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James Glazier
IU Biocomplexity Institute

Hal Kibbey
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, May 10, 2004

Indiana Biocomplexity Consortium to host conference

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Long before humans came into existence, bacteria had already invented most of the features that we immediately think of when asked to distinguish life from artificial systems.

"Could it be, then, that natural intelligence was invented by bacteria and that our social intelligence is an evolution-improved version of bacterial collective Intelligence? If so, perhaps we can learn from bacteria about ourselves," said Eshel Ben-Jacob, president of the Israeli Physical Society and professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University. Ben-Jacob is currently a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Indiana University Bloomington.

Ben-Jacob will present a free public lecture on "Why Bacteria Go Complex: Higher Complexity for Better Adaptability" on Wednesday (May 12) at 6 p.m. in Whittenberger Auditorium of the Indiana Memorial Union.

His talk is the prelude to a workshop hosted by the Indiana Biocomplexity Consortium entitled "Complex Behavior in Unicellular Organisms" on the IU Bloomington campus from Wednesday through Sunday (May 12-16). This is the sixth in a series of workshops organized to address important topics in the field of biocomplexity -- a cross-disciplinary area fusing physics, chemistry, computer science, mathematics and the life sciences.

A bacterium consists of only one cell, but such an organism doesn't have to be simple. "There is a growing appreciation that many, if not all, one-celled organisms are capable of activities that transcend the standard simplified view of the single cell and reveal highly intricate biochemical, cellular and intercellular mechanisms," said biophysicist James Glazier, director of the IU Biocomplexity Institute. These complex activities include processes that have great impact on medicine, agriculture, industry and biotechnology. Examples include antibiotic resistance, fouling of ship hulls and pipes, sewage treatment and bioremediation.

One of the main goals of the biocomplexity conference is to encourage conversations and collaborations between scientists who would not normally attend the same meeting or speak the same scientific language. The conference features nearly 50 invited national and international speakers and over 150 participants. Dale Kaiser of the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University will present the Keynote address, "Unicellular Organisms and Multicellular Patterns."

For additional information, contact James Glazier at 812-855-3735 or The conference Web site is at