Academic and research departmentsLeverhulme Quantum Biology Doctoral Training Centre (QB-DTC), Department of Physics, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.
My research project
Classical and quantum thermodynamical frameworks for understanding off-equilibrium properties of living systems
Over the past three decades, physicists have derived several surprising theoretical predictions about the possible decrease of entropy in small systems. Such predictions don’t break the second law of thermodynamics as much as bend or extend it. This was the birth of the so-called “thermodynamics of small systems” , which is a purely classical framework, based on large fluctuations away from average behaviours. Very little is known about the quantum version of these classical findings. The field of quantum thermodynamics is precisely concerned with closing the gap between the microscopic world of small quantum mechanics and the macroscopic world of classical thermodynamics, by bringing together recent developments in both fields. Emily is studying how life maintains its highly ordered, low entropy, far-from-equilibrium dynamical state through both thermodynamics of small systems and quantum thermodynamics. She will compare the predictions made in the two frameworks and identify possible features distinguishing between the two scenarios, setting a clear distinguishing criterion for assessing the ‘quantumness’ of small biological systems.