Schedule Jun 18, 2020
The Renaissance of Quantum Biology
K. Birgitta Whaley, UC Berkeley
Cite as: doi:10.26081/K6R60R

Quantum mechanics poses fundamental questions for our understanding of the world in which we live - from the behavior of the smallest particles to that of black holes, from the behavior of simple physical systems to complex chemical and biological phenomena that drive life. Questions about the implications of quantum mechanics for biology have been asked since the development of the quantum theory in the early years of the twentieth century. Recent years have seen mounting evidence for the existence of dynamical phenomena in biological systems that involve coherent quantum motion in unexpected situations, requiring us to revise the long-standing view of quantum effects in biology being restricted to understanding of molecular energetics, stability and kinetics. This has led to a new generation of studies bringing the tools of advanced quantum optics and of quantum information science and technologies to probe complex biological phenomena such as photosynthesis and bird navigation. This talk will cover studies of biological phenomena that show evidence for dynamical quantum effects and outline the new questions that these studies raise for our understanding of the role of quantum mechanics in functional biological systems.
Whaley K. Birgitta Whaley is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and a senior faculty scientist in the Division of Chemical Sciences at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At UC Berkeley, she is the Director of the Berkeley Quantum Information and Computation Center, a member of the executive board for the Center for Quantum Coherent Science, and a member of the Kavli Energy Nanosciences Institute.

Professor Whaley completed her undergraduate studies at Oxford University, was a Harvard Kennedy Fellow, and earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. After a year as a Golda Meir Fellow at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Tel Aviv University, she joined the faculty at Berkeley.

Whaley has been recognized with many awards for her scientific contributions in the course of her career. She was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2002, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018 and to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science in 2019. She served on the KITP Advisory Board from 2014-2018, chairing this in her last year. In October 2019, Whaley was appointed to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

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