By Emily Greenhalgh
One of the MBL’s popular courses, Physical Biology of the Cell (PBoC), went virtual this year, with a three-week long schedule of talks garnering hundreds of live views each.
“We had an amazing group that had already been scheduled. It was on their calendars. We knew they were going to be excellent speakers,” said Rob Phillips, course co-director from CalTech. “It just seemed like exactly the right thing to do during the pandemic—to give people a taste of MBL and to give them a taste of our style.”
“The atmosphere we try to cultivate is very special,” added Phillips, who co-directs the PBoC course with Hernan Garcia from University of California, Berkeley. This is their fifth year leading the course, which they started.
In a typical year, between 20 and 25 PBoC students head to Woods Hole for an intensive, hands-on training. The course is focused on exploring how physical and mathematical models can be used to understand biological systems. Students even build microscopes and gather the kind of quantitative data that is necessary to test theoretical models.
The in-person PBoC was canceled before any decisions were made regarding this year’s crop of students, so when they decided to go virtual, Phillips and Garcia made the talks open to all applicants, alumni, and the public.
The lessons, each between an hour and 90 minutes long, garnered hundreds of live viewers—with some reaching up to 500 people at a time. The videos are available on the MBL YouTube Channel.