Jeremy England is a theoretical physicist whose research uses statistical physics to explain the spontaneous emergence of life. England was previously an associate professor at MIT and is now senior director for AI/ML at GlaxoSmithKline and principal research scientist at the School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology. He is also an ordained rabbi and author of the book “Every Life is On Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things.”
Jeremy England was born in Boston in the early 1980s and grew up in a small college town in New Hampshire near the coast. His father was a non-observant Lutheran, and his mother was Jewish, born in Poland in 1947 to Holocaust survivors. England grew up in a nominally Jewish household but had little interest in Judaism during his youth.
Jeremy enrolled at Harvard in 1999, graduating with a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in biochemistry in 2003. He went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, studying physics between 2003 and 2005. While studying in the UK, England had his first experience of anti-Israel politics. He visited Israel for the first time in 2005 and began learning Hebrew. He studied Hebrew, Judaism, and the Torah, becoming more religiously observant.
He attended Standford University as a Hertz Fellow. In 2009, he completed a Ph.D. in Physics at Stanford University with supervisors Vijay S Pande and Gilad Haran.
After finishing his Ph.D., England spent two years as a lecturer and research fellow at Princeton University. In 2011, England started his own lab at MIT, where he became an assistant professor. While at MIT, England's research focused on a branch of theoretical physics known as non-equilibrium statistical mechanics, which seeks to define the thermodynamic conditions where initially inanimate collections of matter will spontaneously organize into forms that demonstrate lifelike behaviors. In 2012, England was chosen as one of Forbes' 30 under 30 rising stars in science. In 2016, England was promoted to associate professor.
England's research tries to answer the question, "Why does life exist?" arguing that the origin and subsequent evolution of life is a result of the fundamental laws of nature. His theory states that under the right conditions, a group of molecules will self-organize such that they can more efficiently use energy from their environment. Over time, the system can improve this ability to absorb energy and become increasingly lifelike. Therefore, the origins of life are not an arbitrary process but are inherent in the laws of the physical world. His ideas were published in a 2013 paper titled "Statistical physics of self-replication." England has since named this effect the natural restructuring of molecules to efficiently dissipate energy, dissipation-driven adaptation.
Jeremy England left MIT in 2019, joining GlaxoSmithKline as senior director for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Initially working from Boston, England has since moved to Petaẖ Tiqwa, Israel. In June 2020, he combined his work at GlaxoSmithKline with the School of Physics at Georgia Institute of Technology as a principal research scientist. The England Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology focuses on finding hidden order in complex, many-body dynamical systems that are either drawn directly from biology or inspired by it. In collaboration with colleagues from the Kaganovich Lab, England and his team developed PIPE (Photo-converted Intensity Profile Expansion) to directly measure the motion of tagged proteins, quantifying them using an effective diffusion coefficient.
England's research has been published in many journals, including The Journal of Chemical Physics, Physical Review, and Nature Nanotechnology. Selected publications of his include:
- England, J. L. “Statistical physics of self-replication.” Journal of Chemical Physics, 139, 121923 (2013).
- Gingrich, T., Horowitz, J. M., Perunov, N., and England, J. L., “Dissipation Bounds All Steady-state Current Fluctuations.” Phys. Rev. Lett., 116, 120601 (2016).
- Perunov, N., Marsland, R., and England, J. L., “Statistical Physics of Adaptation.” Phys. Rev. X, 6,021036 (2016).
- Horowitz, J. M., and England, J. L., “Spontaneous Fine-tuning to Environment in Many-species Chemical Reaction Network.” Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 114, 7565 (2017).
Published September 15th, 2020, Every Life is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things, explains England's theories on the origins of life.
Jeremy England's honors and awards include:
- Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship (2002)
- Junior election to Phi Beta Kappa (2002)
- Rhodes Scholarship (2002)
- Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship (2003)
- Hoopes Senior Thesis Prize (Harvard, 2003)
- Lewis-Sigler Theory Fellowship (Princeton, 2009)
- Associate fellowship at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science (Princeton, 2009)
- Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 Rising Stars in Science (2011)
- Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Career Development Assistant Professorship (MIT, 2014)
- James S. McDonnell Complexity Science Scholar Award (2016)
Dan Brown's 2017 novel, Origin, includes a character named Jeremy England, who is a professor of physics. The fictional character is based on the real-life Jeremy England. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, England criticized Brown for basing a character on him, and England's website contains the following statement:
Professor Jeremy England was not consulted or involved in any way during the creation of Dan Brown’s book Origin, and he did not consent to the use of his name therein. Shortly before the book was published, he was made aware of a fictional character in Mr. Brown’s book who is also an MIT professor named Jeremy England. MIT also did not assist Mr. Brown in creating the fictional Jeremy England.
Statistical physics of self-replication
Jeremy L. England
September 28, 2013