PhD Course


Thematic area Hard Sciences
Duration 3 years
Language English
PhD Programme Coordinator Giovanni Carraro

The mission of the PhD in Astronomy is the training of research personnel for Universities, for research institutions, for ground or space research organizations, and for industries.

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The PhD course in Astronomy has been active since Cycle 1. The University of Padua is the only national academic institution capable of autonomously offering all three levels of university education in Astronomy (Bachelor's, Master's and PhD), continuing a centuries-old tradition.

The educational offer of the course can count on the contribution of the professors of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and of the researchers of the adjacent Astronomical Observatory of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) who contribute both with specific courses provided to doctoral students and as supervisors. The contribution of about 70 researchers with indefinite positions and about 40 research fellows makes it possible to cover most of the modern sectors of astrophysical research, including the technological development of instrumentation for observations.

The PhD course in Astronomy aims to develop:

  1. skills to carry out research activities of excellence in planetary, stellar, galactic, extragalactic astronomy and astrophysics, cosmology, astro-particles and gravitational waves.
  2. technological skills for the design and development of astronomical instrumentation for observations from the ground and from space and which can then allow entry into industries of optics, opto-mechanics, electronics, information technology and in industries that deal with the development and construction of astronomical instrumentation;
  3. skills for carrying out didactic activities at university level for teaching astronomical and astrophysics subjects.

The main purpose of the Doctoral Program in Astronomy is the training of highly qualified research personnel to be included in Universities (Italian or foreign), in national (INAF, Astronomical Observatories, CNR, etc.) and international research institutions, as well as in the various agencies national (ASI) and international (ESA, ESO, etc.) responsible for the development of astronomical research from the ground or from space or in private industries involved in the development of astronomical instrumentation and software. The synergy with INAF which has as its task the promotion and financing of the development of both national astronomical observatories and in the context of international collaborations for observations both from the ground and from space, makes the collaboration with industry even more relevant and current . Some PhDs in Astronomy have opened independent industrial activities (both in Veneto and in other regions), exploiting the opto-mechanical, electronic and IT skills acquired in the PhD course in Astronomy.

The training includes courses specifically organized for the PhD. In particular, each doctoral student, within the three years must have followed:

  1. At least four specialized courses (16 hours, 2 credits, with final profit test) to be chosen among the 8-10 offered each year;
  2. At least 3 monographic courses of 10 hours, chosen from the 8-10 offered each year, typically held by external visiting professors, including foreign ones (courses offered by foreigners are typically made compulsory by the coordinator);
  3. Two international doctoral schools dealing with astrophysics-type topics, with a minimum duration of one week each. Participation in these schools is partially covered by the operating funds of the doctorate.

The school also offers a specific course in scientific project management. Starting from the first year, PhD students contribute, also as main proponents, to the preparation of requests for observing time to the major national and international telescopes (both ground-based and from space) and/or to the request for computing resources. PhD students are encouraged to follow specific courses for requests for funding for European projects. They participate in the formulation of funding applications for their research groups. PhD students are required to attend the Journal Club on a weekly basis (from October to June), where each individual PhD student presents (in English, on average at least twice a year) to colleagues and professors an article recently published in refereed journals on astrophysical research topics. Every year, all PhD students have to hold a public seminar (in English) to present their research results. PhD students are encouraged to participate in international meetings and present the results of their research. PhD students are encouraged to write scientific articles in international refereed journals for the presentation of their results. All training and research activities of the PhD program in Astronomy are carried out in English. Detailed and updated information on the Doctoral Program in Astronomy (including the training program, the list of courses offered and thesis offers) can be found both in Italian and in English at the web address /teaching/PhD-courses/PhD-course-in-astronomy/.

Thanks also to the contribution of the research staff of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Padua, PhD students enrolled in the PhD course in Astronomy can take advantage of a wide range of research topics for their training and for the preparation of their thesis ( see also a list of possible theses proposed) which covers almost completely the great variety of current astronomical and astrophysics research.

The main lines of research currently pursued within the training plan (both as thesis offer and specific courses for the doctorate) of the PhD course in Astronomy are:

1. Solar System: observations (from Earth and from space) and direct exploration (with probes) of the Solar System: planets, asteroids, comets, with participation in the main space projects of the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency: BepiColombo, Exomars, JUICE, DART(NASA), MRO (NASA), PROSPECT (ESA RUSSIA)
2. Extrasolar planets: search and characterization (both with instruments on the ground and from space) of exoplanets: search for new exoplanets and planetary systems, characterization (mass, radius, density, orbital parameters), study of their atmospheres, astrobiology. Direct participation in the design, construction and scientific use of the CHEOPS (ESA), PLATO (ESA) and ARIEL (ESA) space projects and in the HARPS-N@TNG (INAF), SPHERE@VLT (ESO), SHARK@LBT (INAF) and HIRES@ELT (ESO).
3. Stars: models of stellar structure and evolution, observations (photometric, spectroscopic and astrometric) of stellar populations in star clusters, in the disk and in the bulge of the Galaxy and in nearby galaxies, novae, supernovae. Participation for the exploitation of scientific data from the Gaia satellite (ESA).
4. Compact objects: theory and observations, formation of compact objects, also in binaries. Formation of massive black holes.
5. Milky Way: structure, kinematics, metal content, star formation regions, bulge properties, Galactic disk and halo.
6. Magellanic Clouds: photometric, spectroscopic and astrometric study of their stellar population and stellar population in their clusters
7. Galaxies: structure, kinematics, stellar populations, dynamics
8. Active galaxies: active galactic nuclei, quasars, blazars.
9. Galaxy clusters: structure, formation, evolution, halos.
10. Cosmology: low and high red-shift observational cosmology, cosmic microwave background, re-onization, formation of cosmic structures, dark matter, dark energy, theoretical cosmology. Participation for the exploitation of scientific data from the EUCLID satellite (ESA).
11. High energy astrophysics.
12. Astro-particles. Direct participation for the construction and exploitation of scientific data of the CTA project (international).
13. Gravitational waves: formation of gravitational waves, dynamics of the collision of massive black holes and consequent emission of gravitational waves.
14. Fundamental physics from the study of cosmic rays.
15. Technology: design, development and construction of astronomical instrumentation for ground-based telescopes e in the space.
16. History of Physics and Astronomy.
17. Outreach (Astronomy).