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Collective behaviour

Biology Master, ENS
Year : M2
Semester : S1
ECTS : 3

Coordinators : Silvia de Monte

Keywords :

Collective motion, Synchronization, Cooperation, Social behaviour, Ecology and Evolution, Mathematical models, Microbial dynamics.


Knowledge of the basis of linear algebra and ordinary differential equations. Not panicking in in front of equations.

Aims :

Awareness of a spectrum of approaches to complex, emergent properties of living systems and of the challenges implied in their quantification and modelling.


The course will introduce several formal approaches to collective behaviour, that manifests at different levels of biological organization, from the cellular and physiological scales to the evolutionary one.
In particular, it will cover topics from synchronization theory, game theory, evolutionary dynamics of collective function, with a combined theoretical and applied approach.
Mathematical models will be presented alongside with observations, with a particular emphasis on quantitative approaches.
In the afternoon, students will be engaged in an microbiology experiment addressing the eco-evolutionary dynamics of public goods production. This lab experience is meant to provide a hands-on experience of the possibilities and challenges involved with using microbial systems to test the validity of general theoretical principles.

Faculty : Ben Kerr (Univ. of Washington, USA), Silvia De Monte (IBENS), Hugues Chaté* (CEA), Florence Debarre (Collège de France), Paul Rainey (ESPCI and MPI Evo. Biol., Plön, Germany), Sandrine Adiba (IBENS), Eric Michel (IBENS).

Course material

The slides of the lectures, as well as the related publications, will be available.
The protocol for the experiment will be sent to the students ahead of the course.

Organization :

One-week course. Lectures in the morning, experiments in the afternoon.


Students will be asked to prepare a presentation for the last afternoon of the course, where they interpret the results of the experiment in the light and broader framework provided by the lectures.