ERC Starting Grants

ERC Starting Grants are designed to support talented young researchers to become independent research leaders and to launch their successful career in Europe.

  Zuleika Murat - SenSArt: The Sensuous Appeal of the Holy. Sensory Agency of Sacred Art and Somatised Spiritual Experiences in Medieval Europe (12th-15th century)


Zuleika Murat is Associate Professor of History of Medieval Art at the Department of Cultural Heritage (dBC). She completed her MA in History of Art (2007) and her PhD in Study, Conservation and Enhancement of the Cultural Heritage (2013). She has been Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Warwick (2013-2014) and at the University of Padua (2016-2018), where she has also led as Principal Investigator a STARS two-year multidisciplinary project (2018-2020). Her main research interests concern the visual, material and devotional culture of Medieval Europe.

In 2020 Zuleika obtained an ERC Starting Grant for her project SenSArt (2021-2026), which is aimed at examining quantitatively and qualitatively the perceptual schemes that orientated the reception of sacred art in medieval Europe. By challenging the current visiocentric paradigm and assimilating anthropological and sociological notions on the cultural values of sensation, SenSArt will establish sacred art as a primary actor capable of exerting (through sensorial stimulation or deprivation) a social agency on its audience. By comparing different social groups on a local, regional and supranational scale in 12th-15th century Europe, the researchers involved in the project will be able to map the diverse patterns of experience lived by individuals and groups on a European scale.


  Giulia Pasqual - SYNVIVO: Revealing dendritic cell-CD4+ T cell communication by using synthetic biology in vivo (2020- 2025)


Giulia Pasqual is Associate Professor of Immunology at the Department of Surgery, Oncology and Gastroenterology. She completed her Master degree in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Padova in 2007 and obtained a PhD in Life Sciences from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland in 2011. From 2012 to 2018 Dr. Pasqual was a postdoctoral fellow first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later at the Rockefeller University, USA. During this period, she was awarded several international research fellowships, including the Swiss National Science Foundation Mobility Fellowship, the Cancer Research Institute Irvington Postdoctoral Fellowship and the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Fellowship. Her scientific achievements have been recognized by the Career Development Award from the Rockefeller University (2017) and by the Regeneron Prize for Creative Innovation (finalist, 2018). In 2019 she established her independent research laboratory at the University of Padova thanks to the Young Investigator Program “Rita Levi Montalcini” granted by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research. Her research activity is focused on the immune system, with particular interest on how communication between different cell types orchestrates the immune response. In 2019 she was also awarded an ERC Starting Grant for the project SYNVIVO (2020-2025) to develop innovative technologies to track interactions between antigen-presenting cells and T cells, with the ultimate goal of revealing the molecular pathways governing the T cell response in vivo.

  Manuele Faccenda - NEWTON: NEw Windown inTO Earth's iNterior (2018- 2023)


Manuele Faccenda is Associate Professor of Geophysics at Dipartimento di Geoscienze. He obtained his M.Sc. in Geology at Università di Perugia in 2005, and successively obtained his PhD in Geophysics at Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zürich, Switzerland, in 2010. He was postodoctoral fellow at School of Geosciences, Monash University, 2010-2012, after which he moved to Università di Padova. His research activity focuses on the numerical modelling of Earth’s interior processes, aiming at understanding the deep dynamics and structure of our planet. He is author and co-author of 25 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including 2 review articles, more than 50 conference abstracts and more than 20 invited oral presentations in conferences and departmental seminars. He was recipient of several awards, including the Flinn-Hart Award (2013) and the Arne Richter Award (2015). In 2017, his research project NEWTON (NEw Window inTO Earth’s iNterior) was awarded with an ERC-Starting Grant to develop a new methodology that combines state-of-the-art geodynamic modelling and seismological methods. As a major outcome it is expected to provide a new, geodynamically and seismologically constrained perspective of the current deep structure and tectono-magmatic evolution of different tectonic settings.

