The topic of the PhD can be broadly defined as the development, validation and application of integrated computational strategies allowing vis-à-vis
comparison between theoretical results and experimental data. On these grounds, the PhD course in Methods and Models in Molecular Sciences has the objective of training young scientist to perform competitive research in several fields of molecular sciences employing a panel of simulation techniques ranging from multiscale methods to virtual and augmented reality. The PhD program prepares top-level researchers, who routinely go on to do research in very prestigious institutions, in Italy and abroad. The PhD course is based on the research carried out at the DreamsLab Center of Scuola Normale Superiore (see http://dreamslab.sns.it
) also in collaboration with the NEST Laboratory, the Biology Laboratory, the group of Cosmology, and the SAET Laboratory (History, Archeology, Epigraphy, Tradition of Antiquity). Advanced training can be performed on:
- Astrochemistry and molecular astrophysics.
- Computational medicinal chemistry.
- Computational spectroscopy.
- Materials and devices with low environmental impact and related to renewable fonts of energy.
- Methods and models for cultural heritage.
- Rational design and characterization of new polymeric and nano-structured materials.
The scientific activities are supported by large-scale high performance computing resources and last-generation hardware to produce and visualize advanced 3D graphics through virtual and augmented reality. Scientific research and technological support are financed by several international projects (e.g. the 5-year ERC Advanced grant DREAMS). The theoretical models and computational approaches developed by the research team are made available to the whole scientific community through widely distributed user-friendly programs (e.g. the Gaussian code) and are currently used by a large number of researchers all over the world both in academic institutions and in industry. Reference experimental data are made available to the researchers of the group as a result of several long-standing collaborations with leading experimental teams operating, inter alia, at the National Research Council of Italy (CNR), the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the principal Inter-University Consortia devoted to chemistry (INSTM, CSGI, CERM). Furthermore, within the Scuola Normale Superiore, an increasing number of collaborations and memoranda of understanding allows PhD students to perform stages and develop collaborative projects in several Universities and Research Centers in Europe, USA, and Asia.
Teaching is divided into lecture and seminar courses (all held in English). Graduate students in Methods and Models for Molecular Sciences will annually agree with the PhD Coordinator a study plan to be presented to the Faculty Board. Such a document will specify the planned research and education activities for the relevant academic year. The courses will be chosen to enlarge the student background and deepen specific aspects related to the PhD Thesis project. A particular attention in the study plan is placed to integrate topics of theoretical and computational molecular sciences with their experimental background. PhD students are expected to take at least three courses and to pass the corresponding exams. Students may be asked to follow some courses from the Undergraduate program, to fill some gaps in their preparation and these may or may not be in addition to the above three compulsory courses, on a case by case basis. At the end of the first year students are expected, in close consultation with the Coordinator and with approval from the Faculty Board, to choose the Thesis supervisor and project. At the end of the second and third years, PhD students should present a written report concerning the research done and the results achieved so far, together with any publications produced. The report will be discussed in an oral presentation in front of a panel of experts appointed by the Faculty Board. Upon successful performance, the student will be admitted to the subsequent year. According to research needs, students are encouraged to spend periods of study and research at Italian and foreign institutions. All 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students, at the end of each year, will take part in a “PhD day” workshop, in which they will discuss the progresses in their work, in front of their peers and Faculty.