New leadership at the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) of TU Dresden

The Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at TU Dresden has appointed Prof. Otger Campàs as new managing director and Prof. Helmut Schießel as deputy director.

The photo shows Prof. Otger Campàs, managing director of PoL, (on the right) and Prof. Helmut Schießel, deputy director of PoL (on the left) © Hagen Gebauer/TUD
Prof. Otger Campàs, managing director of PoL, (right) and Prof. Helmut Schießel, deputy director of PoL (on the left) © Hagen Gebauer/TUD


Dresden, 02/15/2022

Effective January 1, 2022, Prof. Otger Campàs became new speaker and managing director of the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at TU Dresden. He succeeds Prof. Stephan Grill, who had initiated the Cluster of Excellence and is now one of the directors of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG). Campàs joined TU Dresden in July 2021 and has since strengthened the Dresden research community as Chair of Tissue Dynamics, with his work focused on the physics of embryonic self-organization and morphogenesis. On February 11, 2022, the PoL general assembly gathered to evaluate what has been achieved so far and set the focus for the mission and vision of the next years.

“I am looking forward to my new role as managing director and to working with colleagues in our research groups, administration and our wider research community. It is a great responsibility and privilege to represent and shape the Cluster of Excellence and the Physics of Life Institute in the coming years. I am really grateful for everyone's trust and commitment,” says Prof. Campàs. The Catalan scientist was appointed last year to the Chair of Tissue Dynamics at the Physics of Life Cluster of Excellence and leads the research group Physics of Embryonic Self-Organization and Morphogenesis, which combines physics, biology and engineering. Most recently, he held the Chair of Systems Biology and Bioengineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), USA. At PoL, his interdisciplinary team is investigating how cells self-organize to build embryonic structures.

Otger Campàs intends to continue the successful course the Cluster of Excellence has taken so far. “Dresden is one of the leading locations in the world for interdisciplinary studies that connect physics, biology and computer science, and the Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life brings these interdisciplinary approaches to a new level. Such a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative environment enables all of us to approach scientific questions in completely different and unique ways,” emphasizes the new managing director of PoL. Furthermore, he aims to enhance the cluster with all research partners. “We have a great scientific community in Dresden and a unique opportunity to establish PoL as an international center for biological physics and living matter. We will strengthen existing structures and create new ones to enhance collaborations between the research groups at Physics of Life and in the wider Dresden area, precisely to enable our research groups to tackle new and exciting questions together. Scientifically, we will continue to work towards our main goal: identifying the laws of physics that underlie the dynamic organization of life across scales,” adds Campàs.

Professor Campàs will be supported by Helmut Schießel, the new deputy director. Since January 2021, Professor Schießel heads the Theoretical Physics of Living Matter group at PoL and thus enriches the research focus of theoretical biophysics at TU Dresden. “It is amazing what has been established and achieved within my first year at PoL despite the pandemic situation. There are now 11 research groups and an efficient administration that actively supports us every day. Five more new research groups are planned for the next two years,” adds Prof. Schießel. Using methods of theoretical physics and computer simulations, as well as in close collaboration with experimental groups from other Dresden institutes, his group investigates what is special about the physics of life. “Nature provides exciting solutions to overcome difficult physical problems. We focus on the processes in the cell nucleus, for example, how many layers of information carries DNA in addition to the classical genetic code, and how information can be passed on to the next cell generation. The answers to these questions lead to the physics of life, which includes active processes, liquid-liquid phase separation, DNA mechanics and polymer physics,” explains Prof. Schießel.

Prof. Stephan Grill, currently one of the directors at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), will continue to support the Cluster of Excellence as a close mentor. He has been involved in the strategic management since the beginning of 2017 and has served as speaker and managing director for the Cluster of Excellence since 2019. Stephan Grill established Physics of Life as a vibrant and interdisciplinary scientific network in German biophysics. At the PoL general assembly, he emphasized how important and crucial the close bond, the cooperation between the institutes and researchers and, above all, the enthusiasm and willpower - that are so special to the Dresden site - have been and will be for the success of PoL in the future. Prof. Grill acknowledged the achievements so far, which can only emerge from such a unique community as that of PoL, and wished the new management team much delight and continuing success.

About PoL - Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life
The Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL) at TU Dresden focuses on identifying the laws of physics that underlie the organization of life into molecules, cells and tissues. At the cluster, physicists, biologists and computer scientists join forces to investigate how active matter organizes itself into predetermined structures in cells and tissues, thus giving rise to life. PoL is funded by the DFG as part of the Excellence Strategy. It is a collaboration between scientists from TU Dresden and research institutions of the DRESDEN-concept network, such as the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS), the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research (IPF) and the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR).

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Otger Campàs
Phone: +49 351 210-1460

Media contact PoL:
Bianka Claus
DFG Cluster of Excellence Physics of Life (PoL), TU Dresden
Public relations
Phone: +49 351 463-40133