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Research Activity

The PhD course in Astrochemistry aims at providing students with the instruments to understand the different aspects that characterize this branch of science. Indeed, Astrochemistry is an interdisciplinary field involving chemistry, physics, and astronomy, together with some contributions from geology and biology. Its main aim is to understand the molecular basis of the Universe evolution: the formation of small molecules in space, their evolution toward complex molecular systems, the transformation/destruction of the latter, but also the radiation-molecule interaction and the information obtainable from this. To be more specific, Astrochemistry focuses on the study of the chemical processes at work in space and on the understanding of the molecular evolution, trying to address the question of molecular complexity. On the other hand, it is also interested in the information that can be retrieved from the study of molecules in the universe. In fact, molecules being ubiquitous (they are found everywhere in space: in interstellar, circumstellar and pre-galactic gas, in proto-stellar disks, in the atmospheres of stars and planets, . . .) are unique probes to retrieve information on molecular excitation, radiative transfer, and kinematics.

On these grounds, the PhD course aims at training young scientists to perform 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.

The PhD course in Astrochemistry is associated to the Interuniversity Center STAR, which involves the different expertises of the founding partners: Scuola Normale Superiore, University of Bologna, and University of Naples Federico II. In line with the objectives of the Interuniversity Center Star, the PhD program aims at preparing top-level researchers. To fulfil this goal, 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.

Teaching Activity

The four-year PhD program consists of:

  • Teaching activity: it involves mandatory and optional courses as well as seminars and it is mainly planned during the first year. All first-year teaching and training activities aim at providing Ph.D. students with the basic skills required in the fields of chemistry, physics/astrophysics, and astronomy. The teaching activity of the subsequent years is characterized by specialized seminars given by national and international experts.
  • Research activity: research is carried out under the supervision of leading experts in the field. The students are appointed at one of the partner Universities, and all professors/researchers involved in the program have an international background. The training activity also involves periods at national and/or international research laboratories.

The three founding partners of the Interuniversity Center STAR, Scuola Normale Superiore, University of Bologna, and University of Naples Federico II, provide all possible expertise in the fields of Chemistry and Physics: ranging from quantum chemistry to molecular spectroscopy, from organic synthesis to chemical reactivity, from thermodynamics to kinetics, … . Expertise in the field of biology is also available in order to further extend the research and teaching activity toward Astrobiology. The possible lack of expertise in the field of Astrophysics is overcome thanks to involvement of the research groups of Professors Paola Caselli, Josè Cernicharo, and Stephan Schlemmer, who are permanent members of the Doctoral School board.