IntroductionWorkshop brings together biologists, philosophers, engineers and mathematicians.
A workshop titled 'Understanding evolvability and robusteness' was held at Egenis on Friday (18 January). It brought together biologists, philosophers, engineers and mathematicians interested in systems and synthetic biology, in order to discuss the central notion of evolvability: the capacity of organisms for adaptive evolution, which secures the emergence of beneficial traits that can undergo natural selection.
The workshop examined the history and multiple current usages of the notion of evolvability, and its relation to other key ideas within systems and synthetic biology, such as the idea of robustness. Participants discussed the ways in which evolvability is modelled, with specific emphasis on mathematical modelling and theoretical approaches coming from engineering, such as control theory.
Speakers included Professor William Bechtel of the Department of Philosophy, Center for Chronobiology, Science Studies Program and Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego, who spoke about: 'Conserved Organisation: Motifs as organising principles in systems biology'.
The workshop reflected on the ways in which modelling strategies adopted in systems biology over the last two decades are impacting on current conceptualisations of what it means for organisms to be able to evolve.
The event was organised by Dr Sabina Leonelli (Egenis) and Dr Orkun SOyer (CEMPS), and was sponsored by the EPSRC Grant 'Evolving Controllers and Controlling Evolution' and Egenis.