Profile photo of Christopher Jarzynski
Contact Info
Office: IPST 2106
Phone: 301-405-4439
Christopher Jarzynski
Distinguished University Professor


  • 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 2010-2014
  • Director, Institute for Physical Science and Technology, UMD 2014-2019
  • Distinguished University Professor, University of Maryland 2014-present

Research Interests

My research group and I focus on statistical mechanics and thermodynamics at the molecular level, with a particular emphasis on far-from-equilibrium phenomena. 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 systems; the relationship between thermodynamics and information processing. We also have interests in dynamical systems, quantum thermodynamics, and quantum and classical shortcuts to adiabaticity.

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
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2016
  • Lars Onsager Prize, American Physical Society 2019
  • Simons Fellowship in Theoretical Physics 2020
  • Guggenheim Fellowship in Physics 2020
  • Member, National Academy of Sciences 2020

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
  • Editorial Board, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 2020-present


Eight postdocs, sixteen graduate students and four 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 simple models that provide insight into complex phenomena. We also tackle problems in biophysics, dynamical systems, and quantum dynamics and thermodynamics. The following descriptions provide a flavor of the research that goes on in the group.

Thermodynamics of small systems

While the laws of thermodynamics were developed in the nineteenth century, currently there is exciting progress in understanding how these laws apply to nanoscale systems, especially away from thermal equilibrium. At microscopic length scales, random fluctuations are prevalent, and the energy of interaction between a system and its surroundings cannot be neglected. We investigate how these and other features can be integrated into a broad theoretical framework that describes small system thermodynamics.1,2,3 We work with experimental colleagues to test these results,4 and to apply them in biophysical contexts.5

Thermodynamics of information processing

This topic dates back to the famous “Maxwell’s demon” thought experiment. Recent years have seen renewed theoretical and experimental interest in the thermodynamics of information processing. We study the interplay between information processing and the second law of thermodynamics,6 and we develop models illustrating how a mechanical Maxwell’s demon might operate.7

Shortcuts to adiabaticity: controlling quantum, classical and stochastic systems

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 promise the same degree of control, without the requirement of slow driving. We develop novel approaches for constructing shortcuts to adiabaticity, not only in quantum but also in classical and stochastic systems.8

1. C. Jarzynski, “Equalities and inequalities: Irreversibility and the second law of thermodynamics at the nanoscale”, Annu. Rev. Condens. Matter Phys2:329-51 (2011).
2. C. Jarzynski, “Stochastic and macroscopic thermodynamics of strongly coupled systems”, Phys. Rev. X 7, 011008 (2017).
3. A. Seif, M. Hafezi and C. Jarzynski, “Machine learning the thermodynamic arrow of time”, Nature Physics (2020).
4. O. Maillet et al, “Optimal probabilistic work extraction beyond the free energy difference with a single-electron device”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 122, 150604 (2019).
5. U. Çetiner, O. Raz, S. Sukharev and C. Jarzynski, “Recovery of equilibrium free energy from nonequilibrium thermodynamics with mechanosensitive ion channels in E. coli”, Phys. Rev. Lett. 124, 228101 (2020).
6. S. Deffner and C. Jarzynski, “Information processing and the second law of thermodynamics: an inclusive, Hamiltonian approach”, Phys. Rev. X 3, 041003 (2013).
7. D. Mandal and C. Jarzynski, “Work and information processing in a solvable model of Maxwell’s demon”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 109, 11641-45 (2012).
8. A. Patra and C. Jarzynski, “Shortcuts to adiabaticity using flow fields”, New J. Phys19, 125009 (2017).