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ERC grants at SISSA

The European Research Council - ERC was set up in 2007 to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence. Since 2007 SISSA has received 22 ERC grants, including 8 Starting Grants, 8 Advanced Grants, 5 Consolidator Grants and 1 Proof of Concept Grant. The School ranks among the top hosting institutions in Italy, in particular with respect to the small faculty size: 20% of its current faculty members have been awarded one or more ERC grants.

ACTIVE PROJECTS


GRAMS - GRavity from Astrophysical to Microscopic Scales

Consolidator Grant 2019-2024 PI: ENRICO BARAUSSE
Research Field: Astroparticle Physics

General Relativity describes gravity on a huge range of scales, field strengths and velocities. However, despite its successes, it has been showing its age. Cosmological data support the existence of a Dark Sector, but may also be interpreted as a breakdown of our understanding of gravity. Indeed, gravitational theories can be built to reproduce the large-scale behaviour of the Universe (i.e. the existence of Dark Energy and/or Dark Matter) without any actual Dark Sector, while at the same time passing local tests of gravity thanks to non-perturbative screening mechanisms. GRAMS will explore the possibility that this non-perturbative screening may fail in the strong-field, highly dynamical systems that emit gravitational waves for LIGO and Virgo. This will allow for using gravitational wave observation to confirm or rule out a modified gravity origin for the Dark Sector.


NEMO - New states of Entangled Matter Out of equilibrium

Consolidator Grant 2018-2023 PI: PASQUALE CALABRESE
Research Field: Statistical Physics
When a quantum system is suddenly brought out of thermodynamic equilibrium all excitations collectively participate in the ensuing dynamics, causing a plethora of unconventional and exotic effects. The theoretical study of the non-equilibrium dynamics is hampered by the fact that the time dependent many-body wave function is highly entangled on spatial scales which rapidly grow in time. Consequently, a satisfactory description of this dynamics is a challenge whose solution cannot prescind from a characterisation of the entanglement. The ambitious goal of this project is to find and characterise new non-equilibrium states of matter guided by their entanglement content. 

AGEnTh - Atomic Gauge and Entanglement Theories
Starting Grant 2018-2023 PI: MARCELLO DALMONTE
Research Field: Statistical Physics,Theory and
Numerical Simulation of Condensed Matter
The overall aim of this project is to establish novel routes for the investigation of highly entangled quantum matter in atomic many-body systems, by addressing three complementary challenges along the way – probing, new phenomena, and implementations. The main goals are: i) devising scalable protocols for measuring entanglement in atomic quantum systems; ii) proposing gauge-theory-based mechanisms for the realization long-sought, highly-entangled states of matter, including topological phases supporting parafermion edge modes, and quantum spin liquids; iii) developing new tools for the implementation and understanding of atomic gauge theories.

BiT - How the Human Brain Masters Time
Consolidator Grant 2016-2021 PI: DOMENICA BUETI
Research Field: Cognitive Neuroscience
BiT seeks to understand how the human brain represents time. By using neuroimaging (fMRI at ultra-high field, EEG), brain stimulation techniques (TMS) and the simultaneous combination of the two (TMS-EEG), BiT tests a new biologically plausible hypothesis of temporal representation via duration tuning and 'chronotopy', explores the relationship between spatial and temporal representations in visual and auditory cortices and scrutinises the functional connectivity and the temporal hierarchies between putative brain 'time regions'.

FIRSTORM - Modeling First-Order Mott Transitions
Advanced Grant 2016-2021   PI: MICHELE FABRIZIO
Research Field: Theory and Numerical Simulation of Condensed Matter
When a quantum system is suddenly brought out of thermodynamic equilibrium all excitations collectively participate in the ensuing dynamics, causing a plethora of unconventional and exotic effects. The theoretical study of the non-equilibrium dynamics is hampered by the fact that the time dependent many-body wave function is highly entangled on spatial scales which rapidly grow in time. Consequently, a satisfactory description of this dynamics is a challenge whose solution cannot prescind from a characterisation of the entanglement. The ambitious goal of this project is to find and characterise new non-equilibrium states of matter guided by their entanglement content. 

STATLEARN - The Reading Brain as a Statistical Learning Machine
Starting Grant 2016-2021   PI: DAVIDE CREPALDI
Research Field: Cognitive Neuroscience
Despite written language is not part of our genetic endowment, literate adults flawlessly process an impressive amount of information as they read. How does this come to be? STATLEARN tests the hypothesis that the magic behind our incredible reading proficiency is probabilistic learning - we would keep track of letter statistics to build a theory of how our words look like, and use this information to help word identification. The research is carried out through a mix of experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and computational modelling.

