Chris Jarzynski Appointed as IPST Director/Grant

ChrisJarzinsky2Dr. Christopher Jarzynski has been appointed as the Director of the Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST) effective July 1, 2014.  IPST has a faculty of 30, including seven jointly appointed in Chemistry & Biochemistry.  One of his goals is to raise the visibility of the Institute within the University of Maryland.

“I hope to help shape the future of the Institute,” said Dr. Jarzynski. “I believe strongly in the core purpose – to promote interdisciplinary research and education. IPST can be more effective for this purpose than traditional departments.”

IPST is in charge of chemistry physics, biophysics, and helps run Applied Mathematics & Statistics and Scientific Computation (AMSC). Dr. Jarzynski’s main goal is to raise the visibility of IPST within the University in order to further encourage excellence in interdisciplinary work by integrating people, science and technology.

In addition to this appointment, Dr. Jarzynski, and his collaborator Dr. Krishnaprasad, has been awarded a grant of $1.8 million over five years (3-year base plus 2-year extension) from the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI), awarded by the Army Research Office for work relating to the development of perspectives on nonequilibrium thermodynamics and control theory.

“Historically, thermodynamics have been about large/macroscopic systems like steam engines or power plants,” says Dr. Jarzynski. “Something I’ve been fascinated with is how the laws of thermodynamics behave at the nanoscale. I think it is a question that hasn’t been fully explored and, for a long time, this question has been academic and abstract. Also, control theory has been very well developed by engineers at the macroscopic level, but has not been a topic that most chemists or physicists are familiar with.

However, now technology allows us to probe and/or manipulate individual molecules; like, for example, individual pieces of DNA. So, this grant will allow us to bring together Dr. Krishnaprasad’s control theory expertise with the new developments in nonequilibrium thermodynamics to develop a kind of control theory to apply to machines the size of molecules.”

If successful, this fundamental theoretical research will uncover the principles that allow molecular machines to process information. The theoretical tools developed here will be used in experiments involving synthetic, biomolecular motors.