  Alessandro Metlica - RISK: Republics on the Stage of Kings. Representing Republican State Power in the Europe of Absolute Monarchies (late 16th - early 18th century) (2018- 2023)


Alessandro Metlica (1985) is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the Department of Linguistic and Literary Studies (DISLL). He completed his Master degree in Modern Literature and Philology (2009) and his PhD in Italian Literature (2013) at the University of Padova, and his diploma in Humanities (2010) at the Scuola Galileiana of Higher Education. He has been Marie Curie CO-FUND Fellow (2013-2015) and FNRS chargé de recherche (2015-2018) at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He also received a Senior postdoctoral fellowship from the University of Padova (2016-2018). His research is focused on the representation of power in early modern Europe, both as regards subversion (libertinism, free thinking) and containment (eulogy, praise literature, propaganda). In 2017, he obtained an ERC Starting grant for the project RISK (2018-2023) to provide a comprehensive overview of the Republican displays of state power in the Europe of absolute monarchies (late 16th- early 18th century). By taking into account a multidisciplinary corpus of sources, including both texts and images (praising poems, civic orations, paintings and engravings, as well as the written accounts of public festivities and civic rituals), RISK aims to comprehend how and to what extent the absolutist framework influences the representation of ideals such as freedom, equality, and the common good.


  Elisa Cimetta - MICRONEX: Microbioreactor platforms as in vivo-like systems to probe the role of Neuroblastoma-derived Exosomes in cancer dissemination (2017-2022)


Elisa Cimetta is Associate Professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering. She graduated in Chemical Engineering and obtained her PhD in Industrial Engineering at the University of Padua. Between 2010 and 2013 she was an Associate Research Scientist at the Biomedical Engineering Department at Columbia University, New York, USA, and was awarded a prestigious fellowships by the New York Stem Cell Foundation. In 2011, she also completed the Postbaccalaureate Business Program at Columbia University. She is a co-founder of EpiBone, a Columbia University spinoff that aims at generating custom-shaped bone and osteochondral tissues. Her main research interests are focused on the application of engineering principles to biological studies. In particular, her laboratory specializes in the design and development of advanced microscale technologies and microbioreactor platforms (μBR) for the in vitro culture of cells. The ultimate goal of the research is the optimization of biological models and cell cultures for their application in clinical settings. In 2017 she was awarded an ERC Starting Grant for the project MICRONEX (2017-2022), which aims at understanding the role of exosomes-mediated dissemination in Neuroblastoma through the design and use of μBRs. In 2017 she also joined the Fondazione Istituto di Ricerca Pediatrica (IRP) in Padova, an opportunity that enabled to greatly strengthen the biological aspects and significance of her laboratory’s research.

  Antonino Milone - GALFOR: The formation of the Galaxy: constraints from globular clusters (2017- 2022)


Antonino Milone is associate professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He completed his Master degree (2005) and PhD (2009) in Astronomy at the University of Padova. He was then postdoctoral fellow at the ‘istituto de astrofisica de Canarias’ (2010-2012) and at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Australian National University (2013-2017). His research activity is mostly focused on photometry, astrometry, and spectroscopy of stellar populations in star clusters and on their role in the assembly of the host galaxy. Antonino is either leading author or coauthor of 128 papers on peer-reviewed journals, including 26 first-author papers. According to NASA ADS, on October 24th 2018, the number of citations of these papers is ~7300 and the number of citations of his first-author papers alone is ~1900.  His h-factor is 48. Antonino was awarded of a Juan de La Cierva grant from the Spanish ‘Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovacion, y Universidades’ (2010), of a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council (2013) and of a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (2017) to trace the series of events that led from massive clouds in the early Universe to the GCs we see today, with their multiple populations.  In 2017 he was awarded of the prize ‘Feltrinelli giovani per l’astronomia’ from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.

