A degree in research
IIT gives the opportunity to graduate students to earn a doctorate degree in its state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities. PhD students can develop their research programme within IIT scientific activity, working every day in IIT laboratories, collaborating with cross-disciplinary scientific teams and attending seminars and specific courses.
The PhD courses arise from a close collaboration between IIT and Italian & International Universities.
Universities are responsible for the organizational and training aspects, and for the awarding of the final degree, whereas IIT hosts the students in its laboratories and finances the Universities, which issue scholarships for the students.
These pages list the PhD positions currently available;
Important: please read carefully the submission process indicated for each position, which must be followed by all prospecting applicants.
PhD-fellow positions at IIT (ARC@IIT)
The Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) has established an interdisciplinary PhD programme in collaboration with the Open University (OU; Milton Keynes, UK), in the form of an OU Affiliated Research Centre at the IIT (ARC@IIT). The PhD programme confers Doctorates in Health, Sustainable and Human Technologies, with research activities carried out in the framework of the OU Affiliated Research Centre at IIT in Genova.
Programme. The PhD in Health, Sustainable and Human Technologies is a programme of excellence, which comprises taught modules (delivered on site or remotely) a) in disciplinary subjects, b) in transferable skills including IP protection and commercialization, and c) in the major challenges our societies face (energy supply, sustainability, mental health, ageing, epidemics).
The maximal duration of projects is 4 years; an intermediate examination takes place before the end of the first year and must be passed to allow progression to the remainder of the programme.
We invite applications from outstanding candidates for four PhD positions.
If you wish to carry out a research at the forefront of nano, life and robotic technologies under the supervision of internationally leading scientists, please find below a list of available PhD projects (start date: 1st of April 2021); this includes a succinct description, the specific requirements (including background of the applicants) and the contact details of the main supervisor.
List of the PhD Projects:
1) Dissecting mechanisms of PIWI-interacting RNA biogenesis and function in the mammalian nervous system
Background. PIWI interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs, best known in gonads as repressors of transposons (1-2). Apart from gonads, the highest piRNA expression in adult mice has been found in the hippocampus (3), and our lab has recently demonstrated that inhibition of piRNA biogenesis in the postnatal hippocampus leads to aberrant neurogenesis and astrocyte reactivity; this suggests the PIWI pathway might be involved in maintenance of neurogenesis and/or homeostasis (4).
Description. You will dissect piRNA biogenesis pathways, identify targets and validate functions in the context of neuroinflammation, combining molecular and cell biology, primary cultures of neural cells, imaging, and rodent behavioral studies. you will also collaborate with IIT staff expert in proteomics/metabolomics, bioinformatics, genomics, material science, imaging, neuro-pharmacology and neuro-electronics. The project will have a predominant focus on primary murine and human neural cells for a deep biochemical and molecular (high-content and -throughput) understanding of PIWI pathways, validated in rodent models.
Essential references. 1) Ozata et al., PIWI-interacting RNAs: small RNAs with big functions. Nat. Rev. Genet. 20, 89 (2019). 2) Czech et al., piRNA-Guided Genome Defense: From Biogenesis to Silencing. Annu. Rev. Genet. 52, 131–157 (2018). 3) Perera et al., Somatic expression of piRNA and associated machinery in the mouse identifies short, tissue-specific piRNA. Epigenetics 14, 504–521 (2019). 4) Gasperini et al. The piRNA pathway sustains adult neurogenesis by repressing protein synthesis. BioRxiv (2020);https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.15.297739.
i) MSc or equivalent degree in Biomedical Sciences or cognate discipline;
ii) “hands-on” experience in manipulation/characterization of neural cell cultures (maintenance, transfection, RNA/DNA extraction, qPCR, Immunocytochemistry, W.Blotting; IP co-IP, etc.);
iii) Experience in handling of rodent models (e.g., survival surgery, behavior);
iv) Familiarity with coding platforms (e.g., MATLAB; Pyton; “R”).
i) BSc or equivalent degree in Biochemistry;
ii) Capability to design and analyze behavioral paradigms;
iii) Familiarity with RNA sequencing/Proteomics;
iv) Prior international experiences (e.g., short stays; ERASMUS or Degrees).
2) Hyaluronic acid interactions with cell surface receptors – Understanding cell binding and internalization of a popular biomaterial
Background. Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a naturally occurring polysaccharide, ubiquitous component of extracellular matrices and particularly abundant in e.g. synovial fluids, vitreous body etc. Its apparent bio-inertness, degradability and attractive physico-chemical properties (generation of high osmotic pressure, thixotropicity) have led to widespread medical application e.g. in aesthetic surgery or in the treatment of osteoarthritis. At the same time, HA is also studied as a component of vectors for the delivery of pharmacologically active principles (‘drugs’, with our group predominantly focusing on RNA delivery (1)), where it offers the advantage of preferential accumulation (‘targeting’) through interactions with receptors often overexpressed under pathological conditions.
