PhD in Environmental, geological and polar sciences and technologies

The problems associated with the management of natural resources, the impact of their use, natural hazards and environmental and climatic changes require a comprehensive approach to the phenomena and processes. The PhD course in environmental, geological and polar sciences and technologies a strong interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary connections (disciplinary sectors of Italian CUN areas 03, 04, 05 & 07) and aims to provide a post-graduate training in basic and applied high-level research, aimed at the study of the functioning and interactions between the different compartments of the Earth, which are synthesized in the so-called Earth System Science. For the realization of their experimental research projects students have access to the scientific expertise and equipment in the Department of Physical, Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Center for Geotechnology, the Italian National Antarctic Museum and various Italian and foreign universities and research centers and laboratories. Inspired by the European Charter for Researchers, this PhD course aims to contribute to the realization of the European Higher Education and Research Area, forming highly qualified researchers, able to operate independently in university laboratories and public and private research centers. With the knowledge acquired during the three-year period, PhD students can cooperate in agencies for land protection and management, in industries or companies that provide geotechnical and geophysical surveys, modeling and environmental monitoring within the ambit of EIA procedures and remediation of contaminated sites.


The PhD course is based at the Department of Physical, Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Siena. 


The rules for PhD courses, forms, calls and general information on how to access to the PhD courses are available on website: Admission to the PhD is done by public selection: an oral exam, which consists in the presentation and discussion of a research project (with program objectives and guidelines for the three years) included in the aims of the PhD course and the verification of English language knowledge. The Academic board assigns to every PhD student at least one supervisor who will assist him/her during the course. 


The bodies of the PhD course are the Academic board and the Coordinator. The Academic board is responsible for the design and implementation of the course and is made ​​up of professors and researchers of the University of Siena and by professors and researchers of Italian and foreign universities and research institutions. The Coordinator is elected by the Academic board and is responsible for organizing training and administrative activities, authorizes PhD students to carry out teaching and research activities in Italy and abroad and performs the functions delegated to him by the Academic board. 


At the end of each year students must submit a research and training activity report (countersigned by the supervisor) and support a public discussion on the most relevant aspects of the work performed, the results achieved and the program guidelines for the activities of the next year. The transition from one academic year to the next is based on the judgment of the Academic board in relation to the research activities and the participation of the PhD students to education and training activities. The Board proposes each year cycles of seminars and short theoretical and practical courses taught by experts to which PhD students have to participate. The training activities are registered in the students' personal handbook. 


Some months (preferably 6) before the end of the course, with the approval of the supervisor, PhD students present the formal application for admission to the final examination together with a final report on the activities carried out and a draft of the thesis (in Italian or English, other languages ​​require an authorization by the Academic board) to the Academic board. The final examination committee is appointed by the Rector upon proposal of the Academic board and is made up of at least 3 members, of whom at least two shall not be part of the Academic board and must belong to Italian or foreign universities, the University of Siena excluded. 


In the case of PhD programs in joint supervision within the framework of international agreements, the composition of the committee and the final examination modalities are outlined in the relevant agreements.


39th cycle (A.A. 2023/2024)

The evaluation of the qualifications of candidates who submitted applications following the second notice for applications in 2023, with a deadline of 28 August 2023 (DR No. 1489/2023), was conducted by the Selection Committee appointed by Rectoral Decree No. 1709/2023.

The list of admitted candidates can be found below. Interviews will take place on 11 September 2023 starting at 10 a.m. in person (Complesso didattico Pian dei Mantellini, Piazzetta Enzo Tiezzi, Siena) and by videoconference (google meet virtual room–

38th cycle (A.A. 2022/2023)

Third Notice 2022

The evaluation of the qualifications of candidates who submitted applications following the third notice with a deadline of 16 January 2023 (DR n. 2737/2022) was conducted by the Selection Committee appointed by Rectoral Decree n. 55/2023. Interviews of candidates admitted to the interview will be held on 16 Janury 2023. The list of admitted candidates to the interview can be found below.

