PhD in Structural and Functional Genomics


Program Description

Our Mission

The Ph.D. Course in Structural and Functional Genomics main mission is the training of enthusiastic young scientists focusing their interests in a broad spectrum of biological research disciplines.

Projects within the Ph.D. Course Program span from genomics, transcriptomics and developmental genetics to structural biology, molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration and developmental neurobiology. Crossing over research such as system biology may have a prominent role within the Ph.D. Course Program. Students are continuously exposed to cutting-edge research through year around classes, seminars, and workshops. The average ratio between supervisor and students is about 1 to 5.

Main research lines are:

  • Functional Genomics of the Brain
  • Developmental Genomics
  • Systems Biology
  • Nanotechnology for Biological Sciences
  • Structural Biology of Prion Protein
  • Structural Biology of DNA Replication
  • Molecular Mechanisms of Neurodegeneration: Synthetic Prions
  • Molecular Physiology
  • Drug Discovery

The most recent placements after Ph.D. at SISSA:

  • Northwestern University (Chicago, USA),
  • UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco, USA),
  • VIB Center for the Biology of Disease (KU Leuven, Belgium),
  • Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Madrid, Spain),
  • National Institute of Chemistry (Ljubljana, Slovenia)


The admissions to the Philosophiae Doctor (Ph.D.) Course in Functional and Structural Genomics take place through a selection based on academic and scientific qualifications and a written and oral examination, according to the Statute of the School. Exceptionally qualified non EU-students can be admitted to the course only through evaluation of their academic and scientific qualifications.

For the admissions, candidates must hold an Italian Laurea (Laurea Specialistica, Laurea Magistralis or the old Laurea Quadriennale) in a scientific subject, or an equivalent University degree gained abroad (i.e. M.Sc.), which appropriateness is approved by the School Senate, after having received the approval from the Faculty Members Council of the Course (hereafter FMC, see General Rules governing the Ph.D. Course at SISSA). This degree must have been obtained before the Ph.D. courses official starting date.

The Admissions Committee (hereafter AD) for the entrance examination is composed of – in accordance with the Statute of the School – at least three members: two belonging to the FMC and one member from another institution (the external AD member), proposed by the FMC and nominated by the Council of the Neuroscience Area.

The entrance examination is aimed at verifying the candidate’s aptitude for scientific research and her/his level of knowledge of the basic molecular biology and neuroscience. For the evaluation, the AD disposes of 100 points, 10 of which are for the academic and scientific qualifications, 40 for the written examination and 50 for the oral examination. The following achievements are considered valid for evaluation:

  • Academic qualifications: i.e. final score from the Laurea Degrees, B.Sc., M.Sc., equivalent diplomas, and participation in post-degree courses, scholarships;
  • Scientific qualifications: i.e. publications, manuscripts and original scientific results.

The written examination consists of the elaboration of three topics of the Course chosen among a list proposed by the AD. Are admitted to the oral examination only candidates that have passed the written test with a score equal or higher than 28/40 points.

The examination may be lead either in Italian or in English.

The oral examination is a discussion on topics of the written test, of basic molecular biology and neuroscience, on the previous experience of the candidate in relation to her/his academic curriculum (including the thesis project), on the research work carried out so far, on the research interests of the candidate. Also, in this case, the exam may be carried out either in Italian or in English. If the candidate decides to carry out the exam in Italian, she/he will need to prove her/his knowledge of the English language by reading and translating a short scientific text.

The candidate passes the selection by reaching a score equal or higher than 70/100. At the end of the examinations, a list of the admitted candidates (starting from the highest score) is displayed by the AD. The Council of the Area examines the proceedings of the examination presented by the AD and decides the admissions to the Ph.D. courses.

Last updated Feb 2018

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About the School

All the scientific work carried out by SISSA researchers is published regularly in leading international journals with a high impact factor, and frequently in the most prestigious scientific journals ... Read More

All the scientific work carried out by SISSA researchers is published regularly in leading international journals with a high impact factor, and frequently in the most prestigious scientific journals such as Nature and Science. The School has also drawn up over 150 collaboration agreements with the world's leading schools and research institutes. Read less