Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology (COMPAC)

Research activity

Astrophysics and Cosmology represent important thematic areas at the Scuola Normale Superiore in the field of Physics. In addition to theoretical work, research in the Area makes massive use of computational techniques, both in terms of modeling and the analysis of the most advanced data available from large telescopes and space missions. The Course in Computational Cosmology and Astrophysics [COMPAC] intends to direct PhD students to research work on leading topics in the international scientific panorama that can make the most of numerical simulations, Bayesian-type statistical approaches, Machine Learning algorithms and the treatment and the exploration of Big Data. PhD students find themselves immersed in research groups that combine these methodologies, allowing them to acquire a complete and varied approach to the problem. The three essential aspects in the training of our PhD students are the strong interdisciplinary component of the educational path, particular attention to a "problem solving" type of education and the international environment in which the students are immersed throughout their period of study. The research groups related to the PhD in Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology are highly international and offer a large number of opportunities for interaction both within the group through seminars, thematic meetings and interviews, but also through direct interactions with the numerous international experts who part of collaborations to which the groups themselves belong. The latter aspect has a very important return for the visibility of their work and for post-doctoral employment prospects.

Research Areas

The PhD in Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology at the Scuola Normale Superiore aims to outline a highly qualified professional figure for future placement both in the world of research, fundamental or applied, and in the world of production in sectors with advanced technological content. The techniques and numerical approaches to come rigorously taught and implemented, they will be useful not only for research related to the Sciences of the Universe, but due to their interdisciplinary nature, they can eventually be applied to problems inherent in a large number of disciplines. In addition, PhD students are also offered the opportunity to carry out Masters in complementary disciplines, such as in Business & Administration which allow them to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to maximize the industrial and commercial return of any ideas born during the research carried out in the field of the PhD. At the end of the training course, PhD students must be competitive in order to continue their post-doctoral research activity in the most prestigious academic and research institutions. This goal is achieved by constantly monitoring their scientific production, participation in international congresses and taking care of their introduction in high-profile collaborations. In experimental activities, mainly related to high-performance computing (HPC) and big data analytics, we aim to provide students with all the necessary means to conduct experiments with state-of-the-art tools. Alongside the natural and necessary technical specialization, a path attentive to interdisciplinary activities and to developing a "problem solving" attitude is considered essential to provide our trainees with a sufficient degree of flexibility to allow them to enter the job market in high-profile positions.

Teaching activity

The teaching activity includes lectures and seminars. PhD students will annually agree on a study plan with the PhD Coordinator to be presented to the Class Council. This document will specify the research and training activities planned for the current academic year. PhD students must attend and pass the exams corresponding to the courses followed. at least three courses (120 hours of frontal lessons) and pass the corresponding exams. The courses should be chosen in order to broaden the students' background and deepen specific aspects related to the doctoral thesis project. At the end of the first year it is expected that students, in close consultation with the Coordinator and with the approval of the Class Council, choose the supervisor and the project of their Thesis. At the end of the second year, students must submit a written report (called pre-thesis) relating to the research carried out and the results achieved up to that moment, accompanied by any publications produced. The pre-thesis works will be discussed during an oral presentation in front of a group of experts appointed by the Class Council. Students will then be admitted to the third and fourth year, during which the research must be completed and condensed into a thesis. Based on research needs, students are encouraged to spend periods of study and research at Italian and foreign institutions.