Emeritus Research Director
Institut Curie, Département de Physicochimie du vivant
23 Jan to 23 Feb 2017
Office: T-Lab Level 5, 05-03-02
Tel: ext 11280
ABOUT PROF PROST
Jacques Prost is a French physicist and general director of École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI).
He is an alumni of the École Normale Supérieure de Saint-Cloud and conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard University. He founded and headed the Theoretical Physico-Chemistry Group of the ESPCI ParisTech under the direction of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, where Prost worked on liquid crystal and soft matter properties.
Prost also founded the Physical Chemistry Curie lab at the Curie Institute in Paris. His current research focuses on physical approaches to biological problems related to cell motion, molecular motors, the properties of biological membranes, and protein adhesion.
Jacques Prost was the scientific advisor to Elf Aquitaine from 1990 to 1999. He has been a member of the French Academy of Sciences since 2007 and general director of ESPCI ParisTech since 2003.
The Physical Approach of Biological Problems
A rapid inspection of orders of magnitude involved in cell components show that they are very similar to those relevant to “Soft Matter Physics”. There are however two important differences: biological systems are clearly out of equilibrium and molecular specificity can be strongly relevant. These simple remarks convince us that on the one hand Soft Matter Physics can provide a quantitative description of cellular systems, and that on the other hand biological systems raise an interesting number of new and challenging physical questions.
For these reasons we concentrate our efforts towards understanding physical features of cell morphology and dynamics. This project is meaningful only with strong interactions with biologists.
Cells contain a very large number of components, but if we focus on mechanical properties, only a few classes of component are relevant: the cytoskeletal networks, molecular motors, phospholipid membranes and the large class of adhesion molecules such as integrins or cadherins. Therefore we study each of these components, keeping in mind the importance of the non-equilibrium behavior. In some cases, this requires the introduction of new physical concepts such as “active” membranes, “active” gels or “isothermal ratchet”, which is a model to describe molecular motors by the Brownian motion of a particle switching between two different states.