Last update Oct 2019

Regulations for the PhD Course in Neurobiology


For general rules consult the teaching regulations for SISSA PhD courses

Regolamento didattico (in Italian)        Didactic regulations (in English) 



  1. The admissions to the PhD course in Neurobiology take place, usually, through a selection based on academic and scientific qualifications and an oral examination. Exceptionally qualified non EU-students can be admitted to the course only through evaluation of their academic and scientific qualifications.
  2. For the admissions, candidates must be in possession of the Italian Laurea (Laurea Specialistica, Laurea Magistralis or the old Laurea Quadriennale) in a scientific subject, or of a University degree obtained abroad and considered equivalent (i.e. M.Sc.) by the School Senate, after having received the approval from the Council of the Neuroscience Area. This degree must have been obtained before the PhD courses official starting date. 
  3. The Admission Committee for the entrance examination is composed of at least three members: two faculty members and one member from another institution (the external Committee member), nominated by the Council of the Neuroscience Area. 
  4. The entrance examination is aimed at verifying the candidate’s aptitude for scientific research and his/her level of knowledge of the basics in Neurobiology. For the evaluation, the Committee disposes of 100 points, 30 of which are for the academic and scientific qualifications and 70 for the oral examination.
  5. The following achievements are considered valid for evaluation:


  •       Academic qualifications: i.e. mark from the Laurea Degree, equivalent diplomas, participation in post-degree courses, scholarships;
  •      Scientific qualifications: i.e. publications, manuscripts and original scientific results.


       6. A written essay in English must be provided with the application documents, in which the candidate has to illustrate his/her previous academic background and the scientific motivations to pursue a PhD at SISSA and including a short list of theses projects among those available (see course website). The essay (about 800 words) will be used for an inital screening of suitable candidates to be invited to the oral exam. Are admitted to the oral examination only the candidates that have reached a score 21/30 points.

      7. The oral examination is a discussion on topics of basic neurobiology, on the previous experience of the candidate in relation to his/her academic curriculum (including the thesis project), on the research work carried out so far, on the research interests of the candidate. The exam can be done in Italian or in English. If the candidate decides to do the exam in Italian, he/she will need to prove his/her knowledge of the English language by reading and translating a short scientific text.

      8. 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 Admission Committee. The Council of the Neuroscience Area examines the proceedings of the examination presented by the Admission Committee and decides the admissions to the PhD course.





  1. The teaching activity starts in November and is structured into courses and seminars held by the Teaching Board and by external lecturers. Students are expected to attend all suggested courses and if a student is not able to attend a given course he/she is expected to provide a justification to the PhD coordinator. It is up to the professor/lecturer to decide in what the exam for passing his/her course will consists of.
  2. Students are required to participate actively in group discussions on specific topics, in internal and external seminars and journal clubs.
  3. At the beginning of each PhD course the students receive information about the available research projects, which constitute the fundamental element of the PhD course.
  4. Each new student will start, at the latest within the month of January after the beginning of the PhD course, working on a research project for his/her PhD dissertation agreed with one of the available Supervisors. The distribution of the projects aims at matching the student’s own experience and research interests with the needs of the research programs and the structures available.
  5. The assignment of a student’s supervisor must be approved by the Teaching Board.
  6. Only under exceptional circumstances a student can ask for a change of his/her supervisor. The change must be approved by the Teaching Board.





  1. To be admitted to the following year each student must pass a qualification exam called Progress Report.
  2. The Progress Reports are usually held in September of each year. They consist of a presentation of the scientific activity carried out by the student during the last twelve months discussed in front of the Teaching Board, who will then evaluate the scientific and didactic progress of each student to decide if he/she is eligible to continue the PhD program the following academic year.
  3. The admission of a student to the following year is deliberated by The Council of the Neuroscience Area before the end of each academic year. The Teaching Board decides if, in occasion of the annual Progress Report, the work carried out by each student is of sufficient quality to lead to a future PhD thesis.





  1. Under motivated circumstances – and having discussed the issue with the Teaching Board – the supervisor may suggest that the student sits the examination to obtain a Master (Magister Philosophiae). The request must be approved by the Teaching Board.
  2. In case of approval of the above request the student will present a thesis that will be discussed in front of a Committee nominated by the Teaching Board. Generally, a student receiving a Master degree does not continue his/her studies to obtain a PhD.





  1. A student can spend from a minimum of 3 to a maximum of 4 years to complete his/her PhD project.
  2. Only in exceptional and motivated cases - and following the Council of the Neuroscience Area’s approval - it is possible for a student to present his/her PhD thesis after the fourth year, even though he/she no longer maintains the status of SISSA student.





  1. The Thesis to be defended for the Doctor Philosophiae title should contain original and published results (or results considered suitable for publication by the Teaching Board) on well-established scientific journals.
  2. The thesis should contain an abstract (max 500 words), an introduction in which the aim of the research project is clearly identified, a description of the methodology, a clear account of novel data and a systematic discussion followed by the bibliography of the authors cited in the text. In the event in which the amount of publications produced by the student during his PhD course is considered relevant, the Methods and the Results sections of the thesis can be formed directly by those publications.
  3. The candidate needs to attach to the thesis the list of publications originated from his research work, together with a statement where it is specified his/her direct and original contribution to each one of them.
  4. The Council of Neuroscience Area nominates the Board of Examiners for the PhD exam upon proposal by the Teaching Board. The Board of Examiners is composed by a minimum of 5 members of whom at least two are permanent professors at the School and two are external to the School. One of the external examiners, chosen according to his/her specific scientific competences and complete non-involvement with the candidate and with the supervisor, will be given the task to evaluate the thesis (which he/she will have received at least one month prior examination). This specific examiner will be also required to indicate corrections to be made to the thesis.
  5. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure rapid printing and binding of the Thesis. The final version of the Thesis is to be distributed to all the Members of the Board of Examiners at least two weeks before the examination date.
  6. The exam to obtain the title of Doctor Philosophiae consists in a public seminar followed by a discussion during which the examiners can ascertain the background knowledge in the field of research or in neurobiology in general. The Board of Examiners may:
  •  approve the Thesis and confer the PhD.  
  •  not approve the Thesis, in which case the student may present the Thesis at the next session, after having implemented his/her work where required. The final exam may be repeated only once.





  1. In case of serious personal reasons or in case of maternity/paternity leave, students can ask the Council of Neuroscience Area for his/her position to be held in a “status quo”, for up to a maximum of 12 months.





  1. Students, like any other member of the SISSA staff, are to respect the Codes of Behavior, to safeguard the dignity of female and male employees and students of the School. The Codes of Behavior can be found at the following link:
  2. Students are required to respect the rules of ethic and behaviour also in the lab. These rules are indicated in a document ad hoc prepared by the Teaching Board and handed in to the newcomers at the beginning of each academic year.



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