Description. You will work in the group of Nicola Tirelli (NT), but in close collaboration with other IIT groups (De Vivo, De Pietri Tonelli, Vicidomini), and in close contact with other IIT staff funded through an AIRC (Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro) Investigator Grant recently awarded to NT. The work programme will predominantly focus on understanding and modelling the interactions between HA-based substrates (in particular, nanomaterials for drug delivery) and HA receptors on cell surfaces, using biophysical and advanced imaging (super-resolution microscopy) experimental tools on one hand, and equilibrium molecular dynamics and coupled to enhanced-sampling free energy calculations. Specific attention will be paid to the role a) of structural features in the HA substrates and b) of the transcriptional variability in the receptors.
Essential references. 1) Lallana et al., Chitosan/hyaluronic acid nanoparticles: rational design revisited for RNA delivery, Mol. Pharm. 14, 2422 (2017). 2) Spadea et al., Evaluating the Efficiency of Hyaluronic Acid for Tumor Targeting via CD44, Mol. Pharm. 16, 2481 (2019). 3) De la Rosa et al., The CD44‐mediated uptake of hyaluronic acid‐based carriers in macrophages, Adv. Healthc. Mater. 6, 1601012 (2017). 4) De la Rosa et al., Binding and Internalization in Receptor‐Targeted Carriers: The Complex Role of CD44 in the Uptake of Hyaluronic Acid‐Based Nanoparticles (siRNA Delivery). Adv. Healthc. Mater. 8, 1901182 (2019).
i) MSc or equivalent degree in Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics or cognate discipline;
ii) Experience with the use of nanomaterials for drug delivery;
iii) Experience with physico-chemical and biophysical characterization techniques (e.g. light scattering techniques, surface plasmon resonance);
iv) Experience with mammalian cell culture.
i) BSc or equivalent degree in Biomedical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Chemistry, or cognate discipline;
ii) Experience with the use of microscopy techniques applied to its characterization;
iii) Experience with the use of molecular dynamics-based computational methods;
iv) Experience with the (targeted) delivery of nucleic acids.
3) Development of an inductive link for biomedical wireless power and data transfer in micro-scale devices.
Background. Brain organoids have recently emerged as a promising in vitro model for studying functional and non-functional neural mechanisms occurring at early stages of development in the human brain. Current methods for monitoring the electrical activity of such 3D biological tissues rely on either optical or electrode based techniques that are respectively limited by invasiveness with consequent tissue-damage and low-yield or light scattering and low time-resolution. A different and promising solution that we are developing to overcome such limitations is based on untethered bionic brain organoids, where in-tissue transducing active micro-systems allow for non-invasive multisite sensing and actuation of neural activity.
Description. Within this framework, the student will study, develop and characterize solutions for currently unavailable micro-antennas that can be coupled with small-area, ultra-low power CMOS circuits to use RF for power delivery and data transfer. Maximum power transfer efficiency and optimum load impedance in near-field regime will be investigated through numerical methods and simulations in relation to the specific physical constrains (size, distance and orientation) and electro-magnetic properties (permeability, conductibility). Within the project, a tight collaboration with CMOS analogue engineers and experts in RF system design will permit to optimize circuits for adequate wireless operations. The final objective is to reach the proof-of-concept for in-tissue wireless transduction of bioelectrical signals.
Essential references. 1) Angotzi, Gian Nicola, et al. "A µRadio CMOS Device for Real-Time In-Tissue Monitoring of Human Organoids." 2018 IEEE Biomedical Circuits and Systems Conference (BioCAS). IEEE, 2018. 2) M. Crepaldi, G. N. Angotzi, A. Maviglia, F. Diotalevi, L. Berdondini (2018) A 5 pJ/pulse at 1-Gpps Pulsed Transmitter Based on Asynchronous Logic Master–Slave PLL Synthesis, IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems I: Regular Papers, 54:3. 3) Lecomte, Aziliz, et al. "Surface‐Functionalized Self‐Standing Microdevices Exhibit Predictive Localization and Seamless Integration in 3D Neural Spheroids." Advanced Biosystems 4.11 (2020): 2000114.
i) Master degree in Electronic/Electrical Engineering or in Physics;
ii) Background in MEMs technology;
iii) Experience in circuit/MEMs design;
iv) Experience in physical/electronic simulations.
i) Background in biology/neuroscience;
ii) Background in biomaterials;
Iii) Background in biophysics;
iv) Programming skills in Matlab/Python/C++ or C#.
