the talk will be to give a powerful sense of the sameness of broad classes of biological phenomena with an eye to many of the great challenges that remain as we try to understand the answer to Erwin Schrodinger's question: What is life?"

CPET (the Caltech Project for Effective Teaching) is a group of graduate students and postdocs dedicated to becoming more effective educators and helping each other to do the same. To learn more about CPET and their events, please visit http://teachlearn.caltech.edu/cpet or sign up for their mailing list.

Location: This hybrid event will be held as a Live YouTube event and in-person with a limit of 100 attendees. Please note that the in-person event is limited to those members of the Caltech community who have a Caltech ID AND who are fully vaccinated.


Caltech will be taking photos/video at this event for use in advertising and other promotional materials, whether in print, electronic, or other media.

For more information, please contact CTLO Administrative Staff by phone at 626-395-8427 or by email at [email protected].