One thing was already clear before the 2020 SMB meeting started: this was going to be a very different experience from last year. Over 1700 participants from all over the world gathered into an office building the size of a computer screen, to attend a fully online conference. While the format was born out of necessity, it also meant that many more people were able to attend. No flights, no fully-booked hotels – but depending on your time zone, you may have had to get up a bit early… The uptick in participants also meant that there were many great talks to fill the Cell and Developmental Biology slots. The minisymposia and contributed talks covered a variety of topics, from single cell expression and mechanics to tissue patterning and folding; from pure theory to data analysis. Many talks had a strong emphasis on combining theory and experiment, reflecting the great advancements in single cell sequencing and microscopy.

Below, we will give you a brief overview of the Cell and Developmental biology conference sessions, with links to the talk abstracts; also check out the beautiful graphical summaries by Maria Abou Chakra. We hope that you’ll be inspired to participate in next year’s Cell and Developmental Biology sessions at the SMB meeting!

On Monday the meeting was kicked off with contributed talks around tissue pattern formation, whether due to Turing patterns, cell cycle duration or Adhesion. This was followed by the Monday minisymposium on Modelling cell dynamics in single cell biology. The first day was concluded by a contributed-talks session revolving around finding and understanding developmental cell lineages, using mechanistic models and scRNA sequencing data.

On Tuesday the morning contributed talks session centered around cell migration and gradient sensing, followed by a minisymposium on shapes, patterns and forces in developmental biology. Finally, the afternoon contributed talks featured Bayesian models of chromosome segregation and simulations of noise in gene regulatory networks.

Wednesday began with contributed talks on plant development. This was followed by a minisymposium on understanding development through theory and experiment, featuring tissue morphogenesis and signalling. Wednesday’s last contributed talks were a diverse mix with topics ranging from spindle positioning, astrocyte migration and evo-devo.

Thursday, the last day of the meeting, started with a minisymposium on the interplay of intracellular pattern formation, geometry, polarisation and mechanics, featuring intracellular oscillations, Turing patterns and planar cell polarity. Then it was time for the subgroup keynote, by Adam Martin, on folding tissues across length scales: Cell-based origami. He showed how tissue folding by apical constriction results from the arrangement of actomyosin into a connected network of oriented fibers, which then constrict in a pulsatile manner. This process also requires extensive upstream signalling. The very last session on Thursday contained contributed talks on integrating cell mechanics and cell mechanosensing.

Thanks to all these great speakers for making the SMB 2020 such an interesting conference!