Doctor of Education in
PhD Course in Structural Biology
University of Florence
Earliest start date
The International Doctorate in Structural Biology is an international doctorate in collaboration with the Universities of Frankfurt and Utrecht. It was established with an agreement signed by the three Rectors in 2001. On the basis of this agreement, the PhD title that students obtain at the end of the program is considered equivalent to that obtained at the Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research and to the PhD in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Frankfurt.
The doctorate course aims at the formation of PhDs who are at the forefront of knowledge and education in the field of modern investigation methodologies in structural biology, biotechnology, and systems biology. It provides a wealth of knowledge to the training of experts in the field of structural chemistry applied to biological macromolecules in solution, in fibrils, in membranes or in cells, and in the field of molecular biology for the expression of isotopically enriched recombinant proteins.
The Magnetic Resonance Center (CERM) of the University of Florence is a Research Infrastructure supported by the European Commission for providing transnational access to biological NMR. CERM is one of the first laboratories in the world for quality of equipment, production and scientific credibility in the field of structural biology and NMR. The infrastructure is uniquely equipped with a large number of NMR spectrometers ranging from 1200 MHz down to 0.01 MHz, through 950, 900, 850 WB, 800, 700, 600, 500 and 400 MHz spectrometers. Many of these instruments are equipped with a cryoprobe. It has a specialized tradition in the investigation of metalloproteins, particularly paramagnetic metalloproteins. CERM is a core member of INSTRUCT, the European infrastructure for integrated structural biology, which includes centers for cutting-edge technology, scientific expertise, and training.
Scholarships and Funding
The Academic Board of each course, on the basis of the list of enrolled students, provides for the allocation of scholarships. The annual amount of the scholarship is € 16.243,00, with disbursement in deferred monthly instalments (payment is made on the last non-business day of the month).
The amount of the scholarship is increased by 50% for any authorized periods of stay abroad for research activities related to the thesis project, up to a maximum of 18 months.
To this amount must be added, for the first, second and third year of the course, the budget for research activities in Italy and abroad equal to 10% of the amount of the scholarship, for a minimum amount of € 4.872,90.
Scholarship holders are required to register with INPS (National Institute of Social Security).
PhD students admitted by the Academic Board to the following year of the course will receive instructions on how to enrol by email from the PhD Office.
Students are trained at the interface between biology and inorganic chemistry through biocomputing and spectroscopy. The long-term educational aim is to create scientists capable of framing specific problems in a general context, to consider multi-disciplinarity as a primary need, and to consider trans-national collaboration as a requirement to develop a coherent generation of European scientists.
The subjects at the basis of the course are:
- Nuclear magnetic resonance (in solution and in the solid state) and X-ray crystallography for structural studies, function and dynamics of biological macromolecules, protein-protein interactions;
- Molecular biology and cellular biology techniques for preparation and manipulation of proteins, DNA, and bacterial consortia;
- development of new drugs through drug design techniques;
- Bioinformatics as a basic strategy for the study of kinetic and thermodynamic phenomena and protein dynamics, for learning and developing methods for the use of genomic databases in order to identify molecular targets for developing new drugs;
The doctoral program relies on the collaboration of research groups from the Universities of Utrecht, Frankfurt, Lyon, and Oxford, among the most important in the world in the area of structural biology.
The goal of the course is to provide a high-quality and multi-disciplinary research training in the field of Structural Biology. To achieve this, the course includes a very broad integrated programme that encompasses expertise in chemistry, biology, biophysics, medicine and informatics, able to address the actual challenges in the field ranging from fundamental issues to applications. A new generation of doctorate students will be educated to consider multidisciplinary research, transnational cooperation, and integration of different techniques as primary needs for the development of excellent research.
Structural Biology is key to innovation in biotechnology, food technology, and biomedical applications. It plays a major role in understanding the mode of action of therapeutics and facilitates the design of innovative drugs and biologics acting on specific molecular targets. Starting with determining three-dimensional structures of macromolecules, structural biology has evolved to the study of macromolecule dynamics and macromolecular mechanisms, and putting them in cellular contexts. It provides an atomic-level visualization of biomolecules and of their mode of function. Pharmaceutical companies have structural biology departments involved in various stages of drug discovery pipelines. Actually, areas like informed drugs and novel vaccines often crucially depend on structural data.
Larger and larger molecular systems and ever more complex biological phenomena are expected to be unveiled in the future through integrative structural biology approaches that combine complementary experimental and computational tools.
The candidates will be trained in order to
- acquire a solid common scientific background in the Structural Biology area,
- receive an advanced and focused infrastructure-based training-though-research in their research methodology
- Participate and promote their research in international conferences
- communicate the results of their work in international publications
- broaden their horizons through a large variety of courses and seminars
- stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations
- stimulate mobility and transnational collaborations
- Acquire non-science training for enhanced career perspectives
- develop themselves into skilled, open-minded, independent young researchers.