Interviews of candidates admitted to the interview will be held on 16 January 2023. The list of admitted candidates to the interview can be found below. The interviews will be held on 16 January, from 3 p.m., Via Mattioli 4 (first floor, office of Prof. Silvia Casini); those who are unable to attend in person, can connect to the virtual Google Meet room

Academic board

The Academic board is made up of professors and researchers of the University of Siena, other Italian and foreign universities and of experts from Italian and foreign research institutes and laboratories.

As of 7 March 2023, the two doctoral student representatives on the Academic Board, appointed by DR no. 565/2023, are

  • Isabella Calattini, 38th cycle
  • Emma Ferrari, 37th cycle

The research topics developed during the doctoral program correspond to those addressed by various research groups at the Department of Physical, Earth, and Environmental Sciences and at the Geotechnology Center. Many Ph.D. candidates are involved in projects of the National Antarctic Research Program (PNRA), carried out at universities or research institutions such as CNR, INGV, ENEA, and the National Antarctic Museum. Through inter- and multidisciplinary approaches, most research is directed toward studying the Earth System and the interactions and integrations among its components, preventing natural risks, developing innovative methodologies to assess the impact of human activities and climate change, undertaking remediation interventions in compromised environments, and integrated environmental and land management.
By employing advanced techniques for geophysical and geotechnical investigations and tools such as GIS, remote sensing, digital photogrammetry, and numerical cartography, research programs are conducted on lithospheric dynamics, the tectonic, magmatic, and metamorphic evolution of orogenic areas, seismic and hydrogeological risk maps, minero-petrographic characterization of archaeological materials, paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions, and cultural analysis of Prehistory and Protohistory.
In the field of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Sciences, the main activities involve the development of new biomarkers and new bioremediation and nanoremediation techniques, the study of biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems, and predictive models on their possible responses to the impact of human activities and climate change.
The effects of climate change on the environment and ecosystems manifest themselves earlier and in an amplified manner in polar regions. The study of interactions among the lithosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere in polar regions allows some Ph.D. candidates to be part of the international context of research on global processes and ongoing changes on our planet.

Training activity

The educational activities are organized by the Ph.D. program through seminar series, lectures, laboratory work, and internships. These activities are recorded in the student's record book, which is provided at the beginning of the program. Following a strong shared educational focus in the first year, there is a gradual differentiation of the teaching offer in the two subsequent years. This involves more personalized training paths centered around the individual research experiences of the Ph.D. candidates, their involvement in specific laboratory and field activities, overseas stays, and internships at universities and public research institutions. With the acquisition and processing of the initial research results, Ph.D. candidates are encouraged to prepare scientific publications and participate in conferences and workshops.
First Year (60 ECTS) - Through lectures, courses, and seminars, the educational and training activities aim to provide Ph.D. candidates with theoretical and practical tools for scientific work. This includes the development of a research project, database consultation and bibliography archiving, scientometrics, statistical analysis of experimental data, presentation and interpretation of data, and the preparation of a scientific publication. Ph.D. candidates also attend courses (including those within Master's and Specialization Schools) on the Earth System, environmental sustainability, methodologies for acquiring and using scientific instrumentation, in-depth study of the English language, informatics, and its applications in land and natural resource management.
Second Year (60 ECTS) - In addition to cross-disciplinary training activities for all Ph.D. candidates on topics related to the Earth System, global processes, territory, and the environment, the student focuses on experimental activities related to their thesis project. This involves participating in schools, seminars, and conferences, as well as spending periods of internship at Italian and foreign research facilities specializing in the specific themes of the Ph.D. program (resource exploitation, natural risks, territorial defense and planning, prehistoric ecology, human evolution, environmental sustainability, water, air and soil pollution, ecotoxicology, etc.).
Third Year (60 ECTS) - The final year is primarily dedicated to research activities necessary for completing the project, writing the thesis and scientific publications, and presenting the acquired results (through posters and oral presentations) at national and international scientific conferences.

Mobility of PhD students

In order to promote the educational and research activities of Ph.D. candidates, the Ph.D. program is actively involved in fostering and maintaining relationships with Italian and foreign universities and research institutions. It also seeks to facilitate the mobility of Ph.D. candidates, including through the signing of specific agreements.
Stays abroad are authorized by the Board of Professors based on a documented request supported by the tutor's assessment. The stipend amount is increased by 50% for stays abroad totaling up to 12 months (in the case of co-supervision, not exceeding 18 months).

