Multiscale Modeling of Chromatin: Bridging Experiment with Theory - Les Houches 2019

Dates:     March 31 - April 5, 2019
Location:   Les Houches, France

Marking the beginning of spring, a very productive and enjoyable BPS thematic meeting was held in the picturesque French Alps, Ecole des Physiques, in Les Houches, France, March 31-April 5, 2019

With Mont Blanc in the background reminding participants of the lofty meeting goals, the meeting brought together about seventy biologists, chemists, physicists, and mathematicians to discuss and launch collaborations and advance the field of chromatin structure, dynamics, function and applications through new conceptual approaches and perspectives. Notably, the meeting merged experimentalists and theoreticians/modelers in the program seamlessly, emphasizing the interplay between techniques and ideas, mirroring the vision of the late Sydney Brenner.

In particular, the themes underscored the complex multiscale features and properties of chromatin, from DNA to nuclear organization and interactions, inspiring scientists to discuss the development of models and experimental strategies on many spatial and temporal needed to address all relevant components of the chromatin folding problem and the epigenomic regulation of gene expression. Such multiscale approaches, combining ex­perimental data and modeling/informatics, are necessary to extract and identify structure/function relationships on various scales, from individual base pairs to whole genomes, and to pursue important applications in medicine and genomics.

The meeting program featured about 22 invited talks of 30 minutes, 15 invited talks of 20 minutes, poster pitch talks (3 minutes each), and nightly poster sessions. By scheduling formal talks in the morning and evening, the afternoons were left for hiking, skiing, and self organized discussions. While we enjoyed warm sunny spring weather for the first couple days, the third day brought a heavy winter snow storm, burying us in over a foot of snow and encouraging cozy indoor discussions.

All meeting participants was housed in chalets on site, and shared breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a rustic dining room near the conference building. The French cuisine prepared by a playful French chef included delicious French pastries and brew for breakfast and fine stews and salads for lunch and dinner; a selection of French cheeses and wines accented the dining experience.

The BPS sponsored four prizes for the best posters by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The selection committee, consisting of the meeting organizers, chose five outstanding students and postdocs, with one prize shared between a student and postdoc in the same lab. The winners, announced at the meeting's end, will receive cash awards and citations in BJ. They include: Vishal Minhas, Alan Perez Rathke, Jan Huertas, Hadeel Khamis and Sergei Rudnizky.

For the Organizing Committee, which consisted of Thomas Bishop, Louisiana Tech University, United States, Lars Nordenskiöld, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Tamar Schlick, New York University, United States, and Andrzej Stasiak, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, the meeting goals were more than fulfilled. Participants inquired about having a special publication issue and about bringing the community together again in two years. Very quickly, a special BJ issue devoted to themes of the meeting has been arranged, and plans are underway for a future meeting, possibly in Trieste, Italy. Finally, there was enthusiastic discussion and plans to bring forth a proposal for establishing a new BPS subgroup on mutiscale genome organization. Stay tuned.


  • Thomas Bishop, Louisiana Tech University, United States
  • Lars Nordenskiöld, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Tamar Schlick, New York University, United States
  • Andrzej Stasiak, University of Lausasnne, Switzerland


  • Ivet Bahar, University of Pittsburgh, USA
  • Mair Churchill, University of Colorado, Denver, USA
  • Vlad Cojocaru, Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine, Germany
  • Mark Ellisman, University of California, San Diego, USA
  • Ariel Kaplan, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
  • Hitoshi Kurumizaka, University of Tokyo, Japan
  • Erez Lieberman-Aiden, Baylor College of Medicine, USA
  • Wilma Olson, Rutgers University, USA
  • Anna Panchenko, NCBI, NIH, USA
  • Garegin Papoian, University of Maryland, USA
  • Angelo Rosa, International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Italy
  • Amartya Sanyal, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Helmut Schiessel, Leiden University, the Netherlands
  • G.V. Shivashankar, Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  • Toshio Tsukiyama, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, USA
  • John van Noort, Leiden University, the Netherlands
  • Jie Yan, Mechanobiology Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  • Alexandra Zidovska, New York University, USA

Workshop Details

Special BJ Issue

Pictures from the Event

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