Rare Events in High-Dimensional Systems

February 23 - 27, 2009


The dynamics of condensed materials is typically characterized by a wide range of time scales, complicating their study with computer simulations. Of particular difficulty are situations with large time-scale gaps which include, for example, conformation changes of macromolecules, nucleation events during first-order phase transitions, chemical reactions in solution and on surfaces, transport in and on solids, and genetic switches displaying bistable behavior. The occurrence of such disparate time scales is often related to dynamical bottlenecks of energetic and/or entropic origin which partition the configuration space of the system into metastable basins. The system spends most of its time fluctuating within these long-lived metastable states and transitions between them only rarely. These rare events then determine the long-time evolution of the system.

It is a significant theoretical and computational challenge to quantify the rates and mechanisms of rare events, especially in complex systems with high dimensionality. While there is a growing consensus on the open questions in the context of rare events, it is still not clear how well these questions are addressed by current theoretical and computational techniques. The objective of the workshop is to address these issues through discussions and presentations involving perspectives from mathematicians, chemists, physicists, and engineers.

Organizing Committee

Giovanni Ciccotti (Università di Roma “La Sapienza”)
Kristen Fichthorn (Pennsylvania State University)
Ioannis Kevrekidis (Princeton University)
Christof Schuette (Freie Universität Berlin)
Eric Vanden-Eijnden (New York University)
Arthur Voter (Los Alamos National Laboratory, Theoretical Division)