Annual Meeting

Decisions and fates

Understanding the meaning of life: 2020 annual meeting track
Suzanne Barbour
September 01, 2019

Is it possible to build a functional cell from scratch? If so, what are the minimum components needed, and what molecular mechanisms are necessary to control their behavior and ensure they function in a coordinated manner?


  • Mechanical principles of nuclear shaping and positioning — Tanmay Lele, University of Florida
  • Longitudinal analysis of genetic networks as determinants of lifespan in C. elegans — Adriana San-Miguel, North Carolina State University
  • Clocks, hourglasses and history-dependent clocks — Arvind Murugan, University of Illinois, Chicago
  • Synthetic NF-kB: A building approach to study complex signaling behaviors — Ping Wei, Center for Quantitative Biology, Peking University
  • Computational approaches to predicting transcription factor binding and kinetics — Polly Fordyce, Stanford University
  • Synthetic genetic circuits — Domitilla Del Vecchio, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How do cells make the decisions that determine their fate and the fate of the organisms they constitute?

These and other fundamental questions about the rules of life are the focus of this track. The answers to these questions have the potential to uncover the molecular rules that govern life as we know it. Although this is fascinating on its own, the answers to these questions also will provide insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying health and disease. It is only in the past two decades that we have had the molecular tools and instrumentation necessary to ask these questions.

The speakers in this track use computational, modeling and good old-fashioned biochemistry and molecular biology approaches to capture dynamic data, analyze changes over time and make predictions about responses and behaviors that would not be possible with experimental approaches alone.

Keywords: computation, modeling, cell fate, cell decision, signal transduction, synthetic cell.

Who should attend: biochemists, molecular biologists, computational biologists and cell biologists interested in the fundamental rules that govern life as we know it.

Theme song: “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by R.E.M.

This track is powered by interdisciplinary biochemical, molecular and computational approaches.
(Sponsored by the ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee.)

Suzanne Barbour

is dean of the graduate school and a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in Careers

Careers highlights or most popular articles

Research on a budget

Research on a budget

March 30, 2020

As a professor at a small university, Peter Lyons has developed ways of reaching his research goals with limited funding, and he shares some of them here.

Calendar of events, awards and opportunities

Calendar of events, awards and opportunities

March 29, 2020

New this week: virtual poster presentations for #ASBMB2020, webinar on research security, and more.

Internships in industry

Internships in industry

March 27, 2020

If you’ve been looking for a chance to try your hand at industry work, these internships are a great way to start.

Science Twitter: Personal boundaries on a professional platform
Social Media

Science Twitter: Personal boundaries on a professional platform

March 25, 2020

“Success on Twitter has a different definition for every user ... I felt I needed to find the perfect balance of personality: one that is professional, intelligent, and advocates on behalf of meaningful causes but is still likable and relatable.”

The surprising comfort of learning objectives

The surprising comfort of learning objectives

March 24, 2020

As you work through the transition to remote learning for your class, let the learning objectives be your guide.

Calendar of events, awards and opportunities

Calendar of events, awards and opportunities

March 22, 2020

New this week: a special section with COVID-19 announcements and resources.