• Duration: 3 years
  • Admission: academic qualifications and interview
  • Coordinator: prof. Carlo Alberto Bignozzi
  • Head office: Università di Ferrara
  • Department: Scienze Chimiche e Farmaceutiche
  • Study abroad: not compulsory
  • Educational purpose: the PhD in Chemistry is a program for advanced academic education in the area of chemistry, pharmaceutical, food and cosmetic sciences, open to young graduates from Italy and abroad. Its primary mission is preparing highly qualified research doctors able to autonomously perform and to lead research projects. The PhD program aims at increasing both the theoretical and practical skills of its students. This goal will be achieved by offering to students highly-qualified courses in specific research subjects, on one hand, and by involving them in advanced research activities in fundamental and applied areas, on the other. PhD students will be thus actively involved in innovative and exciting programs and opportunities. The PhD course is held at the Department of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCFS) of The University of Ferrara refers to the largest facilities of the School of Pharmacy and Health Products and involves a large number of researchers bringing a broad range of different competences and know-how in the fields of Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies. Their long standing research and teaching experience offer to the students the possibility of growing in a stimulating and creative environment where doctoral students will develop personal skills they will need to further develop their career. The PhD in Chemistry relies upon a wide network of International relationships and contacts thus offering to students excellent opportunities of internationalization
  • Curriculum
    1) ChemistryThe research activities are subdivided in the following general lines:

a) Innovative Synthetic Strategies and Modern Separation Science for the Environment and Local Productions.

Research activities involve topics related to both the development of new synthetic methodologies and the study of molecular recognition processes for advanced applications in environmental, pharmaceutical and agri-food chemistry. Approaches are mainly experimental, but they require also the knowledge of modelling techniques for data mining, data handling and results interpretation. Faculty staff includes Organic Chemistry and Analytical Chemistry teachers from the Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Researchers involved in these topics actively work on collaborative projects, as demonstrated by numerous publications and patents.

More in detail, the two research fields are characterized by the following activities:

i) Organic Chemistry: development of new organic synthesis processes, with special attention to modern criteria of sustainable development (“Green Chemistry”); design and synthesis of new materials for heterogeneous catalytic processes; development of stereoselective organo- and biocatalyzed reactions for the formation of carbon-carbon bonds, with particular regard to those promoted by N-heterocyclic carbenes; study of biotechnological and chemical processes for the conversion of biomass-derived molecules to fine chemicals; development of continuous-flow processes; synthesis of biologically active compounds. These activities will be undertaken through advanced instrumentations typically used for the study of organic synthetic processes.

ii) Analytical Chemistry: investigation of chiral and molecular recognition mechanisms; study of mass transfer processes in porous media; characterization of micro- and nano-structured materials for environmental, food-chemistry  and bioanalytical applications; optimization of reactive and separative processes under linear and nonlinear conditions; environmental monitoring; study of molecular interactions in biological systems. These activities will be undertaken through advanced analytical instrumentations.

b) Electronic Structure and Reactivity of Materials and Molecular Systems: Theory and Applications.

The research activities are focused on the synthesis and exhaustive characterization of materials and molecular systems of keen relevance in modern chemistry. The main topics of this curriculum concern:

i) the study of ground  and excited electronic states of molecules and coordination compounds by using quantum-mechanics and experimental approaches, such as electrochemical,  spectroscopic and diffraction techniques. A proper understanding of the redox properties of the ground and excited states and their temporal evolution allows for the rational development of energy conversion schemes based on photoinduced electron transfer, and on their heterogenization in photoelectrochemical solar cells.

ii) the experimental investigation, supported by computation methodologies, allows for the design and synthesis of mesoporous semiconductors and innovative functional materials which find application in energy conversion and storage in disparate fields including: solar to electric energy conversion, batteries,  solar fuel generation  and photochemical routes to  chemical intermediates important in fine chemistry.

iii) crystal engineering is a discipline aimed at designing and synthesizing supramolecular solid-state structures with desired properties, based on the understanding and exploitation of intermolecular interactions. The systematic use of databases and in-house libraries listing chemical moieties possessing the ability of binding through non-bonding interactions in crystals allows the development of a variety of applications, ranging from the production of pharmaceutical co-crystals aimed at optimizing the physicochemical and bio-pharmacological properties of drugs, to the design of molecular materials with specific properties, e.g., magnetic, electric/ferroelectric, or possible applications as sensors or molecular switches.

iv) Thermodynamic, spectroscopic and kinetic characterization of solution systems modelling the interactions between metal ions and ligand molecules of biological and/or pharmacological interest, under a wide range of experimental conditions. These investigations will be supported by quanto-mechanics and molecular-dynamics calculations and implemented with crystal structures of the complex species formed in solution, obtained by diffractometry.