AROMA-CFD - Advanced Reduced Order Methods with Applications in Computational Fluid Dynamics
Consolidator Grant 2016-2021   PI: GIANLUIGI ROZZA
Research Field: Mathematical Analysis, Modelling, and Applications
The aim of AROMA-CFD is the development of Advanced Reduced Order Modelling techniques with a focus in Computational Fluid Dynamics  for more demanding applications in industrial, medical and applied sciences contexts. AROMA-CFD deals with methodological developments in numerical analysis, with emphasis on mathematical modelling and computational science and engineering. A reduced computational and geometrical framework will be developed for nonlinear inverse problems, focusing on optimal flow control, shape optimization and uncertainty quantification, as well as multiphysics, such as fluid-structure interaction problems.

LEARN2SEE - Invariant visual object representations in the early postnatal and adult cortex
Consolidator Grant 2014-2020     PI: DAVIDE ZOCCOLAN
Research Field: Cognitive Neuroscience
Our visual system can effortlessly recognize visual objects in spite of tremendous variation in their appearance – an extremely challenging task even for the most advanced artificial vision systems. Yet, little is known about how the brain develops and maintains invariant object representations. LEARN2SEE aims at shedding new lights on the computational principles underlying object vision, by applying an array of multidisciplinary approaches, including high-throughput behavioral testing, multi-channel neuronal recordings, controlled-rearing in virtual visual environments and computational modeling.

MicroMotility - Multi-scale modeling and simulation of biological and artificial locomotion at the micron scale
Advanced Grant 2014-2020    PI: ANTONIO DE SIMONE
Research Field: Mathematical Analysis, Modelling, and Applications
The aim of this research is to gain insight into the mechanics of biological motility (in particular, swimming and crawling of microscopic organisms), to distill the key principles that underlie successful locomotion strategies in nature, and to exploit them for the conceptual design of bio-mimetic, self-propelled micro-devices. A combination of theoretical, numerical, and experimental tools is used to approach the problem of biological and bio-inspired motility from a multidisciplinary perspective.

MODPHYSFRICT - Modelling the Physics of (Nano)Friction
Advanced Grant 2013-2019  PI: ERIO TOSATTI
Research Field: Theory and Numerical Simulation of Condesed Matter
The goal of this project is to understand the physics of sliding friction at the nanometer scale, primarily through theoretical approaches covering phenomenology, model building, and molecular dynamics atomistic sliding simulations, both empirical and ab initio, electronic and magnetic dissipation. More fundamental questions are also in the works, including the forced tunneling of whole ions, or the building  of mesoscopic theories  of friction as a non-stationary  phenomenon embedded in ordinary condensed matter theory and non-equilibrium statistical mechanics.

 

COMPLETED PROJECTS


CGR2011TPS - Challenging General Relativity
Starting Grant 2012-2018   PI: THOMAS SOTIRIOU
Research Field: Astroparticle Physics
Gravity is the most enigmatic fundamental interaction. General Relativity, Einstein's celebrated theory has been very successful in explaining gravitational phenomena. However, it is also clear that it cannot describe gravity in all regimes. The program combined research in three directions, quantum gravity, alternative theories of gravity, and relativistic astrophysics, in order to probe the limits of General Relativity and find hints on how to go past them.

S-RNA-S - Small ribonucleic acids in silico
Starting Grant 2012-2017 PI: GIOVANNI BUSSI
Research Field: Physics and Chemistry of Biological Systems

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a central molecule in cell biology. The comprehension of its properties at a molecular level is a key issue in the study of many diseases and paves the way to possible applications in molecular medicine. The aim of this project was to develop and apply computational methods based on molecular simulations for the study of RNA dynamics. Methods were then applied to the characterization of RNA folding and interaction with partners such as proteins, small molecules, and ions.


StabAGDG - Stability and wall-crossing in algebraic and differential geometry
Starting Grant 2012-2017 PI: JACOPO STOPPA
Research Field: Geometry and Mathematical Physics
The team members of the project “StabAGDG” worked on some fundamental questions in mathematics and mathematical physics. They studied Einstein’s equations of gravitation and the Yang-Mills equations of particle physics from a mathematical perspective involving complex differential, algebraic and enumerative geometry, unveiling new hidden structures in the process.

DaMESyFla - Electroweak Symmetry Breaking, Flavor and Dark Matter: One Solution for Three Mysteries
Advanced Grant 2011-2017 PI: GUIDO MARTINELLI
Research Field: Theoretical Particle Physics
The goal of the project was to identify a coherent explanation of the three mysteries in the title, as complete and as unique as possible, by combining the vast information coming from the Energy, Intensity and Astroparticle frontiers. A variety of competences, ranging from phenomenological fits and data interpretation to unified models and fundamental theories, were used to interpret the results coming from a wide range of experiments and to formulate a coherent framework to account for them.