  Graziano Martello - MetEpiStem: Dissecting the crosstalk between metabolism and transcriptional regulation in pluripotent stem cells (2017- 2022)


Graziano Martello is Associate Professor of Histology at the Department of Molecular Medicine. He completed his Master degree in Medical Biotechnologies (2005) and his PhD in Developmental Biology (2009) at the University of Padua. From 2010 and 2014 he worked as a Human Frontier Science Program Postdoctoral fellow at the WT-MRC Stem Cell Institute of Cambridge University (UK), studying Embryonic Stem cells. In 2015 he returned to Italy and set up his independent research laboratory thanks to a Career Development Award of The Giovanni Armenise-Harvard foundation and a DTI Career Development Award from Italian Telethon Foundation. His research focuses on the biology of Pluripotent Stem cells, such as induced Pluripotent Stem cells and Embryonic Stem cells, on how signalling pathways and metabolism control their differentiation and expansion. He has been awarded several Italian prizes and in 2016 an ERC Starting Grant.  

Web site:


  Matteo Millan – PREWArAs: The Dark Side of the Belle Époque. Political violence and Armed Associations in Europe before the First World War (2016-2021)


Matteo Millan is Associate Professor of Contemporary History at the Department of Historical and Geographic Sciences and the Ancient World. He completed his Master degree in Modern and Contemporary History (2007) and his PhD in History (2011) at the University of Padova. He conducted research on nationalist-populist armed movements in pre-WWI Europe as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Padova (2013-2014) and as Gerda Henkel Foundation M4Human Programme (COFUND MarieCurie Action) fellow at the University of Oxford (2013-2015). He also received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Irish Research Council and worked for nine months at the Centre for War Studies of the University College Dublin (2015-2016). His research interests focus on political violence in Europe and Italy in the first half of 20th century, and in particular the intelligence network of the Italian Resistance and the fascist squadrismo. In 2015, he obtained an ERC Starting grant for the project PREWArAs (2016-2021) to carry out a broad comparative research project on the role of various form of political violence and armed associations in various European countries in the twenty-five years leading up to the outbreak of World War I.

Video interview
Project website

  Gabriella Pinzari – StableChaoticPlanetM: Stable and Chaotic Motions in the Planetary Problem (2016-2021)


Gabriella Pinzari is Associate Professor of Mathematical Physics at the Department of Mathematics. She completed her master degrees in Physics (1990) and in Mathematics (1996) at the University of Roma “La Sapienza” and her PhD in 2009 at the Roma Tre University. She was then postdoctoral fellow at the University of Napoli Federico II (2009-2011) and at the Roma Tre University (2011-2013). From 2013, she became Assistant Professor at the University of Napoli Federico II and from 2017 Associate Professor at the University of Padova. Her research fields include planetary n-body problem, perturbative theories and techniques in celestial mechanics, and Hamiltonian systems. She collaborated in many national and international projects, including two ERC grants (HAMILTONIANPDES and hamPDEs) on Hamiltonian PDEs. In 2014 she was an invited speaker at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul, for the results she found in her PhD dissertation, where she obtained, for the first time, a constructive proof of a famous statement by V.I.Arnold, going back to the 60s, on the stability of planetary systems. Those are systems of particles (one of which much larger than the others) interacting via gravity only and actually modeling our Solar System. Her contribution consisted in the production of a system of canonical coordinates which allowed her to overcome without artificialities the deep degeneracies of the problem. Such coordinates were based on a technical issue acknowledged to A. Deprit, that, even though existing since the 80s, had never been considered since then, and that she had rediscovered independently during her PhD. In 2015 she won an ERC Starting grant for her project (2016-2021) on the planetary problem. 

