Chem 444 (Physical Chemistry II), Spring 2021

Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

Past Versions: Fall 2020, Spring 2020**, Fall 2019**, Spring 2018*, and Spring 2015* where * indicates inclusion on

UIUC List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students and ** indicates an Outstanding rating.

Course Webpage:

Lectures: MWF, 10–10.50 am, via Zoom from Jan 25–May 5.

Course Objectives:

- To encourage thinking of chemical and physical processes in the language of microscopic states, stochastics, correlations, dynamics, and fluctuations (achieved through lectures and notes).

- To apply the machinery of statistical mechanics to common problems in physical chemistry, solid-state physics, and materials science (examples in problem sets).

- To appreciate the utility of this problem-solving ability to cutting edge problems of current interest (achieved through individual literature project).

Instructor: Prashant K. Jain, Alumni Scholar and Professor of Chemistry

Contact Info: Office: CLSL A224, Email:, Tel: (217) 333-3417, Web:

Office hours: For discussion of lectures, notes, problem sets, and exams: Mon 9–10 am and Wed noon–1 pm via Zoom.

No lectures: Feb 17 and Mar 24.

Teaching Assistant: Omar Ghaleb (Email: Homeworks and exams will be graded by Omar in consultation with Prof. Jain. Homework problem sets, solutions, and exams will be composed by Prof. Jain.

Syllabus (Advanced topics, i.e., Chapters 5–7 will not be covered and are listed only for students interested in advancing their knowledge beyond the course syllabus)

1) The language of probabilities and microstates

2) Thermodynamic quantities, free energies, equilibrium and stability

3) The method of ensembles and partition functions

4) Ideal non-interacting systems: Quantum and classical statistics of indistinguishable particles: bosons and fermions, application to electrons in metals, phonons in crystals, photons, monoatomic and diatomic gases

5) Non-ideality: Introduction to inter-molecular forces

6) Theory of liquids and the Monte-Carlo method

7) Introduction to chemical kinetics and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics: fluctuations, time-correlations, ergodicity, transition states.

Exams and Grading:

Problem sets (10%): Four sets over semester; posted via Compass; submit answers in scanned or typewritten form through Compass. Submissions late by one day or less will be graded but only 50% of the points earned will be awarded.

Mid-term Exam 1 (20%): Mar 10 from 10–10.50 am through online proctoring by CBTF. You may use a calculator, books, and course notes. You will submit your answers via Compass in the form of a scanned PDF. 

Mid-term Exam 2 (20%): Apr 12 from 10–10.50 am through online proctoring by CBTF. You may use a calculator, course notes, books, or other resources. You will submit your answers via Compass in the form of a scanned PDF. 

Literature Project (20%): Form a group (~4 students) by the end of Mar; chose a topic by the end of Apr; group work via Zoom and online collaboration tools in Compass; group presentations via Zoom. Presentation time: 20 min per group. Typically, all group members will take turns presenting sub-sections of the topic. There will be Q&A following the presentation.

Final Exam: (30%): May 14, 8–11 am through online proctoring by CBTF. You may use a calculator, course notes, books, or other resources. You will submit your answers via Compass in the form of a scanned PDF. A final exam review will be conducted by Prof. Jain in the form of office hours.

Text and Materials

-No required textbook.

-All course notes are provided on Compass in two formats: handwritten (.pdf) and typewritten (.docx). Handwritten course notes can also be downloaded from:

-Recommended texts (not required at all if you attend the lectures): Statistical Thermodynamics by McQuarrie; Atkins' Physical Chemistry: Quanta, Matter, and Change; Introduction to Modern Statistical Mechanics by David Chandler.  

-Useful resource:

Sample topics for literature project

-Thermodynamics of life (see What is Life? Book by Schrodinger; you may borrow the book from Prof. Jain)

-Molecular economics and analogies with molecular thermodynamics.

-Thermodynamics of the Ising spin model

-Entropy and free energy in photosynthesis

-Supercooled water (recall demonstration video from lectures).

-Unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in thermodynamics: see Wigner’s paper:


Sample papers/papers chosen by former students

-Reversible unfolding of single RNA molecules by mechanical force, Science, 292, 733 (2001)

-Probing the catalytic activity and heterogeneity of Au-nanoparticles at the single-molecule level, PCCP, 11, 2767 (2009)

-BEC of photon gas, Nature, 468, 545 (2010)

-Life as a manifestation of thermodynamics and the second law of thermodynamics, Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 19, 25 (1994)

-Casimir force and vacuum fluctuations, Nature, 246, 396 (1973)

Access to technology: For students who may not have the requisite access to a computer and/or a reliable internet connection for participation in the online learning components of the course, please consider the “ATLAS Share” program link , which will assist you in obtaining an adequate computer and/or internet connectivity. There are study spaces available on campus for students who need a wireless network-equipped location to attend an online class/discussion: link


Commitment to equity and inclusivity: The effectiveness of this course is dependent upon the availability of an encouraging and safe classroom environment. Let us all commit to creating a positive and safe environment that allows all students equal respect and comfort. I expect each of you to help establish and maintain and environment where you and your peers can contribute without fear of ridicule, harassment, or offensive language. Exclusionary, offensive, or harmful speech, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or harassment will not be tolerated and in some cases will be subject to University harassment procedures.


Information about accessibility. To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact Prof. Jain and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES, you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 217-333-4603, email, or go to the DRES website. If you are concerned you have a disability-related condition that is impacting your academic progress, there are academic screening appointments available on campus that can help diagnose a previously undiagnosed disability by visiting the DRES website and selecting “Sign-Up for an Academic Screening” at the bottom of the page.


Copyright and Site Design © Prashant K Jain