CONCEPT - Construction of Perception from Touch Signals

Advanced Grant 2012-2017      PI: MATHEW E. DIAMOND
Research Field: Cognitive Neuroscience

CONCEPT examined how the brain transforms the neuronal representation of physical parameters into the neuronal representation of meaningful objects. An ideal platform for the inquiry is the rat whisker sensory system: it produces fast and accurate judgments of complex stimuli, yet can be broken down into accessible neuronal mechanisms. By combining behavioral tasks with measurements on neuronal activity throughout the cerebral cortex, CONCEPT has helped us understand the general principles for the cortical construction of perception.

NEUROMICRONICA - Modular behavioural neuroscience
Proof of Concept Grant 2017-2018 - Associated with Advanced Grant CONCEPT
NEUROMICRONICA aimed to introduce to the neuroscience community the laboratory’s expertise in developing innovative instrumentation for the study of the awake rodent interacting with its environment, concomitant with the measurement and manipulation of brain activity, developed in the context of CONCEPT. The outcome of NEUROMICRONICA was the formation of start up company, CyNexo.

QuaDynEvoPro - Quasistatic and Dynamic Evolution Problems in Plasticity and Fracture
Advanced Grant 2012-2017      PI: GIANNI DAL MASO
Research Field: Mathematical Analysis, Modelling, and Applications
The project was devoted to nonlinear evolution problems arising in the study of the inelastic behaviour of solids, in particular in plasticity and fracture. It focussed on selected problems, grouped into three main topics, namely: i) Plasticity with hardening and softening, ii) Quasistatic crack growth, iii) Dynamic fracture mechanics.

EDEQS - Entangling and Disentangling Extended Quantum Systems
Starting Grant 2011-2016     PI: PASQUALE CALABRESE
Research Field: Statistical Physics
The main aim of this project was to utilize entanglement measures to fully classify states of matter in low dimensional systems.  In addition, entanglement measures were used to benchmark the performance of numerical algorithms based on tensor network states. A second main aim of this project was to use the entanglement to identify the most important features of the non equilibrium time evolution after a “quantum quench”, with a view to solve exactly the quench dynamics in strongly interacting integrable models. A particular question we addressed is which observables “thermalize”, which is an issue of tremendous current experimental and theoretical interest.

PASCAL - Processing Activates Specific Constraints for Language Acquisition
Advanced Grant 2011-2016          PI: JACQUES MEHLER
Research Field: Cognitive Neuroscience
PASCAL project investigated the human ability to acquire language and the underlying biological endowment that provides specific language learning mechanisms, through studies of: i) the core cognitive dispositions which render neonates able to interact with speech signals; ii) the biological constraints that determine language acquisition dispositions; iii) the beginning of prosodic grouping abilities; iv) the origin of the functional specialization of segmental categories in speech processing; v) the type of bilingual exposure at different ages and their consequences for the enhancement of executive functions.

SUPERBAD - Understanding high-temperature superconductivity from the foundations
Starting Grant 2009-2015 PI: MASSIMO CAPONE
Research Field: Theory and Numerical Simulation of Condesed Matter
The SUPERBAD project has contributed to develop a unified picture of high-temperature superconctivity in different classes of materials, including cuprates, iron-based materials and fullerides. In all these materials superconductivity appears as a "cure" for the bad metallic behaviour arising as a consequence of strong electron-electron repulsion which is responsible for the anomalies of the parent compounds and of the metallic state. We have successfully unified the phase diagram of these materials and explained a number of experimental results within a single theoretical scheme.

FroM-PDE - Frobenius Manifolds and Partial Differential Equations
Advanced Grant 2009-2013 PI: BORIS DUBROVIN
Research Field: Geometry and Mathematical Physics
The basic idea of the project was to apply the methods and results of the theory of integrable systems to non-integrable partial differential equations (PDEs). We do  not promise to solve any PDE; however in many cases the solutions to a conservative non-integrable PDE in certain strongly nonlinear regimes exhibit integrable behaviour.

ConLaws - Systems of hyperbolic conservation laws: singular limitsm properties of solutions and control problems
Starting Grant 2009-2013  PI: STEFANO BIANCHINI
Research Field: Research Field: Mathematical Analysis, Modelling, and Applications
The research program concerned various theoretic aspects of hyperbolic conservation laws: i) existence and uniqueness of solutions to systems of equations of mathematical physics with physical viscosity, and of relaxation and kinetic models; ii) conservation laws with large data; iii) fine properties of solutions to conservation laws; iv) control theory for hyperbolic equations.