Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Levine, Herbert
Location Northeastern University
Primary Field Physics
Secondary Field Applied Physical Sciences
 Election Citation
A pioneer in the statistical physics of pattern formation, Levine made seminal contributions to understanding biological self-organization. His insights on non-equilibrium systems have transformed our understanding of how cells interact collectively and how single cells make decisions (chemotactic response, accurate division, and calcium-based information relay).
 Research Interests
I have long been interested in the field of non-equilibrium statistical physics applied to the self-organization of both non-living and living matter. In the earlier parts of my career, I studied patterning in a variety of condensed-matter systems, namely crystal growth, unstable multiphase fluid flow, nonlinear chemical waves, and the dynamics of rapid fracture of brittle materials. Starting around 1990, I began applying the physics of non-equilibrium complex systems to advance our quantitative understanding of biological systems. Indeed, problems such as stress-induced bacterial colony structuring, the aggregation of Dictyostelium amoebae to form rudimentary multicellular organisms, and nonlinear intracellular calcium waves that convey information across the cell, can all be treated as examples of evolution making use of the principles of non-equilibrium self-organization. Most recently, I have engaged in a joint theory-experiment effort devoted to eukaryotic chemotaxis, how cells use chemical gradients to bias their motility. This is at heart another pattern formation problem, as a cell must use external information to set up an internal chemical structure such that different non-equilibrium states exist at the front, back, and sides of the cell; these different states then govern the downstream mechanics, which then actually causes motion.

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