2) Pharmaceutical Sciences and Food Chemistry: This curriculum is characterized by an integrated approach aimed at solving problems related to the development of new molecules possessing pharmacological, nutraceutical or cosmetic activity. The goals of the curriculum in pharmaceutical sciences and food chemistry are the design, synthesis, isolation, characterization, formulation, delivery and quality control of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmeceuticals. Teaching staff includes researchers with interdisciplinary expertise and know how in the field of pharmaceutical sciences. Our aim is to train doctoral researchers to carry on autonomous investigations in the pharmaceutical field and to grow personal skills for careers in private companies as well as in public research institutions. Our program offers to students high-level education and the use of up-to-date methodologies and instrumentations for studying structure-activity relationships, new formulation technologies, drug delivery, analysis of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and cosmetics.

  • Educational plan: the PhD program spans over a period of three years. It is made of both didactic and research activities. Didactic activities include the attendance of classes and the participation to seminars and workshops. These activities will be held by members of the PhD Committee or by highly qualified external researchers and will focus on research subjects of common interest to all curricula. The didactic activity will be essentially concentrated on the first two years of the program. This will give to students the opportunity of being completely dedicated to their own researches during the third year. The research activity will start on the first year to culminate, as it was mentioned, at the end of the program. It will essentially consists of experimental work and/or computational activities to be developed in the laboratories of the single research groups afferent to the PhD school but with the possibility of using, if needed, also equipment and facilities available at the other Departments of the University of Ferrara. At the end of each year, the PhD student will present his/her annual research and didactic activities to the PhD Committee for periodic evaluation. At the end of the third year, the student will report about his/her entire doctoral activity by holding a seminar focused on the detailed description of achieved results, research products (including published papers, presentations at scientific conferences, etc.) and didactic activities. The PhD student will be then allowed to defend his/her PhD dissertation in front of a Jury composed by internationally recognized experts nominated by the PhD Committee. In more detail, during the first year, the mandatory didactic activity required to PhD students is essentially the attendance of a series of classes/seminars aimed at giving fundamental/applied information on how to operate sophisticated laboratory instrumentations. Meantime, the students will be taught on the use of software for bibliographic research, querying databases and/or specific computational activities. Starting on the second year, the research activity will become preponderant on the didactic one, as research is the core of the doctoral education. Essentially, doctoral fellows will be required to attend a reduced number of classes and seminars. During the second or the third year of their program, PhD students must spend a period of time not shorter than three months, working on a foreign Research Institution.
  • Research topics

1.1 Advanced Analytical Solutions for the Environment and Food Chemistry. Development and application of analytical methodologies based on advanced analytical instrumentations for the analysis of complex matrices with environmental and agri-food relevance, focused on: i) environmental quality and specific molecular markers aimed at locating pollution sources; ii) chemical composition, presence of contaminants and nanoparticles in agri-food products.

1.2 Modern Separation Science and Applications in Environmental, Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Chemistry. Geometric and physico-chemical characterization of micro- and nano-structured materials of environmental, agri-food and biological relevance. Molecular transport properties in porous media. Study of adsorption processes and of molecular and chiral recognition mechanisms.

1.3 Organo- and Biocatalytic Syntheses.

1.3.1 Organo- and Biocatalysis. Study and development of new stereoselective organo- and biocatalytic processes for the formation of carbon-carbon bonds. Processes promoted by N-heterocyclic carbenes. Development of supported organocatalysts.

1.3.2 Sustainable technologies for the production of chemicals from biomasses

Study and development of highly sustainable biotechnological and chemical processes, based on enzymatic or organocatalyzed reactions, for the preparation of fine chemicals starting from biomass-derived molecules.

1.4 Design and Synthesis of Coordination Compounds of Pharmaceutical Interest. Development of new ligands and low-impact synthetic processes in pharmaceutical inorganic chemistry.

