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Research Fellow in Open Quantum Systems

Department of Physics

Location:  Guildford
Salary:  £33,309 to £37,468 per annum
Fixed Term
Post Type:  Full Time
Advert Placed:  Thursday 09 September 2021
Closing Date:  Sunday 31 October 2021
Interview Date:  To be confirmed
Reference:  055221

Applications are invited for the post of Research Fellow in the field of Open Quantum Systems based at the University of Surrey.

The post is funded by the John Templeton Foundation and is part of a multidisciplinary research project entitled “Life on the Edge: quantum thermodynamics, quantum biology and the arrow of time” that aims to elucidate how irreversibility emerges from quantum mechanics. The nature of the arrow of time remains poorly understood, despite advances in quantum physics, thermodynamics and cosmology. While the direction of time can be understood from thermodynamic considerations as a manifestation of the law of entropy increase, it is not clear on what scale, nor precisely how, nature becomes irreversible. The over-arching question that we wish to investigate is how an external environment maintains, and even manipulates, the reversibility of quantum processes, particularly in biological systems.

The overall project is organized into a series of parallel, complementary and interconnected themes, led by different academics across a range of disciplines (theoretical physics, computational chemistry, applied mathematics, molecular biology and philosophy). The successful candidate for this post will undertake research in a vibrant, inter-disciplinary research environment with excellent reputation and collaborations, and will be one of five RAs working on this multidisciplinary project.

A specific aim of this theme, led by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, is to study decoherence processes in detail and to determine what features of the biological cellular environment slows down the process of decoherence, thereby ‘protecting’ the quantum nature of the system of interest on biologically relevant time scales. An open quantum system approach provides the ideal framework for this. It allows the study of memory effects via non-Markovian dynamics. The approach needs to be generalized to incorporate the role of noise within the unique structure and dynamical properties of the environment. This is likely to be important in biological and biochemical systems where fluctuations can occur on long timescales.

Candidates for this post should have a PhD in Theoretical Physics with a research background in quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and, preferably, open quantum systems. Previous postdoctoral experience is an advantage, but not necessary. The successful applicant should have excellent analytical and computational skills, a healthy open-minded curiosity and strong skills in team-working and communicating scientific results.

This position is for 2.5 years, starting at any point between 1 December 2021 and 1 March 2022. For an informal discussion about the role, please contact Professor Jim Al-Khalili, via email at

In addition to the salary, there is a generous annual leave entitlement and excellent development opportunities.  The University of Surrey offers benefits packages which include pension, childcare assistance and leisure facilities. 

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Please note, it is University Policy to offer a starting salary equivalent to Level 3.6 (£32,344) to successful applicants who have been awarded, but are yet to receive, their PhD certificate.  Once the original PhD certificate has been submitted to the local HR Department, the salary will be increased to Level 4.1 (£33,309).

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