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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Evidence on Trial Public Lectures Series - Virtual Evidence: can a computer simulation provide proof?

8th February 2016, 18:15 to 19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre, Dr Sarah Harris (University of Leeds)

Computer models are now an integral tool for furthering understanding and driving new experiments within the physical and social sciences. Simulations are used to tackle problems that are of such enormous complexity that there is no empirical model that we can use to contemplate them, they can demonstrate unexpected emergent behaviours even for the simplest underlying algorithms and they can show how small changes in starting conditions may give rise to convergent or divergent outcomes. Within the field of biomolecular simulation, computer models have been described as providing a “computational microscope” for visualising processes that are completely inaccessible by any experimental method. But can a computer model ever provide scientific evidence that commands the same respect as experimental data? Can the “virtual” ever be considered “real”?


Dr Sarah Anne Harris is a lecturer in Biological Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds. Her research uses high performance supercomputing to model the physics of biological macromolecules, with the aim of addressing biological questions. Current research projects use theoretical models of proteins and nucleic acids to understand how biomolecules recognise each other and how these interactions might be modified by drug molecules, how biomolecules act as “molecular switches” through changes in shape and flexibility, how the genetic material is packaged and controlled within the cell, and developing novel simulations methods to simulate molecular motors and large super-macromolecular structures at mesoscopic length scales. She teaches undergraduate courses in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics.

This lecture is free and open to all.


Map – The Calman Learning Centre is denoted at building number: 43.

Contact for more information about this event.