Physics and Chemistry of Biological Systems

Physics and Chemistry of Biological Systems PhD Program

The International School for Advanced Studies SISSA is one of the leading scientific institutions in Italy for postgraduate training and high-level research.

The PhD program in "Physics and Chemistry of Biological Systems" offers an advanced, research-oriented training in theoretical and computational topics at the interface of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The PhD program has a highly interdisciplinary character and, accordingly, the faculty includes members from the SISSA Physics and Mathematics areas, the CNR-IOM Democritos center and ICTP, the International Center for Theoretical Physics.

The students are selected yearly by means of an entrance examination held in Trieste (see for further details the section Application Info). During the period November-April of the first year, students follow a set of advanced courses covering all the aspects at the basis of a modern approach to the theoretical modeling of biological systems. The courses include: Statistical Mechanics, Numerical Methods in Computational Physics, System Biology, Statistics and Probability, Introduction to Biochemistry, Computational Biochemistry, Advanced Sampling Techniques, Statistical Mechanics of Polymers, Mechanical Aspects of Cell Biology and Bioinformatics, Introduction to Quantum Chemistry and Simulations in Molecular Medicine.

At the end of the courses, each first year student takes on a supervised research project. The choice of the project topic and the supervisor is arranged with the PhD faculty. The PhD program is typically completed in about 4 years. Most of the research activity is devoted to characterize the kinetics, thermodynamics and mechanics of proteins and nucleic acids and to seek quantitative comparison with experimental data. The expertise spanned by the faculty members is broad and ranges from detailed quantum-mechanical calculations and hybrid quantum-classical (QM/MM) simulations applied to enzymatic reactions, to classical atomistic molecular dynamics simulations and advanced sampling techniques of proteins, to coarse-grained modeling of protein assemblies and large macromolecular systems such as long DNA filaments. These activities are very tightly integrated, providing an uncommon comprehensive multiscale expertise.

The spring preselection for non-EU applicants is open until 31st March of 2017. The next coming entrance selection will be held the 5th and 6th June of 2017 (deadline for online applications on 15th May 2017). The admitted PhD students will have the opportunity to carry out research on the following main topics:

  1. Algorithm development for biomolecular simulations
  2. Atomistic simulations of drugs interacting with proteins and nucleic acids
  3. Kinetics, mechanics and thermodynamics of biopolymers: atomistic and coarse-grained approaches
  4. Modeling and simulation of cellular motility
  5. Rational drug design
  6. Systems Biology

The School offers grants (currently € 1.135,00 net/month approximately), depending on the amount of funds available, to students who have made a specific request in the online application. The grant is awarded for three years, extendable for a fourth year subject to approval by the School authorities. A contribution towards living expenses of the amount of € 1.200,00 gross per year will also be awarded to those who will submit a regular rental contract.

A number of short fellowships will be available for students who wants to participate in the entrance exam, entitling them to a stay before the exam in order to familiarize them with SISSA and its environment. Application forms and additional information can be found in the following link.

More information about admission can be found here:

  1. Announcement and deadline
  2. Online Application
  3. Online application FAQs
  4. Students SISSA wiki
Or ask for information in this link here.