1.5 Chiral Separations by Chromatographic and Electrophoretic Techniques. New stationary and pseudo-stationary chiral phases for novel applications in environmental, pharmaceutical and food-chemistry research; study of chiral recognition mechanisms; preparative separations of optically active molecules; multicomponent systems and complex matrices.

1.6 Design and Development of HighlyEfficient Continuous (Flow-Mode) Syntheses and Separations. Design and test of fixed-bed and monolithic microreactors using organo- and bio-catalysts immobilized on silica or polystyrene as packing material. Development of new stereoselective carboligation reactions in flow regime. Reaction modeling for process optimization. Investigation of reactive process under non-linear condition; study of mass transfer processes. Instrumental coupling between reactive and separative systems for continuous processes.

1.7 Theoretical Aspects of the Electronic Structure of Materials with Technological Interest. Methodological development and applications in the field of the computation of the electronic structure of the ground and excited states of molecules with a technological interest and analysis of the wave function in local terms. The study concerns the magnetic interactions in organic/inorganic radicals, the charge and energy transfer, the excitations and ionization processes, the conduction and the description of p-conjugated systems.

1.8 Photocatalytic and Photoelectrochemical Systems for Solar Energy Conversion into Chemical Fuels and Environmental Remediation. Development, functionalization and integration of semiconductor materials in cells for photoelectrochemical water splitting, CO2 reduction and degradation of organic contaminants in aqueous solution. Investigation of photoinduced charge separation dynamics at the semiconductor/electrolyte interface.

1.9 Regenerative Photoelectrochemical Solar Cells. Development of new redox couples for regenerative sensitized solar cells. Characterization of new dyes based on push pull and charge transfer architectures endowed with high molar absorptivity and enhanced red responsivity. Development and characterization of catalytic counter electrodes based on organic nano-materials.

1.10 Synthesis, Physical-Chemical and Electrochemical Characterization of Materials for New Generation Energy Storage Systems. The research topic involves the synthesis and physical-chemical characterization of electrode (e.g., anodes and cathodes) and electrolyte materials (liquids, solids, polymers and ionic liquids) and their characterization in new generation energy storage systems basing on lithium or alkali metal, such as lithium-ion, lithium-sulfur, lithium-air, sodium-ion, sodium-sulfur, and sodium-air. In addition, the research involves fuel-cell systems, and new types of zinc and lead-acid batteries.

1.11 Crystal Engineering and Supramolecular Chemistry of Advanced Functional Materials and Co-Crystals of Pharmaceutical Interest. Application to crystal engineering and molecular recognition of  our knowledge in the field of molecular interactions derived from X-ray crystallography, simulation of model compounds and systematic data mining in structural and chemical databases. Design, supramolecular synthesis, structural analysis and physicochemical characterization of molecular co-crystals of interest as potential new drugs. Study of the interactions between metal centers within polynuclear molecular complexes: relationships between the molecular structure and the nature and intensities of the magnetic interactions.

1.12 Metal-Ligand Interactions in Solution Systems of Biological and/or Pharmacological Interest.

Study of model systems, mimicking the formation in-vivo of metallo-proteins or metal complexes used as drugs or contrast agents in diagnostic imaging. The investigations are carried out by means of thermodynamic and spectroscopic techniques, both in solution and in the solid state.

1.13 Inorganic and Metallorganic Complexes for Asymmetric Catalysis and Medicinal Chemistry. Synthesis and study of the activity of catalysts, both in solution and supported, for application either in organic synthesis or as drugs for photodynamic therapy (PDT).

1.14 Synthesis of Biologically Active Compounds.

1.14.1 Artificial Nucleosides and Nucleotides. Design, synthesis, and study of the biological activity of artificial nucleosides and nucleotides as antiviral and anticancer agents. Solid phase synthesis of highly modified oligonucleotides to be used for in vitro and in vivo advanced gene therapies and as molecular recognition probes.

1.14.2 Synthesis of Pharmaceutically Relevant Compounds. Synthesis and study of the biological activity of pharmaceutically relevant compounds such as activators/inhibitors of bacterial quorum sensing, modulators of mitochondrial function and heterocyclic derivatives with potential antitumor activity.

