Jarzynski Wins Simons Fellowship

Chris Jarzynski,  a Distinguished University Professor in the University of jarzynski by levine 23Christopher Jarzynski. Photo: by Faye Levine Maryland’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Physics, and Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST), is one of three faculty members in the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) to received a 2020 Simons Foundation Fellowship. The prestigious fellowships provide support for faculty scientists to extend a one-term, university-sponsored sabbatical into a full year, allowing them to focus solely on advancing fundamental research in mathematics or theoretical physics.

UMD researchers received 2 of the 40 fellowships awarded for mathematics and one of the eight fellowships for theoretical physics. UMD topped the list with the most 2020 Simons Fellows, tied with the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Stony Brook University. UMD’s 2020 Simons Fellows join six other CMNS faculty members who were named Simons Fellows since 2013.

“We are very pleased to congratulate all three of these very accomplished researchers,” said CMNS Dean Amitabh Varshney. “The awarding of this very competitive fellowship to three of our researchers demonstrates UMD’s strength in fundamental research in both mathematics and physics.” 

Jarzynski is a statistical physicist and theoretical chemist who models the random motions of atoms and molecules. Working at the boundary between chemistry and physics, Jarzynski studies 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.

Jarzkynski is well known for developing an equation to express the second law of thermodynamics for systems at the molecular scale. The equation is known as the Jarzynski equality, which was noted by the Nobel Committee for Physics as an application of the 2018 prize-winning invention, optical tweezers. This 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.

A Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Jarzynski received the APS 2019 Lars Onsager Prize, which recognizes outstanding research in theoretical statistical physics. He was also awarded a Fulbright Fellowship 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.

Jarzynksi 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.

During his sabbatical, Jarzynski will be based at UMD but intends to travel to Europe and California for workshops, visiting professorships and collaborations.

UMD's other Simons Fellows were Professor Jacob Bedrossian of the Department of Mathematics and the Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling and Professor Leonid Koralov of the Department of Mathematics. Mohammad Hafezi of Physics and ECE was named a 2020 Simons Investigator.

Original story here.



Physics Professors Selected for MURI Awards

The Department of Defense (DoD) announced 26 2020 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) awards totaling $185 million, and the University of Maryland tied with the University of Illinois for the highest university representation on the list. 

The MURI program complements other DoD basic research efforts that support traditional, single-investigator university research grants. By supporting multidisciplinary teams with larger and longer awards in carefully chosen topics identified for their long-term importance, DoD and the military services boost the potential for significant and sustained advancement of the research in critical areas.

Associate Professor Mohammad Hafezi and JQI postdoctoral researcher Sunil Mittal are participating in a project named “Robust Photonic Materials with High-Order Topological Protection” headed by Gaurav Bahl at the University of Illinois. This work, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), will explore techniques for manipulating light in interesting ways—such as restricting it to the corners of a silicon chip. These techniques often offer some protection to the light’s fragile quantum characteristics. 

Distinguished University Professor Tom Antonsen and Professor Phil Sprangle are members of a team that will investigate “Fundamental Limits of Controllable Waveform Diversity at High Power.” This effort, sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), is led by Edl Schamiloglu at the University of New Mexico.

Adjunct Associate Professor Alexey Gorshkov will participate in “New Approaches to Quantum  Control with Individual Molecule Sensitivity” headed by Kang-Kuen Ni at Harvard University. The researchers hope to achieve a high degree of control over individual molecules, similar to the control that scientists already wield over individual atoms. Molecules are built from many atoms, whose chemical interactions ratchet up the challenges of achieving fine control. So the effective manipulation of molecules requires combining the tools and techniques of chemistry with those from physics and quantum information. The work will expand upon Gorshkov’s previous research studying systems that manipulate ultra-cold molecules.
Derived from stories published by UMD ECE and the JQI: 

Maryland Quantum Alliance Launched

The Maryland Quantum Alliance—a regional consortium of quantum scientists and engineers from across academia, national laboratories and industry—launched on January 29, 2020 with an event in the House of Delegates Office Building, and was recognized on the floor of the Maryland House of Delegates. Members of this alliance will drive quantum science discovery and innovation, develop pioneering quantum technologies and train the quantum workforce of tomorrow for the state of Maryland, the region and the nation. 

The announcement comes at a pivotal time when quantum science research is expanding beyond physics into materials science, engineering, computer science and chemistry. Scientists across these disciplines are finding ways to exploit quantum physics to build powerful computers, develop secure communication networks and improve sensing capabilities. In the future, quantum technology may also impact fields like artificial intelligence and medicine. 

The state of Maryland already leads the way in this crucial transition, with an existing workforce that spans academia, government and private-sector companies. Scientists and engineers at the University of Maryland, College Park and other institutions in the state and region already are collaborating across these areas to tackle the challenges associated with deploying quantum technology. 