  Fabrizio Nestola – INIDMEDEA: Inclusions in diamonds: messengers from the deep Earth (2013-2018)


Fabrizio Nestola is Full Professor of Mineralogy at the Department of Geosciences. He completed his Master degree in Geological Sciences at the University of Torino (1999) and his PhD in Mineralogy (2003) at the University of Modena. He then was Alexander von Humboldt research fellow at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany (2004) and postdoctoral researcher at Virginia Tech, USA (2005), and in 2006 obtained a permanent position at the University of Padova. His research interests focus on diamond and its mineral inclusions, and specifically on compressibility, thermal expansion, physical properties of minerals and crystalline compounds, and on crystal structure evolution under non-ambient conditions. In 2012, he obtained an ERC Starting grant for the project INDIMEDEA (2013-2018), which aims to determine the depths and growth mechanisms of diamond formation by characterising the mineral inclusions in diamonds. He published 196 papers in peer-reviewed journals (ISI Web of Science: total citations 1707, h-index 22) and he has also been awarded a prize for best PhD thesis by the Italian Society of Mineralogy and Petrology (2003), the Medal for excellence in research by the European Mineralogical Union (2010) and the Mario Nardelli Prize by the Italian Association of Crystallography (2011).

Eu web site

  Antonino Vallesi – LEX-MEA: Life EXperience Modulations of Executive function Asymmetries (2013-2018)


Antonino Vallesi is an Associate Professor of Psychobiology and Physiological Psychology at the Department of Neuroscience. He completed his Master degree in Psychology (2003, cum laude) at the University of Padova and his PhD in Neurosciences (2007, cum Laude) at SISSA in Trieste. He worked as postdoctoral fellow at Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest in Toronto (2007-2009) and then as researcher at SISSA in Trieste (2009-2012), and finally obtained a permanent position at the University of Padova. His main scientific interests are executive functions, cognitive aging, hemispheric asymmetries, frontal lobes, spatial and temporal attention. For his research activity he received both national and European funding, including the ERC Starting grant for the project LEX-MEA 313692 (2013-2018) which aims to unveil which neural and experiential factors shape two high-level functions (the ability to form new rules and the capacity of monitoring) across the life-span, with a focus on hemispheric asymmetries. He also won the Bertelson Award by European Society for Cognitive Psychology and the TOYP Award by Junior Chamber International.

Eu web site
Lab website

  Elisabetta Collini – QUENTRHEL: Quantum-coherent drive of energy transfer along helical structures by polarized light (2012-2017)


Elisabetta Collini is Associate Professor of Physical Chemistry at the Department of Chemical Sciences. She obtained her BSc (2003) and PhD (2007) degrees in Chemistry at the University of Padova. She was then postdoctoral fellow at the University of Padova from 2007 to 2012 and at the Institute for Optical Sciences and Centre for Quantum Information and Quantum Control of the University of Toronto (2008-2009). Her main research interests are focused on the study and characterization of nonlinear properties and excited state dynamics of multichromophoric systems with particular attention to energy transfer processes. In 2011 she was awarded an ERC Starting grant for the project QUENTRHEL (2012-2017), which is aimed to the development of new spectroscopic tools able to unveil the presence and the nature of vibrational modes acting during the energy migration and possibly driving coherent mechanisms of energy transfer in artificial helical systems. She was also involved as Local Coordinator in two collaborative projects (MULTI and PAPETS) funded by EU, devoted to the characterization of quantum effects in molecular logic and biological processes. Her research activity, proved by several papers published in high impact journals, was recently awarded several national and international awards (G. Borgia prize in Chemistry by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei; "Donne Talento ed Innovazione" prize by the M. Bellisario Foundation; P. Levi prize in Chemistry by the Italian Chemistry Society; European Young Chemist Award 2012 (gold medal) by EuChem, M.B. Ceolin prize by the University of Padova).

