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Prof. Catherine Beauchemin

Ryerson U.
Date of Live Presentation: Mon, 18-Oct-2021


Photons. Phonons. Virions? An Intro to Virophysics


Cell-virus interactions are diverse and the resulting viral infections are nonlinear, stochastic, complex processes involving many variables. They form an excitable, dynamical system capa-ble of learning and adapting to a changing environment. But the mechanisms underlying these dynamics have not been formalized into laws and equations, and generally lack a quantitative description. My research is in the field of virophysics, utilizing physical models to resolve the temporal (and sometimes spatial) dynamics of viral infection spread within a cell culture (in vitro) or a host (in vivo). Our models have enabled us to determine the impact of individual mutations in the influenza virus on its fitness. But the accurate nature of our method has also allowed us to identify problems with the experimental protocols used to evaluate the efficacy of antivirals or the virulence of certain influenza strains. Indeed, as the accuracy of our models increases, so does our need for increasingly accurate experimental data which typical assays cannot provide. In this talk, I will review what we have learned about the physics of virology and the challenges we now face which I believe physicists are uniquely positioned to take on.

Short bio

Catherine Beauchemin is a Professor in the Department of Physics at Ryerson University, a Senior Visiting Scientist in the Interdisciplinary Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences (iTHEMS) group at RIKEN in Japan, and a Member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada. Originally from Montreal, she received her undergraduate degree in Computational Physics from the University of Ottawa in 2001, completing her 4th year capstone project in neurophysics under the supervision of Prof. Andre´ Longtin. She obtained her Ph.D. under the supervision of Prof. Jack Tuszynski in the Physics Department of the University of Alberta in 2005, working on spatiotemporal modelling of viral infections. During 2005–2007, she was a postdoctoral fellow jointly in the Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory with Prof. Alan S. Perelson, and at the Adaptive Computation Laboratory in the Computer Science Department of the University of New Mexico with Prof. Stephanie Forrest.

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