“With our great strength in quantum science, computing and innovation, we are well positioned to lead this initiative,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “By combining the strength of neighboring universities, federal labs and businesses, this initiative can make the whole region into a quantum powerhouse.”

Already a major hub for quantum science and technology, UMD hosts five collaborative research centers focused on different aspects of quantum science and technology: The Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) and the Joint Center for Quantum Information and Computer Science (QuICS) are collaborations with the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Quantum Technology Center (QTC) brings together UMD engineers and physicists to work on translating quantum physics into transformational new technologies. The Condensed Matter Theory Center has made pioneering contributions to topological approaches to quantum computing, and the Quantum Materials Center explores superconductors and novel quantum materials to enable new technology devices.  

UMD played a key role in advocating for last year’s National Quantum Initiative Act that positions quantum information science and technology at the top of the U.S. science and technology agenda and provides $1.275 billion over five years for research. The university also is part of the Quantum Information Edge, a new nationwide alliance of U.S. national labs, universities and industry launched to advance the frontiers of quantum computing systems.

Maryland Quantum Alliance is currently comprised of the University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Morgan State University; Johns Hopkins University; George Mason University; The MITRE Corporation; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; CCDC Army Research Laboratory; Northrop Grumman; Lockheed Martin; IonQ; Qrypt; Booz Allen Hamilton; and Amazon Web Services.

In the alliance, government and academic researchers will look for new ways to work with companies both large and small to support steady progress on quantum technology research and enable its move into the marketplace. 

"Quantum information science will provide important capabilities for our Warfighter,” said Dr. Pat Baker, CCDC Army Research Laboratory Director. “We are excited about a Maryland Quantum Alliance of strong regional institutions in this field to help accelerate research and transformational impact as part of persistent Army modernization."

Maryland Quantum Alliance members will also work on developing cross-disciplinary educational programs in physics, engineering, materials science and computer science that will produce the necessary workforce educated in quantum science. 

Original story by Lee Tune This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 301-405-4679

Longtime Staff Member Lorraine DeSalvo Retires

After 41 years tending to the people and places of the Department of Physics, Director of Administrative Services Lorraine DeSalvo retired in December. In tribute, colleagues established the Lorraine DeSalvo Chair's Endowed Award for Outstanding Service to provide annual recognition to physics employees who demonstrate exemplary commitment to their work. 

DeSalvo graduated from the University of Maryland in 1972 and immediately accepted a job in the Department of Chemistry. 

“I have had the pleasure of knowing so many truly wonderful staff members on this campus during my years here,” she said. “Having this fund to recognize physics department colleagues is the finest farewell I could have asked for.” 

DeSalvo’s duties covered both facilities and human relations, meaning that she knew every inch of space and every employee. Her vast institutional memory and cross-campus contacts allowed her to untangle innumerable bureaucratic knots.  As Department Chair Steve Rolston noted, the most commonly uttered phrase in the department in recent decades may well have been, “Just ask Lorraine.” 

Modern, energy-intensive physics experiments long strained the aging infrastructure of the John S. Toll Physics Building and required constant vigilance and frequent, extensive renovations. When funding was approved for the new Physical Sciences Complex, DeSalvo’s workload expanded considerably. She worked with architects, builders, and capital improvement staff to plan the move, order furniture, and ensure that labs were built to the exacting specifications of dozens of extremely particular scientists. 

She fostered camaraderie with vibrant holiday parties and memorable fiestas, extending invitations to helpful colleagues across a swath of campus sectors. To the department’s many international students, scholars and visitors, she extended her welcome, wisdom and warmth. She owned a variety of small stuffed flamingos, which she dispatched to travelers with a request for a scenic photo. A slideshow of UMD physics folks hoisting pink birds across the globe ran continually in her office. 

She also displayed a keen regard for the department’s achievements. 

After the death of physicist Joe Weber in 2000, his lab fell into disuse. DeSalvo kept protective watch over the “Weber bars,” colossal aluminum cylinders built to record gravitational waves. Years later, in 2015, the LIGO experiment detected gravitational waves, generating worldwide acclaim and renewing interest in Weber’s quest. Last March, the Weber Garden was dedicated outside of the Physical Sciences Complex.  

“Without Lorraine’s protective instincts and her foresight that the Weber bars would prove significant, these excellent monuments to UMD innovation would have been lost forever to campus and the world,” Rolston said.

As a retiree, DeSalvo says she looks forward to finding the best crab cake restaurants around—and to keeping in touch with the department. 

She was serenaded at her retirement party by the following: 

Her global flamingos and holiday parties
And summer fiestas gave Physics some verve
And year in and year out, there surely could be no doubt
How heartfelt is her motto of “I live to serve.”

Contributions to the Lorraine DeSalvo Chair's Endowed Award for Outstanding Service can be made here.

Written by Anne Suplee