Christopher Jarzynski

Christopher Jarzynski
Distinguished University Professorjarz

Office Phone: 301-405-4439
Office Address: 2203


A. B., Physics (with high honors), Princeton University, Princeton, NJ–1987
Ph. D., Physics, University of California, Berkeley–1994
Institute for Nuclear Theory, University of Washington, Postdoc–1994-1996
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Postdoc–1996-1999

Professional Experience

Technical Staff Member, Los Alamos National Laboratory 1999-2006
Associate Professor (with tenure), University of Maryland, 2006-2010
Professor, University of Maryland 2010-present
Director, Institute for Physical Science and Technology, UMD 2014-present

Research Interests

My research group and I focus on statistical mechanics and thermodynamics at the molecular level, with a particular focus on the foundations of nonequilibrium thermodynamics. We have worked on topics that include the application of statistical mechanics to problems of biophysical interest; the analysis of artificial molecular machines; the development of efficient numerical schemes for estimating thermodynamic properties of complex systemsl; the relationship between thermodynamics and information processing; quantum and classical shortcuts to adiabaticity; and quantum thermodynamics.

Major Recognitions and Awards

Fulbright Fellowship, Warsaw, Poland 1987-1988 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences
Tel Aviv, Israel 2005
Outstanding Referee for American Physical Society Journals 2009
Fellow, American Physical Society 2009

Significant Professional Services and Activities

American Chemical Society, American Physical Society
Editorial Board, Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment, 2008-present
Editorial Board, Journal of Statistical Physics, 2008-2010
Associate Editor, Journal of Statistical Physics, 2011-present


Six postdocs, ten graduate students and three undergraduate students mentored at the University of Maryland (since 2006).

In the Jarzynski group, we develop theoretical tools for understanding nonequilibrium behavior, and computational methods for estimating thermodynamic properties, and we construct and analyze simple models that provide insight into complex phenomena. More recently, our group has investigated topics related to quantum dynamics and thermodynamics. The following descriptions provide a flavor of the research that goes on in our group.

Nonequilibrium work and fluctuation relations.
While the laws of thermodynamics were developed nearly two centuries ago to describe macroscopic systems such as steam engines, recently there has been considerable interest and exciting progress in understanding how these laws apply to nanoscale systems, especially in situations far from thermal equilibrium. At microscopic length scales, random fluctuations due to thermal noise are prevalent, and together with colleagues around the world we investigate the universal laws that govern these fluctuations. For a recent review of some of this progress, click here.1

Thermodynamics of information processing.
This topic dates back to the “Maxwell’s demon” thought experiment described by James Clerk Maxwell in 1867. Recent years have seen renewed interest in the thermodynamic consequences of information processing, leading to new theoretical and experimental progress. In our group we have investigated the interplay between information processing and the second law of thermodynamics, and we have introduced a number of simple, and in some cases exactly solvable models that illustrate how a mechanical Maxwell’s demon might operate. For an example, click here.2

Shortcuts to adiabaticity.
The quantum adiabatic theorem provides a powerful tool for controlling the evolution of a quantum system, as long as we act on it very slowly. Shortcuts to adiabaticity are tools that give us the same degree of control, without the requirement of slow driving. We have investigated a novel approach for constructing quantal shortcuts by means of their classical counterparts. Click here 3 for an example of our research in this area.

1. C. Jarzynski, “Equalities and inequalities: Irreversibility and the second law of thermodynamics at the nanoscale”, Annu. Rev. Condens. Matter Phys. 2:329-51 (2011).

2. Z. Lu, D. Mandal and C. Jarzynski, “Engineering Maxwell’s demon”, Physics Today 67 (8), 60 (August, 2014).

3. S. Deffner, C. Jarzynski and A. del Campo, “Classical and Quantum Shortcuts to Adiabaticity for Scale-Invariant Driving, Phys. Rev. X 4, 021013 (2014).

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