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UMD Scientist Named Guggenheim Fellow for Research at Boundary of Chemistry, Physics

Christopher Jarzynski Internationally Known for Thermodynamics Work

By Kimbra Cutlip

Distinguished University Professor Christopher Jarzinski (below), a member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Physics and Institute for Physical Science and Technology is one of only 2 physicists selected this year for Guggenheim fellowships.

Physical Sciences Complex photo by John T. Consoli; Jarzynski portrait by Faye Levine

Distinguished University Professor Christopher Jarzinski (below), a member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Physics and Institute for Physical Science and Technology is one of only 2 honorees in physics for the 2020 Guggenheim fellowships.

A University of Maryland statistical physicist and theoretical chemist is among the 175 writers, scholars, artists and scientists awarded a 2020 Guggenheim fellowship.

Distinguished University Professor Christopher Jarzinski, a member of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Physics and Institute for Physical Science and Technology who models the random motions of atoms and molecules using math and statistics, was selected from nearly 3,000 applicants across 53 fields. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation selected only two honorees in physics.Christopher Jarzynski

"The Guggenheim Foundation has been awarding these fellowships for scholarship and the creative arts for nearly a century, and quite a few have been awarded to UMD faculty over the years,” Jarzynski said. “I'm honored to have been selected as one of this year's Fellows. I plan to use the award for the sabbatical that I will take during the 2020-21 academic year."

Jarzynski works at the boundary between chemistry and physics, studying how the laws of thermodynamics—originally developed to describe the operation of steam engines—apply to complex microscopic systems such as living cells and artificial nanoscale machines.

He is well known for developing an equation to express the second law of thermodynamics for systems at the molecular scale. Known as the Jarzynski equality, it was published in the journal Physical Review Letters in 1997, and the paper that introduced his equation has been cited in scientific literature more than 4,000 times.

When the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for inventions in laser physics, the Nobel Committee cited testing of the Jarzynski equality as an application of one of the winning inventions.

More recently, Jarzynski’s research has led to a new method for measuring “free energy”—the energy available to any system to perform useful work—in extremely small systems. This research is fundamental to new technologies and may lay the foundation for development of molecular- and quantum-scale machines.

A fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Jarzynski received a 2020 Simons Fellowship and the APS’ 2019 Lars Onsager Prize, which recognizes outstanding research in theoretical statistical physics. He was also awarded a Fulbright scholarship and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences. He serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment and is an associate editor for the Journal of Statistical Physics.

Jarzynski earned his B.A. in physics from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. After a postdoctoral appointment at the Institute for Nuclear Theory in Seattle, he spent 10 years at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has been on the faculty of the University of Maryland since 2006.

 

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