Eu web site

  Tomas Morosinotto - BioLEAP: Biotechnological optimization of light use efficiency in algae photobioreactors (2012-2017)


Tomas Morosinotto is Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the Department of Biology. He completed his Master degree in Biotechnology (2001) at the University of Verona and his PhD in Environmental Biotechnology (2005) between University of Verona and the Université de la Méditerranée in Marseille. From 2005 to 2006 he worked in France, first as postdoctoral fellow at CEA Cadarache, and then as CNRS researcher at the LGBP (Laboratoire de Biophysique et Génétique des Plantes) at the Science Faculty of Marseille. In 2007 he returned to Italy to pursue his research activity at the University of Padova. His research focuses on the study of photosynthesis in different organisms investigating how evolution shaped the regulation of this metabolic process going from algae, mosses and plants, and how these organisms could be exploited for production of biomolecules and biofuels. His research activity has been funded by several national entities (e.g., Italian Ministry of Education and Research, Veneto Region), foundations (e.g., Cariparo foundation), private investors and by an ERC Starting grant for the project BioLEAP (2012-2017) which aims to improve algae efficiency in converting light into biomass. In 2010, he was awarded the Vincenzo Caglioti prize by the Accademia dei Lincei and of the Robin Hill award by the International Society of Photosynthesis Research and, in 2014, of the Baccarani-Melandri award from the Italian Society of Plant Biology. He published over 80 peer reviewed papers in international journals.

Eu web site

  Fabrizio Mancin – MOSAIC: Patterning the surface of monolayer-protected nanoparticles to obtain intelligent nanodevices (2010-2015)


Fabrizio Mancin is Full Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Department of Chemical Sciences. He completed his Master degree (1995) and his PhD (2000) in Chemistry at the University of Padova; he was then postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto (2001-2002). He received a University of Padova Young Researchers Grant (2003), a University of Padova Research Grant (2004-2005), a research contract on the synthesis of nanoparticles for toxicity investigations from Veneto Nanotech (2008-2009). He also received an ERC Starting grant (MOSAIC: Patterning the surface of monolayer-protected nanoparticles to obtain intelligent nanodevices) in 2010 and an ERC Proof of Concept grant (INSIGHT: New chemical detection methods based on NMR and nanoparticles) in 2014. In 2014, he was awarded with the Research Prize for Molecular Interactions by the Italian Chemical Society (SCI). His research interest is focused on supramolecular and nanochemistry, with particular interest in the exploitation of self-organization as strategy to design and realize chemical systems capable to perform complex functions. These include catalysis of hydrolytic reactions (in particular artificial metallonucleases), fluorescence and NMR-based chemosensors, and biomedical applications. He is co-author of about 75 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals, 5 book chapters and two patent applications. His current h-index is 28.

Eu web site
Final report summary (Eu web site)

  Leonard Jan Prins – DYCOCA: DYNAMIC COVALENT CAPTURE: Dynamic Chemistry for Biomolecular Recognition and Catalysis (2009-2014)


Leonard Jan Prins is Full Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Department of Chemical Sciences. He completed his Master degree in Engineer and Chemical Technology (1997) and his PhD in Chemistry (2001) at the University of Tewnte, Enschede (NL). From October 2001 to September 2002 he was postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (USA), and from November 2002 to December 2003 at the University of Padova, where he obtained a permanent position in 2004. His research interests focus on the development of synthetic structures that have a size and complexity similar to that of proteins and exploit these structures for molecular recognition and catalysis. In 2009 he received an ERC Starting grant for his project DYCOCA that aimed to develop a new methodology for studying and utilizing the noncovalent recognition between two molecular entities. He also participated as PI in WG1 (Catalysts) of the COST Action CM0905 on organocatalysis (2009-2014) and in the Management Committee of the COST Action CM1304 on emergence and evolution of complex chemical systems, as PI in Marie Curie ITN network READ (2011-2015) on replication and adaptation in molecular networks. At present, he is coordinator of MSCA ITN network MULTI-APP (2015-2019) on innovative applications of multivalent molecular systems and supervisor of MSCA IF NANOCARB (2015-2017) on self-selection of a multivalent nanosystem for carbohydrate recognition. For his research activity, he was awarded several national and international awards, including the H.J.-Backer price (2001) by the Dutch Royal Chemical Society (KNCV) for the best PhD-thesis in organic chemistry, the European Young Chemist Award (2008) by the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMs), and the 'Ciamician' medal (2009) by the Organic Chemistry Division of the Italian Chemical Society (SCI).

