Philosophiae Doctor

Philosophiae Doctor

The increasing investments in astrochemistry in Europe and the growing need for top level scientists who can participate in research programs has prompted the Scuola Normale Superiore to open in 2018-2019 for the first time in Italy 4 positions in a 4-year PhD course in Astrochemistry, as part of the activities of the Interuniversity Center STAR (Systems and Theories for Astrochemical Research) in partnership with the Università di Bologna and the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II. The PhD course, which provides this year a joint-degree with the University of Naples Federico II, aims at offering a basic education in one of the most fascinating and rapidly growing fields of research, which is expected to gain increasing momentum in the coming years. Astrochemistry spans the disciplines of chemistry, physics, planetary science, chemical biology, astronomy, and computational science. Scientists trained in astrochemistry perform experimental and computational studies (including quantum chemical calculations) to generate data for interpreting or explaining astronomical observations, to provide input data for models, and to test theories about the formation and evolution of large and small molecules in various astrophysical environments. Research in astrochemistry includes one of the biggest and most fascinating challenges of modern science: understanding the origin of life. Astrochemists investigate the molecular basis of the evolution of the Universe: the formation of small molecules in space, their conversion into complex molecular systems, the transformation/destruction of the latter, and the effects of the interaction between radiation and molecules in different environments. In addition, astrochemists seek to retrieve information on molecular excitation, radiative transfer and kinematics by studying molecules in the interstellar, circumstellar and pre-galactic gas, in proto-stellar disks, stars and planetary surface or atmosphere. Now, more than ever, astrophysical and astrochemical discoveries are in the news, and occupy a prominent position in top scientific journals such as Nature and Science (see for example http://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0246-4; http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6393/1096?ijkey=97080f002dba24a2ee356132a3e687c11fddc3b1&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha).

In line with the objectives of the Interuniversity Center STAR, the PhD course aims at training students for competitive research in one of the several fields related to Astrochemistry:

  • Experimental and theoretical studies: ranging from molecular spectroscopy to organic synthesis, to chemical reactivity, to photochemistry;
  • Astronomical observations: ranging from the detection of molecules in the interstellar medium to the characterization of planetary atmospheres;
  • Modeling: ranging from the derivation of molecular abundances in the astronomical object under consideration to the characterization of the physical properties of the latter.

PhD students will acquire: a) problem-solving skills and an interest in solving basic and applied research problems; b) critical thinking and analytical skills to design and validate laboratory and computational models and analyze and interpret data results; c) a capacity in designing experiments and applying computer software to solve new categories of problems; d) skills in the experimental determination of complex reaction mixtures and mechanisms under UV irradiation conditions, both in the gas phase and on surface .

To fulfill these goals, students training will be supported by:

  • Highly innovative and multidisciplinary research projects;
  • National and international collaborations;
  • Innovative, state-of-the art experimental and high-performance computing resources;
  • National and international workshops and training schools;
  • Research periods abroad.

Since astrochemistry is a research-oriented field, a Ph.D. is an essential requirement. Scientists with a Ph.D in Astrochemistry may pursue a research career in academia, or they may work for a government agency or national laboratory. Further details can be found at the following link: https://www.sns.it/en/astrochemistry

Interested candidates can find further information at the following link: https://www.sns.it/en/why-apply-to-the-normale