• About SNS

    The Scuola Normale Superiore is a public institute for higher education that in its two centuries of life has earned itself a special place, both in Italy and abroad, a place characterised by merit, talent and scientific rigour.  Two types of course are available: the undergraduate course and the PhD course.The teaching activity is distributed among three academic structures: the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, placed in Pisa, and the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, located in Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. 

  • Admission

    The evaluation for entrance to the first year of the undergraduate course does not include the high school leaving certificate, and the bachelor's degree is not taken into consideration in the entrance examination for the fourth year course. For each PhD course, candidates’ level of competence, talent, motivations and aptitudes to scientific research will be assessed on the basis of their qualifications and research project and an interview.

  • Academics

    The Scuola Normale Superiore offers two types of course: the undergraduate course, leading to first and second level university degrees, and the PhD course, the international equivalent of the Italian Dottorato di ricerca.The teaching and research activity is distributed among three academic structures: the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, and the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences.The first two academic structures, housed at the Pisa site, organize courses for both the  undergraduate course and the PhD course. The Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, situated in Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, deals only with the PhD course.

  • Research

    A highly qualifying feature of the Normale way is the strong link between teaching and research that is a characteristic of both the undergraduate and the graduate programmes of the Scuola. The research structures of the two Faculties welcome students with a relevant study interest, enabling them to collaborate in a mature way with the activities of the researchers.

  • International

    The Scuola Normale is an institute of a decidedly international nature. Examinations for admission to the undergraduate degree course and for the PhD course are open to all citizens worldwide. A certain number of places on the PhD course are reserved for students from other countries. During the pre laurea and  post lauream teaching courses, study and research programmes are made available at overseas universities and research centres with which the Scuola forms an intense network of collaboration.  The doctorate course in particular is taught in a veritable graduate school in line with the highest international standards. 

Research activities

Nanoscience is fostering much exciting research activity with a number of very important applications in a broad range of sectors from optoelectronics and photonics to biomedicine.
The PhD program in Nanoscience is designed to train students to carry out experimental and theoretical research activity in some of the most exciting scientific directions with a marked multidisciplinary character in an international environment. Working language of the program is English.
Graduates in physics, biology, chemistry and other scientific fields, with a keen motivation towards research and innovation are strongly invited to apply to this program that, like all SNS PhDs, has no tuition fee and provides four-year fellowships together with research and travel funds to all selected students.
Research and training target two main areas:

  • Nanostructures and nanodevices. Experimental and theoretical research activity in selected scientific directions on the electronic and optical properties of nanostructures, and their application to (opto)electronics and photonics with a special attention to the THz regime. An emphasis is put on (i) one-dimensional systems (both semiconductor nanowires and edge states in quantum Hall systems); (ii) graphene and other two-dimensional materials, their synthesis and applications. Specific experimental and theoretical research lines in (ii) are carried out in collaboration with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT). An additional area of research is dedicated to coherent electron transport ‒ also in the case of hybrid superconductor-semiconductor nanostructures ‒ with special attention to its applications to quantum information.
  • Biophysics at the nanoscale with an emphasis on biomedical applications. We develop and apply (i) advanced high-resolution imaging methods, (ii) novel high-efficiency probes and labeling techniques based on nanoparticles, organic chromophores or fluorescent proteins. Laboratory work is completed by molecular modeling and the methodologies developed are applied also in the context of Lab-on-a-chip diagnostics, particularly with architectures based on SAW-actuated microfluidics. Research directions include drug delivery with a special attention on endocytosis and escape processes, peptidic vectors, peptidic sequences or aptamers for cellular and subcellular targeting. Specific projects on the design and crystallography of nanobiostructures and their application to drug delivery are available in collaboration with IIT.

Most students will carry out their research activity within the National Enterprise for nanoScience and nanoTechnology (NEST) and will benefit from the presence not only of Scuola Normale Superiore research and teaching staff, but also from that of scientists and facilities of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Center for Nanotechnology Innovation) and of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Istituto Nanoscienze) that are located within NEST. The laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for nanostructure and nanodevice production and characterization, and for nanobiophysics research (see www.laboratorionest.it/facilities). Close collaborations exist also with neuroscience and computational chemistry groups at the Scuola Normale Superiore. The Fondazione Gabriele Monasterio will provide expertise and equipment of medical and clinical relevance.
The Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia participates to the program also with its central seat in Genova and will offer additional research opportunities to the PhD students. The fellowships offered in collaboration with IIT Genova, where most of the research activity will be carried out are:
2 positions in: Non collinear magnetism and multiferroic materials
1 position in: Advanced microscopy for biophysics
The Fondazione Pisana per la Scienza will participate to the program and offer one fellowship in collaboration with its research centre in Pisa where most of the research activity will be carried out. The fellowship targets the development and application of nanotechnologies in biology models of human cancer.

Teaching activities

Teaching is divided into lecture and seminar courses (all held in English). Graduate students in Nanosciences will annually agree with the PhD Coordinator a study plan to be presented to the Faculty Board. Such document will specify the planned research and education activities for the relevant academic year. The courses will be chosen to enlarge the student background and deepen specific aspects related to the PhD Thesis project. PhD students are expected to take at least three courses and to pass the corresponding exams. Students may be asked to follow some course from the Undergraduate program, to fill some gaps in their preparation and these may or may not be in addition to the above three compulsory courses, on a case by case basis. At the end of the first year students are expected, in close consultation with the Coordinator and with approval from the Faculty Board, to choose the Thesis supervisor and project. At the end of the second and third years, PhD students should present a written report concerning the research done and the results achieved so far, together with any publications produced. The report will be discussed in an oral presentation in front of a panel of experts appointed by the Faculty Board. Upon successful performance, the student will be admitted to the subsequent year.
According to research needs, students are encouraged to spend periods of study and research at Italian and foreign institutions. All 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students, at the end of each year, will take part in a “PhD day” workshop, in which they will discuss the progresses in their work, in front of their peers and faculty.