The Crossroads of Topology, Combinatorics and Biosciences: Deciphering the Entanglement of Multi-Stranded Nucleic Acids (24w5267)


Margherita Maria Ferrari (University of Manitoba)

Natasha Jonoska (University of South Florida)

Chris Soteros (University of Saskatchewan)

Mariel Vazquez (University of California Davis)


The Banff International Research Station will host the “The Crossroads of Topology, Combinatorics and Biosciences: Deciphering the Entanglement of Multi-Stranded Nucleic Acids” workshop in Banff from March 17 - 22, 2024.

DNA and RNA molecules are involved in many biological and cellular processes, such as recombination, replication and transcription. Due to the specificity of their nucleic acid bases they are also used as templates for nanostructures built through bottom-up self-assembly. All these mechanisms can involve the formation of multi-stranded nucleic acid structures. The topology and geometry of the multi-stranded nucleic acid structures involved can affect the final outcomes and, at the same time, the mechanisms themselves influence the entanglement of the strands composing the structures.

Over the last few decades, knot theory and combinatorics have emerged as powerful tools to "zoom'' in on entanglements and interactions involving nucleic acids. This workshop aims to answer the question of what structural information can be discovered by applying models that integrate these two disciplines together and are informed by experimental data. To this end, this workshop will connect mathematicians having expertise in low-dimensional topology with those having expertise in combinatorics, as well as with experimentalists in biology, chemistry and physics, with the overarching goal of deciphering the entanglement of multi-stranded nucleic acids.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta’s Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico’s Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).