Eu web site
Final report summary

  Giulio Di Toro – USEMS: Uncovering the Secrets of an Earthquake: Multidisciplinary Study of Physico-Chemical Processes During the Seismic Cycle (2008-2013)


Giulio Di Toro is Associate Professor of Structural Geology at the Department of Geosciences (in leave) and Associate Researcher at the National Institute of Geophysics e Volcanology (INGV, Rome), and Full Professor at the University of Manchester (UK). He completed his Master degree in Geology (1999) and his PhD in Earth Sciences (2003) at the University of Padova. He was then postdoctoral fellow at the University of Padova (2003-2005), visiting researcher at Kyoto University (in 2005 and in 2006), research consultant at INGV in Rome, associated researcher for the National Research Centre (CNR; 2006-2009), and obtained a permanent position at the University of Padua in 2006. Before studying geology, he played volleyball in professional teams and with Italian junior and senior national team (1987-1995). His research activity focuses on the study of earthquake mechanics and has been performed in continuous collaboration with colleagues and young students and researchers with different background (geologists, rock experimentalists, engineers, physicists and seismologists). His research activities were supported by several national grants (e.g., the Italian Ministry of Education and Research, INGV, and Cariparo Foundation), as well as European and international grants, including a National Science Foundation project (USA: 2006-2008) and especially by two ERC grants: one Starting grant for the project USEMS: Uncovering the Secrets of an Earthquake: Multidisciplinary Study of Physico-Chemical Processes During the Seismic Cycle (2008-2013) and one Consolidator grant for the project NOFEAR: New Outlook on seismic faults: From EARthquake nucleation to arrest (2014-2019). He published 84 papers in peer-reviewed journals (total citations 3473, h-index 32 according to Google Scholar) and he has been awarded several international prizes, including the Arne Richter Medal for Outstanding Young Scientists by the European Geosciences Union (2008), the Award for Tectonophysics Most Cited Article 2005 to 2010 by Elsevier (2010), and the International Award Prof. Luigi Tartufari for Geology by the Accademia dei Lincei (2010). He is member of the Academia Europeae (from 2013) and of the Accademia Galileiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti in Padova (from 2014) for scientific merits.

Eu web site

  Marco Zorzi – GENMOD: Generative Models of Human Cognition (2008-2013)


Marco Zorzi is Full Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Artificial Intelligence at the Department of General Psychology and Senior Research Associate at IRCCS San Camillo Neurorehabilitation Hospital (Venice Lido). He completed his Master degree in Psychology (1994) at the University of Padova, his European Diploma in Cognitive Science (2007) at SISSA (International School for Advanced Studies) in Trieste, and his PhD in Experimental Psychology (1999) at the University of Trieste. He was then postdoctoral fellow at University College of London (1994-1998), visiting scientist at Macquarie University in Sydney (1998), postdoctoral fellow at the University of Padova (1999-2000), and obtained a permanent position in 2000, first at the University S. Raffaele in Milan and then at the University of Padova. He leads an interdisciplinary research laboratory (Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Lab) at the frontier between cognitive science, computer science and neuroscience. His research is focused on the computational bases of human cognition, from development to skilled performance and breakdowns of processing following brain damage. This research has been funded by public and private bodies, both national (e.g., the Italian Ministry of Education and Research, Cariparo Foundation, Compagnia di San Paolo Foundation) and international (e.g., European Commission, McDonnell Foundation USA, Wellcome Trust, Royal Society of London). He also coordinates a University of Padova Strategic Grant ("The cognitive neuroscience of attention in perception and cognition"; 2014-2017). His project supported by an ERC Starting grant for frontier research (2008-2013) has exploited recent advances in machine learning (deep unsupervised learning and probabilistic generative models) to develop a new generation of neural network models of learning and cognition. This work has produced realistic, large-scale models that explain key empirical phenomena both at the behavioral and neural level.

Eu web site
Final Report Summary
Lab website

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