4) Insertion-force control for the implantation of active dense brain interfaces
Background. Implantable active dense neural probes based on micro-structured monolithic CMOS devices, such as SiNAPS-probes developed at IIT (c.f. www.sinapsprobes.eu), can record neuronal activity with an unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution. This opens up new opportunities to advance neuroscience studies on brain diseases, as well as applications of brain-machine interfaces relevant to improve our quality of life. However, reaching chronic timetables is necessary, and it is therefore crucial to reduce the foreign body response triggered by the implant. Because, the neural probes insertion procedure is key to reduce the brain inflammatory reaction, it is imperative to study and develop solutions that can reduce the insertion procedure variability and invasiveness of these probes to the brain.
Description. The aim of this PhD project is to study and develop solutions that can record and control the forces involved in CMOS-probes brain insertion, and this with high precision, accuracy and speed. Real-time control of the insertion procedure will open the possibility to automatize and standardize the neural probes insertion, and most likely improve the chronic interfacing performance. The student will have the opportunity to integrate the multidisciplinary IIT-NetS3 lab, with research experts in engineering, bioelectronics and neuroscience. He/she will acquire knowledge in the development, handling and experimental use of different neural probes, as well as gain experience in electrophysiological experiments and applications.
Essential references. 1) F. Boi, et al. "Multi-shanks SiNAPS Active Pixel Sensor CMOSprobe: 1024 simultaneously recording channels for high-density intracortical brain mapping." bioRxiv (2019): 749911. 2)G. N. Angotzi, F. Boi, A. Lecomte, E. Miele, M. Malerba, S. Zucca, A. Casile, L. Berdondini (2019) SiNAPS: an implantable Active Pixel Sensor CMOS-probe for Simultaneous large-scale Neural recordings, Biosensors and Bioelectronics. 3) G. N. Angotzi, M. Malerba, F. Boi, E. Miele, A. Maccione, H. Amin, M. Crepaldi, L. Berdondini (2018) A Synchronous Neural Recording Platform for Multiple High-Resolution CMOS Probes and Passive Electrode Arrays, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, 12:3, pp. 532-542.
i) Master degree in Mechanical/Electronic/Biomedical Engineering, Physics or equivalent;
ii) Background in MEMs technology;
iii) Good knowledge in physics;
iv) Significant (electronic and possibly biology) lab experience acquired during undergraduate or postgraduate research training.
i) Background in biology/neuroscience;
ii) Background in biomaterials;
iii) Background in biophysics;
iv) Programming skills in Matlab/Python/C++ or C#.
Who can apply. In order to be admitted into the ARC programme, the minimum requirements are
- a Masters-level degree, which broadly corresponds to a 4/5-year undergraduate MSc/MChem/MEng-style degree or to a postgraduate Masters in the British system, or to a second- level University degree in Please note that when the degree was not awarded in Italy, the successful candidate will be asked to promptly provide a statement of comparable value (Statement of Validity, “Dichiarazione di Valore” or “Attestato di Comparabilità” in Italian), which is issued by the Italian Consular Offices of the country of study.
- a grade corresponding to an upper second class (2.1) or a merit in the UK system or 100/110 in the Italian system. Candidates with lower grades but redeeming features (publications, specific expertise) are requested to contact the potential supervisors before
- where English is not the applicant’s first language, a valid IELTS (International English Language Testing System) The minimum acceptable score is an overall 6.5, with no less than 6.0 in any of the four categories.
In accordance with international, European Union and Italian laws, and with the equal opportunity employer status of IIT, recruitment and selection is pursued irrespective of age, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation or religious opinion (D.Lgs. 215/2003, 2004/43/CE; D.Lgs. 215/2006).
How to apply. Prospective students must use the links in the project titles and submit the following documents by the 7th of February 2021.
- 2-page CV, which includes studies, expertise and
- 1-page research statement, which includes the choice of a project from the list above and a justification of the choice. Only if robustly justified, the student may signal their interest also for a second project, but there is no guarantee that this will be taken into account by the selection
- A transcript of undergraduate and postgraduate
- A valid IELTS certificate, obtained no more than two years before the proposed registration
- Contact details of two referees.
What happens after selection. Successful applicants will be asked to submit to the Open University the documents necessary for the final registration; IIT will then cover the registration fees and provide a gross salary of €18.700 per annum for the duration of the student registration in the graduate programme.
Please note that the details and CVs of the successful applicants will be shared with the Open University. The data that you provide will be used exclusively for the purpose of professional profiles’ evaluation and selection, and in order to meet the requirements of Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia. Your data will be processed by Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, based in Genoa, Via Morego 30, acting as Data Controller, in compliance with the rules on protection of personal data, including those related to data security. Please also note that, pursuant to articles 15 et. seq. of European Regulation no. 679/2016 (General Data Protection Regulation), you may exercise your rights at any time by contacting the Data Protection Officer (phone +39 01