International Doctoral Program in Science

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Four world-class universities have partnered together to provide outstanding students an opportunity to pursue an International Ph.D. in Science: the University of Notre Dame (USA), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy), KU Leuven (Belgium), and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (Chile). This program provides research opportunities in physics, chemistry, biology, environmental science, and mathematics through jointly supervised research projects across two of the partner universities. 

Students have two research advisors, one from the financing university, and one from the collaborating university. Students will have a mandatory stay of at least one full year at each of the institutions. 

For more information on the program or on how to apply, please contact Prof. Masaru Kuno at

The following research projects are currently accepting students:

1. Porous polymeric nanocomposites for daylight-induced catalytic degradation of water pollutants

Joint research project between Istituto Italiano Tecnologia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and University of Notre Dame

Abstract: The aim of the PhD project is to develop active porous polymeric materials for water remediation applications. The research will focus on the photocatalytic degradation of organic pollutants, such as dyes, pesticides, and drugs, under daylight by nanocomposite fibrous materials with controlled band gap energies. The nanocomposites will be obtained by combining deposition of metallic or carbon seeds by supersonic cluster beam or pulsed laser deposition on porous polymers with in-situ growth of hybrid nanostructures upon heating or light irradiation of the composite material. 

The PhD candidate will explore some combinations of the seeds-nanomaterials in order to achieve the optimal photocatalytically active material under daylight. The candidate will develop the porous materials, will deposit the appropriate seeds and will subsequently develop the hybrid systems. The candidate will fully characterize the physicochemical and optical properties of the developed materials and will perform the degradation experiments of defined pollutants. 

Faculty: Dr. Despina Fragouli (IIT), Prof. Luca Gavioli (UCSC), Dr. Emanuele Cavaliere (UCSC), Prof. Prashant Kamat (ND) 

2. Development of nanostructured platforms for breathonomics: from surface science to devices

Joint research project between Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and KU Leuven

Abstract: Among forefront applications of nanostructured carbon materials such as graphene (GR) and nanotubes (CNT), breathonomics is challenging physics, chemistry, and device engineering to develop extremely sensitive, selective, and stable platforms to recognize ppb amounts of target molecules in the environment. In this project, platforms based on CNT and GR will be developed to discriminate potential pathologies through pattern recognition in molecular fingerprint breath samples. This objective will be realized through properly developed devices based first on CNT and then on graphene layers. Layers characterization will involve electron and Raman spectroscopies, as well as scanning probe spectro-microscopies. All materials will be functionalized with selected molecules to make them more selective to specific target molecules. Algorithms for fast data retrieval and handling will be developed to feed statistical analysis packages for molecular fingerprint detection. 

Faculty: Prof. Luigi Sangaletti (UCSC), Prof. Steven De Feyter (KU)

3. Controlling multi-band materials via orbital manipulation

Joint research project between Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and KU Leuven

Abstract: Many materials of great scientific and technological interest have an intrinsically multi-orbital electronic structure which leads to a variety of remarkable phenomena, such as metal-to-insulator phase transitions, superconductivity, exotic magnetic phases and multiferroicity. The aim of this project is identifying operative protocols to control the electronic properties and induce phase transitions. The key idea is that by manipulating the occupation of different orbitals, we can change the conduction properties of the systems inducing metal-insulator transitions and orbital-selective Mott states where only the electrons in some orbitals are localized. The control of the orbital occupation will be realized by combining laser manipulation and suitable nanostructuring. These ideas will be tested on prototypical correlated materials such as vanadium oxides (V2O3, VO2, LaVO3). 

Faculty: Dr. Claudio Giannetti (UCSC), Prof. Jean Pierre Locquet (KU), Dr. Mariela Menghini (KU)

4. Size-resolved aerosol particle deposition to European broadleaved forests

Joint research project between Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and KU Leuven

Abstract: The aim of this project is the micrometeorological characterization of the size-resolved PM deposition and re-suspension processes to European broadleaved forests under different climatic conditions with related possible physiological interactions. The research will consist of a combination of experimental and observational work both in the field (eddy covariance) and in the lab (wind tunnel or growth chambers) with the aim to improve actual deposition models. 

A solid background in micrometeorology and ecology is required, as well as programming and modeling.

Faculty: Prof. Giacomo Gerosa (UCSC), Prof. Bart Muys (KU)

5. Classical and noncommutative geometry applied to Quantum Hall Effect and other condensed matter problems

Joint research project between Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Abstract: The present project proposes some mutually intermingled research paths, mostly focused towards classical and noncommutative geometry together with applications to modern physics issues, notably condensed matter physics, with an emphasis on Quantum Hall Effect (QHE) and its related topological aspects: TKNN-duality vs. T-duality, braids and their application to solid state physics (QHE), Jain's composite fermions, cyclotron braid groups, stable bundles, generalized theta functions, and knots.

Solid background in functional analysis, differential geometry, and topology, and in the mathematics of classical and quantum mechanics is required.

Faculty: Prof. Giuseppe de Nittis (PUC), Prof. Mauro Spera (UCSC)


The following list shows projects that are currently active but not taking new students:

1. Ultrafast Dynamics

Joint research project between the University of Notre Dame and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Research Topics: Ultrafast dynamics of single perovskite nanostructures

Abstract: The properties of nanomaterials often depend on the size and shape of the structure as well as the density of trap sites. Because samples of nanomaterials have a distribution of these parameters, it is important to study single structures. In this project, ultrafast transient absorption microscopy will be used to interrogate charge carrier dynamics in single Perovskite nanostrucutres. These measurements will provide detailed information about how charge carrier diffusion and trapping depend on size and shape as well as the surface chemistry of the nanostructure. This information is important for optimizing these materials for applications such as solar cells or light emitting diodes. 

Faculty: Prof. Masaru Kuno (ND), Prof. Greg Hartland (ND), Prof. Francesco Banfi (UCSC), and Prof. Claudio Giannetti (UCSC)

2. Cooperative Effects in Quantum Systems

Joint research project between Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and the University of Notre Dame

Research Topics: Open quantum systems, quantum transport in mesoscopic systems, disordered systems, superconductivity, super-radiance, long-range interacting systems

Abstract: The aim is to elaborate a common theoretical framework able to explain the emergence of cooperative phenomena, such as superradiance and superconductivity. Application to quantum transport in different realistic systems will also be studied. 

Faculty: Prof. Fausto Borgonovi (UCSC), Prof. Luca Celardo (UCSC), Prof. Boldizsar Janko (ND)

3. Exotic Structures in Light Nuclei through Resonant Reactions

Joint research project between KU Leuven and University of Notre Dame

Research Topics: Fundamental nuclear physics and solid-state physics using nuclear physics methods

Abstract: The research program at the Instituut voor Kern - en Stralingsfysica concentrates on fundamental nuclear physics and solid-state physics using nuclear physics methods. The experimental research combines local work at the detector and laser laboratories at KU Leuven with campaigns at various large international facilities. The structure of light nuclei exhibits peculiar features, such as halos, clusters, and configurations reminiscent of molecules. Because of the small number of nucleons, these systems are test grounds for ab-initio or few-body cluster models, while average-potential models often struggle to reproduce their characteristics. The experimental study of the exotic properties of light nuclei is a challenging task, requiring the use of dedicated instruments for their production and detection. In this project, we intend to use a novel kind of detector, an "active target", in combination with the light beams available at the TwinSol facility at Notre Dame. Of particular interest is the use of a rare beam of 8B ions to study the properties of selected exotic systems using resonant reactions. 

Faculty: Prof. Riccardo Raabe (KUL) and Prof. Tan Ahn (ND)

4. Differential Geometry and Applications to Modern Physics

Joint research project between Universita Cattolicà del Sacro Cuore and KU Leuven

Research Topics: Geometric fluid mechanics, homotopy moment maps and multicomponent map reduction, geometry of knot spaces, geometric quantization and reduction

Abstract: The project proposes the following mutually intermingled research paths mostly focused towards symplectic geometry and its multisymplectic generalizations, together with applications to modern physics issues, both classical and quantum mechanical, with an emphasis on topological aspects.

Faculty: Prof. Mauro Spera (UCSC) and Prof. Marco Zambon (KUL)

5. Study of the Surface Chemistry and the Electronic Properties of Pd1-xRux and Ag1-xRh0020 Cluster Films

Joint research project between Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and KU Leuven

Research Topics: Surface physics, condensed matter physics

Faculty: Prof. Alejandro Cabrera (PUC) and Prof. Dr. Peter Lievens (KU)