Pharmaceutical Sciences and Food Chemistry:

2.1 Design and Synthesis of Bioactive Molecules. Design and investigation of structure-activity relationships (SAR) of novel molecules able to interact with drug gable biological targets such as G-protein coupled receptors, ion channels, nucleic acids, mitotic spindle. The molecules can be synthetized by the use of either solid phase synthesis approach and solution synthesis methodologies. The molecules can be of peptide and non-peptide nature.

2.2 Drug Formulation and Drug Delivery. Development of innovative non-invasive drug delivery systems (prodrugs, polymeric or lipid micro - and nano-particles) for the targeting of drugs to specific compartments of the body (brain, lung, macrophages) and tumor cells, in order to enhance the efficacy and safety of conventional formulations.

2.3 Characterization of Drugs, Health-Care Products and Cosmetics. Development of novel instrumental approaches for the identification and characterization of biologically active molecules. Identification and quantification of biological effects of active molecules.

2.4 New Ingredients for Food Supplements, Medicinal Foods and Cosmetics. Discovery of new ingredients for food supplements, medicinal foods and cosmetics through sustainable approaches that take into account traditional uses of food ingredients and stepwise investigation of natural sources. Moreover biological process at the base of activity of health ingredients are investigated to devise possible new targets.

2.5 Cosmetic Formulations, Analysis and Evaluation. Novel approaches to the formulation of cosmetics. New analytical approaches to the qualitative and quantitative analysis of cosmetics. Evaluation of cosmetic efficacy in raw ingredients and finished products.

2.6 Medical Devices. Studies directed toward the discovery of new medical devices for application in the fields of drugs, health-care products and cosmetics. Novel ingredients obtained by synthesis or extraction. Novel electronic and mechanical devices for the delivery of active molecules. Novel formulation of medical devices. New diagnostic tools.

2.7 Food Chemistry. Analytical methodologies for macro- and micro-nutrients determination in food matrices. Applications involve the characterization of typical agri-food products and the evaluation of functional components, such as anti-oxidant molecules with biological activity. Integrated analytical methods with biomolecular and chemometric approaches are a valid tool for the evaluation of food traceability. Atomic spectroscopy and field flow fractionation (FFF) techniques are used to investigate the presence of inorganic nanoparticles in food matrices, with reference to lyophilized products and food supplements.




Teaching CourseTeachersn. credits/hLenguage
Photochemistry in Energy Production Stefano Caramori 4/20 Italian/English
Laser Spectroscopy (with Laboratory) Roberto Argazzi 4/20 Italian/English
Solar Energy Conversion into Fuels Franco Scandola 6/30 Italian/English
Applied Photochemistry Mirco Natali 4/20 Italian/English
Paramagnetic Electronic Resonance: Spin trapping Technique for the Detection of Radicals Alessandra Molinari 2/10 Italian/English
Complex-Formation Equilibria in Solution: the Research Methodology (with exercises) Maurizio Remelli 4/20 Italian/English
Green Analytical Chemistry M. Chiara Pietrogrande, Alberto Cavazzini, Luisa Pasti 4/20 Italian/English
Unified Separation Science (with Laboratory) Alberto Cavazzini, M. Chiara Pietrogrande, Maurizio Remelli, Catia Contado, Luisa Pasti, Nicola Marchetti 6/30 Italian/English
Recent Advances in Medicinal Chemistry Severo Salvadori, Daniele Simoni 6/40 Italian/English
Innovative Drug Delivery Systems Rita Cortesi, Alessandro Dalpiaz, Santo Scalia 4/20 Italian/English

Modern Theoretical and Computational Techniques in Molecular Quantum Mechanics

Celestino Angeli 4/30 Italian/English
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Basic Course (NMR-1) Paolo Marchetti 2/10 Italian/English
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Advanced Course (NMR-2) (with Laboratory) Giancarlo Fantin 4/20 Italian/English
New synthetic strategies in organic chemistry Alessandro Massi, Carmela De Risi, Claudio Trapella 4/20 Italian/English
Mass Spectrometry: a powerful tool in analytical and organic chemistry (with Laboratory) Olga Bortolini, Tatiana Bernardi 4/20 Italian/English
Molecular Interaction and Recognition (with elements of crystal engineering) Valerio Bertolasi, Paola Gilli 4/20 Italian/English