Professor Debra Bernhardt

ARC Laureate Fellow & GL

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

ARC Laureate Fellow

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 334 63939


Professor Debra Bernhardt is internationally recognised for her contributions to the development of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and thermodynamics including far-from-equilibrium fluids and confined fluids. She is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and Director of the AIBN Centre for Theoretical and Computational Molecular Science. Professor Bernhardt’s 20 years of research experience includes appointments at the University of Basel, Switzerland; the Australian National University; and Griffith University, where she was founding director of the Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre. Professor Bernhardt's research interests focus on the use of a range of theoretical and computational approaches to develop a fundamental understanding of the behaviour of matter, and application of these approaches to a wide range of problems including transport in nanopores, fluctuation phenomena, design of materials, gas separation, energy storage and conversion.

Professor Bernhardt has held a research appointment at the University of Basel in Switzerland. She strong international collaborations with researchers at Politecnico di Torino, Italy; The University of Sheffield, UK; University of Leipzig, Germany; and École Normale Supérieure, France.

Research Impacts


Theoretical and computational molecular science: nonequilibrium systems, fluids and materials.

Professor Bernhardt has played a lead role in the development of the statistical mechanics of nonequilibrium fluids including the fluctuation theorems, that lead to many results including the fact that transport coefficients are positive. Predictions from the theories developed have been validated using nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations and experiment and the work has had international impact. For example, her work with the Evans and Sevick groups at the Australian National University resulted in the theoretical development of a fluctuation theorem that could be experimentally verified. This result was verified using computer simulations and experiment, providing the first experimental verification of any fluctuation theorem (Phys Rev Lett, 2002) which has been cited 374 times (Thomson ISI) and was listed by the American Institute of Physics as one of 19 notable physics developments in 2002.

Since that time fluctuation theorems have become well established area of research and is applied in a wide range of fields.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Newcastle


View all Publications


View all Grants


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision



Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Roman, Tanglaw, Rogers, Jarrod, Lee, Nyeunwoo, Kim, Jaehee, Reid, James, Khan, Ishrat, Sapateh, Genefine, Berry, Rajiv and Bernhardt, Debra (2019). Polymer viscosities from molecular simulation: Application to polymers for 3D printing. National Meeting of the American-Chemical-Society (ACS), Orlando Fl, Mar 31-Apr 04, 2019. WASHINGTON: AMER CHEMICAL SOC.

  • Rohmann, Christoph, Searles, Debra and Zwolak, Michael (2018). Interaction of carbon and boron nitride nanotubes with metals. 255th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) - Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water, New Orleans, LA, United States, 18-22 March, 2018. Washington, DC United States: American Chemical Society.

  • Su, Yuan, Bernardi, Stefano, Searles, Debra J. and Wang, Liguang (2016). Phase Equilibria and Gas Storage Capacity of Clathrate Hydrates of Methane + Quaternary Ammonium Salts. Chemeca Conference, Adelaide, Australia, 25-28 September 2016. Melbourne, Australia: Engineers Australia.

  • Zhang, Cheng , Reid, James , Bernardi, Stefano , Bernhardt, Debra , Peng, Hui and Whittaker, Andrew (2015). The Conformation of Hydrophobically-Modified Thermo-responsive Polymers of Poly (OEGMA-co-TFEA). 35th Australasian Polymer Symposium, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia, 12-15 July 2015.

  • Rohmann, Christoph, Sun, Chenghua and Searles, Debra (2014). CO2 activation and conversion on majority and minority faces of TiO2 anatase. 247th National Spring Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Dallas, TX United States, 16-20 March 2014. Washington, DC United States: American Chemical Society.

  • Brookes, Sarah J., Reid, James C., Evans, Denis J. and Searles, Debra J. (2011). The fluctuation theorem and dissipation theorem for Poiseuille flow. STATPHYS-Kolkata VII: International Conference on Statistical Physics 2010, Kolkata, India, 26-30 November 2010. Bristol, United Kingdom: Institute of Physics Publishing. doi: 10.1088/1742-6596/297/1/012017

  • Evans, Denis J., Searles, Debra J. and Williams, Stephen R. (2010). Fluctuation theorems and the relaxation to equilibrium. *, *, *. AMER CHEMICAL SOC.

  • Paneni, Carlo, Searles, Debra J. and Rondoni, Lamberto (2006). Identification of asymmetric current fluctuations in small systems. International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Brisbane Australia, Jul 03-07, 2006. Piscataway NJ, United States: I E E E. doi: 10.1109/ICONN.2006.340713

  • Cunning, Benjamin V., Searles, Debra J. and Bhatia, Suresh K. (2006). Towards determining the interaction of fluids with nanostructured carbons. International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Brisbane Australia, 3-7 July 2006. Piscataway NJ, United States: I E E E. doi: 10.1109/ICONN.2006.340711

  • Jepps, Owen, Evans, Denis J. and Searles, Debra J. (2004). The fluctuation theorem and Lyapunov weights. International Workshop and Seminar on Microscopic Chaos and Transport in Many-Particle Systems, Dresden, Germany, 5-25 August 2002. doi: 10.1016/j.physd.2003.09.019

  • Searles, DJ, Ayton, G and Evans, DJ (2000). Generalised fluctuation formula. 3rd Tohwa University International Conference on Statistical Physics, Fukuoka Japan, Nov 09-12, 1999. AMER INST PHYSICS. doi: 10.1063/1.1291568

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision