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. Time-resolved optical microscopy techniques to characterize 2D transition metal dichalcogenides

The aim of this project is to synthesize and characterize the 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) and develop ultrafast temporally and spectrally resolved high resolution optical microscopy methods to investigate the electronic and thermo-mechanical aspects of 2D TMDs deposited on a bulk substrate. For more information, click here.

Faculty: Prof. Gabriele Ferrini (UCSC), Dr. Alessio Lamperti (IMM-CNR), Prof. Valeri Afanasiev (KU)

2. Novel architectures for advanced sensing based on 2D materials platforms

In this project, platforms based on properly functionalized 2D materials will be developed to produce arrays of miniaturized sensors for applications in the field of volatolomics, i.e. the profiling of VOCs emitted by living organisms. This is taking an increased importance in various scientific areas of study such as medicine, food, and environmental science. For more information, click here.

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

3. Coherent control of electronic dynamics in layered quantum materials

The aim of this project is to investigate the main channels driving electronic decoherence in layered quantum materials embedded in properly designed cavities and develop strategies and excitation protocols to preserve coherence and exploit coherent dynamics to enhance the physical properties of the material. For more information, click here.

Faculty: Prof. Claudio Giannetti (UCSC), Prof. J-P. Locquet (KU)

4. Supersonic cluster beam synthesis of innovative transition metal oxide photoelectrodes for hydrogen production

The project seeks to create a new class of nanostructured photoelectrodes (PE) for electrochemistry from nanogranular morphology ternary metal oxides. These materials will then be tested for morphological, optical, and stoichiometric property correlation with PE thickness and annealing temperature. Charge transport will also be correlated with morphology, optical response, and stoichiomentery. Finally, the project will study the role of small polarons and surface recombination in nanogranular morphology ternary metal oxides at scales below 50 nm. For more information, click here.

Faculty: Prof. Luca Gavioli (UCSC), Prof. Prashant Kamat (UND), Prof. Gian Andrea Rizzi (UPD)

5. Study of a real time inspection system based on infrared and THz to be coupled to a multi-energy X-ray inspection system for applications in the food and automotive sectors

Faculty: Prof. Claudio Giannetti (UCSC)

6. Biomarker sensing for precision medicine in digital healthcare

Faculty: Prof. Luigi Sangaletti (UCSC)

7. Biomolecule mapping and identification via optical microscopy techniques (BioMAP)

Faculty: Prof. Gabriele Ferrini (UCSC)


The following list shows past projects:

1. Ultrafast Dynamics

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

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

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

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

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)

6. 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

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) 

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

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

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)

8. Controlling multi-band materials via orbital manipulation

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

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)

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

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

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. 

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

10. 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

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.

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

11. Tailoring Conductive Paths in Novel Plasmonic/Electronic Devices

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

The frontier of electronics is the construction of neuromorphic circuits, i.e. a neural hardware mimicking the procedure used by human brains to process data. The main features of neuromorphic hardware should be: parallel multichannel operations, signal processing via comparison of input data with a specific activation functions and memorization of information until an erasing signal is applied. Substitution Traditional electronics to provide a faster data transfer and processing has been sometime provided by photonics. However, hybrid technologies, as for example plasmonic circuits, might represent a crossover point exploiting the advantages that each solution offers. In this context, the switching can be obtained by varying the absorption and scattering loss of a plasmonic mode within a specific insulator layer. Hence the material composing the layer play a fundamental role in determining the behavior of the optoelectronic device, in particular by controlling the conductivity and the switching performances. The present PhD program will investigate plasmonic devices (based on the propagation of Surface Plasmon Polariton quasiparticles) that might be applied as neuromorphic circuits. More specifically, the program will investigate novel materials and geometries to realize plasmonic memristors (re-writable memories based on resistive properties). The novel plasmonic memristors will be the basic elements to realize hybrid optic and electronic neuromorphic circuits.

Faculty: Prof. Luca Gavioli (UCSC), Prof. Eugenio Fazio (ULS), Prof. Christopher Hinkle (ND)

12. 2D Transition Metal Dichalcogenides: CVD Synthesis and Electrical and Optical Characterization

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

2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) hold great potential for application in different fields, in particular in nanoelectronics and photonics. In nanoelectronics, large energy dissipation due to heating in chips is unsustainable in terms of both costs and performance drop and 2D TMDs hold great potential to alleviate these problems. In photonics, the integration of 2D TMDs is predicted to enhance the energy harvesting. Towards such applications, it is crucial to develop a controlled, engineered, synthesis at large scale of such materials with high uniformity and to investigate their electronic/optical/thermal dynamics. Among the TMDs, MoS2 and MoTe2 are the most attractive materials to be investigated.

Faculty: Prof. Gabriele Ferrini (UCSC), Dr. Alessio Lamperti (IMM), Prof. Valeri Afanasiev (KU), Prof. Christ Glorieux (KU)

13. Coherent Control of Quantum Materials

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

Controlling electronic quantum coherence in solids at ambient conditions is a long sought-after target in condensed matter physics. Quantum pathways could be exploited to coherently convert photons into charge excitations, to manipulate electronic phase transitions for quantum and neuromorphic computing, to control and store quantum information. Unfortunately, the quantum-coherent nature of electronic excitations in materials is usually lost on extremely fast timescales (few femtoseconds), as a consequence of the interactions with the incoherent fluctuations of the environment. The ultimate goal of this project is to investigate strategies to achieve the coherent optical control of the macroscopic properties of technologically relevant quantum materials. There are two open positions for this project, with one being primarily experimental and one being primarily theoretical.

Faculty: Prof. Claudio Giannetti (UCSC), Prof. Fausto Borgonovi (UCSC), Prof. Jean Pierre Locquet (KU), and Prof. Wojciech De Roeck (KU)

14. Achieving Quantum Coherence in Organic Solar Cells

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

Recently, coherent two-dimensional (2D) optical spectroscopy has been proposed for the measuring of the coherent and dephasing times. However, the interpretation of the spectra typically relies on theoretical modeling that can be highly nontrivial for complex systems. One more versatile solution is offered by interferometric time-resolved multi-photon photoelectron spectroscopy (inter-tr-mPPE). The technique exploits two phase-locked, delayed laser pulses generated in a Mach Zehnder interferometer to record one photoemission spectrum per time delay between two phase-coherent pulses. The aim of the present project is the realization of an inter-tr-2PPE setup to directly address coherences of an optical excitation and its dephasing in the time and energy domain.

Faculty: Prof. Stefania Pagliara (UCSC) and Prof. Jin Won Seo (KU)