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Chem 444 (Physical Chemistry II), Spring 2024

Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics

Past Versions: Fall 2022**, Fall 2021*, Spring 2021*, 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: Jan 17–May 1, MWF, 10–10.50 am, 163 Noyes Laboratory

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, G. L. Clark Professor of Physical Chemistry, Professor of Chemistry, and University Scholar

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

Office hours: Wednesdays 11 am–noon and Fridays noon–1 pm, 1–2 pm, & 3–4 pm in A224 CLSL for discussion of lectures, notes, problem sets, and exams. In addition to these office hours, Prof. Jain is also available to meet by appointment.

No lectures: Jan 15 (MLK Jr day), Mar 917 (Spring break)

Teaching Assistant: Chemistry graduate students Omar Ghaleb ( and Daniel McIntosh ( TAs are able to hold office hours by appointment.

Homeworks and exams will be graded by the TAs 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, Bose-Einstein condensates, white dwarf and neutron stars, 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 Canvas; submit answers in scanned or typewritten form through Canvas. Submissions late by up to a day will be graded but only 50% of the points earned will be awarded. Reasonable requests for extra time made well in advance of the deadline will be considered.

Mid-term Exam 1 (20%): Mar 1, 10–10.50 am in in 157 Noyes Laboratory. An exam review will be conducted by Prof. Jain during office hours.

Mid-term Exam 2 (20%): Apr 15, 10–10.50 am in 157 Noyes Laboratory. An exam review will be conducted by Prof. Jain during office hours.

Group presentation and class participation (20%): Form a group (~56 students) by Apr 19; chose a topic by Apr 26. Presentations are scheduled for Apr 29 and May 1. Presentation time: 15 min per group. Typically, all group members will take turns presenting sub-sections of the topic. There will be 23 min Q&A following the presentation. Examples of class participation include questions and discussions in lectures and office hours, attendance in lectures, and feedback on presentations of classmates.

Final Exam: (30%): May 10, 1.304.30 pm in in 157 Noyes Laboratory. A final exam review will be conducted by Prof. Jain during office hours.

Text and Materials

-No required textbook.

-All course notes are provided on Canvas 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.

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