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Research Fellow in Quantum Thermodynamics

Department of Physics

Location:  Guildford
Salary:  £33,309 to £37,468
Post Type:  Full Time
Advert Placed:  Thursday 09 September 2021
Closing Date:  Sunday 31 October 2021
Interview Date:  To be confirmed
Reference:  055421

Applications are invited for the post of Research Fellow in Quantum Thermodynamics 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 overarching 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.

The focus of this specific theme, on quantum thermodyanmics, led by Dr Andrea Rocco, is to analyse the impact of different environmental dynamics on macroscopic thermodynamic properties, and to assess distinct scenarios to derive irreversible behaviours from classical and quantum microscopic dynamics. This will involve adapting the standard open quantum systems approach to the case when there is no timescale separation between system of interest and thermal bath, with memory kernels described by inverse power laws in extreme memory-reach cases, leading to effective fractional-order dynamics. We will analyse the implications of these dynamical regimes on off-equilibrium macroscopic properties, such as the Fluctuation-Dissipation Theorem and the very definition of entropy functions. We will also compare with the thermodynamics of small systems, applicable to purely classical systems, in order to identify classical and quantum contributions to the origin of macroscopic irreversibility.

Candidates for this post should have a PhD in Theoretical Physics with a research focus on statistical mechanics and/or open quantum systems. Previous postdoctoral experience is an advantage, but not necessary. The research fellow will be expected to bring expertise in equilibrium and nonequilibrium statistical mechanics, open quantum systems theory, and/or fractional calculus. 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 Dr Andrea Rocco via email at

In addition to salary you will receive 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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