PhD students

38° the cycle Novembre 2022 – October 2025

  1. Antonio Vincenzo Alessi (
  2. Luisa Beltramone (
  3. Isabella Calattini (
  4. Nicolò Carfagna (
  5. Vivien De Lucia (
  6. Andrea Maccantelli (
  7. Chiara Marescalchi (
  8. Enrico Nocentini (
  9. Patrizi Romano (
  10. Tatiana Rusconi (
  11. Daniele Silvestri (
  12. Andrea Vitrano (

37° cycle Novembre 2021 – October 2024

  1. Giorgio Cappellucci ( Sviluppo e applicazione di metodologie innovative per lo studio delle attività biologiche di piante medicinali ita liane e del mondo di interesse etnobotanico (supervisori E. Miraldi, M. Biagi)
  2. Emma Ferrari ( Polystyrene nanoparticles (PS NPs) as proxy for nanoplastics for studying uptake, biodisposition, morphological and biological effects on Ciona robusta developmental stages (supervisori I. Corsi, A. Spagnuolo)
  3. Marco Fioraso ( Erosion Antarctica: looking into erosional processes and uplift of the Transantarctic Mountains (Southern Victoria La nd) through low temperature thermochrono logy and numerical modeling of landscape evolution (supervisori G. Cornamusini, V. Olivetti)
  4. Pietro Giovacchini ( Valutazione di efficacia di gestione delle aree protette attraverso l'uso di indicatori oggettivi: un’applicazione ad un sistema di aree umide del litorale tirrenico (supervisori L. Marsili, C. Battisti)
  5. Marlyse Meffo Kemda ( Footprint-oriented framework for sustainability assessment at territorial and enterprise level (supervisore N. Marchettini)
  6. Lorenzo Minoia ( Evaluating the presence of pollutants in commonly caught sharks in two protected areas in Western Mediterranean Sea: impact and risk for the ecosystem and for human health (supervisori L. Marsili, M. Bottaro)
  7. Nicholas Noli ( Biogeography of Southern Ocean benthic isopods (Crustacea, Malacostraca): analysis of their distribution, ecology and taxonomy in a rapidly changing climatic scenario (supervisori S. Corsolini, S. Schiaparelli, A. Brandt)
  8. Federica Vaccaro ( Valorizzazione delle specie officinali proprie della biodiversità del territorio italiano destinate alla produzione di prodotti vegetali innovativi per la salute (supervisori E. Miraldi, M. Biagi)
  9. Nadia Valletti ( Funzionalizzazione di cellule artificiali per la bonifica ambientale (supervisori F. Rossi, I. Lagzi)
Final examination

Approximately one month before the conclusion of the three-year period, with the favorable opinion of the supervisor, doctoral candidates submit a request for admission to the final examination to the College. The request must be accompanied by a final report on the activities carried out (see downloadable template), an abstract, and the thesis (in Italian or English; authorization from the College of Teachers is required for other languages; see downloadable cover template). The thesis will be evaluated by at least two highly qualified experts external to those involved in awarding the doctoral title. The evaluators, designated by the College of Teachers, provide a written analytical judgment on the thesis and propose either admission to the public defense or a deferral for a period not exceeding six months if significant integrations or corrections are deemed necessary.

The examination committee for the final test is appointed by the Rector upon the proposal of the College of Teachers and consists of at least three members, of whom at least two must not be part of the College and must belong to Italian or foreign universities other than the University of Siena.

Thesis formatting: A4 format, double-sided, font size 12 pt (or 11 pt), single or 1.5 line spacing, candidate and supervisor signatures on the cover.

Attention to the new deposit procedure on USiena Air starting from June 2020: At least 10 days before the thesis defense, the doctoral candidate must deposit an electronically signed copy of the doctoral thesis in the University of Siena's Research Registry USiena Air ( in PDF/A format (suitable for digital preservation). Therefore, if lacking a digital signature, the doctoral candidate must first acquire one.


It is preferable that the request for admission to the final exam be submitted one month before the completion of the Ph.D. program.