From epidemics phenomena, climate change and sustainable cities to seismic engineering and Industry 4.0, all the crucial challenges facing mankind today require the development of new methodological approaches to understand, model and engineer ever-growing reliable interdependent, complex and interconnected systems and infrastructures. This PhD program is aimed at ambitious young scientists and engineers who wish to work on these crucial challenging problems with a high impact in society in a new, strongly-interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial way.

The overarching goal of the program is to train a new generation of highly qualified researchers and professionals, who will be able to combine applied and theoretical expertise from a wide range of fields to develop and apply new methods to study and manage complex systems, to engineer resilient systems and to analyse and cope with risk and cascading effects. The curriculum of the Ph.D. program in “Modelling and Engineering Risk and Complexity” covers Mathematics, Physics, Engineering and Science, providing the possibility of attending courses and seminars from world-renown experts on a variety of topics including:


  • complex systems, infrastructures and networks;
  • reliability theory for uncertainty modelling;
  • systems and control theory;
  • analysis and management of risks deriving from natural and anthropic phenomena on complex and interdependent systems;
  • mathematical modelling and simulation of complex systems and infrastructures;
  • data analysis and machine learning;
  • emerging properties and domino and cascade effects in complex and interdependent systems.

The emphasis of the entire research and education program  is on the integrated theoretical description and management of emergent complex systems and their risk analysis with potential applications in different areas by developing beyond the-state-of-the-art  rigorous mathematical, stochastic, computational and data-driven modelling methods, systems and control engineering and machine learning tools.

Application areas of interest include (but are not limited to) civil engineering, automation and control engineering, mathematical engineering, industrial product and process engineering, complex infrastructures and distribution networks, economics and finance, natural and man-made hazard analysis.

Stefano Boccaletti
CNR – Istituto Sistemi Complessi

Francesco Bullo
University of California Santa Barbara, U.S.A.

Paolo Calvi
University of Washington, U.S.A.

Maria Chiarolla
University of Salento

Almerinda di Benedetto
University of Naples Federico II

Mario di Bernardo
University of Naples Federico II

Iunio Iervolino
University of Naples Federico II

Juergen Kurths
Humboldt Universitaet, Germany

Massimiliano Giorgio
University of Naples Federico II

Warner Marzocchi
University of Naples Federico II

Mirco Musolesi
University College London, U.K.

Maurizio Porfiri
New York University, U.S.A.

Costantinos Siettos
University of Naples Federico II

Michael Richardson
Macquarie University, Australia

Gianfranco Urciuoli
University of Naples Federico II

Aldo Zollo
University of Naples Federico II

Duration of the Ph.D.: 4 years

Grants: Every year SSM offers 6 positions for this Ph.D. program. Each grant amounts to 19,000€ per year.
Every grant comes with extra funds for research activity in Italy and abroad.

Research projects: During their first year of taught courses, students can choose among many different project proposals and research themes in all areas of the PhD program.

Research project proposals for PhD students (XXXVI cycle) can be found here.

Students will be able to choose from all the PhD level courses offered within the Scuola Superiore Meridionale specific to the PhD program in Modeling and Engineering Risk and Complexity. Each course will be directed by a member of the PhD Board but will also involve other world reknown experts in the field. Further shorter courses and seminars will be organized and announced on this website.


Scientific Colloquia, organised at the School every Thursday at 2.00pm where students can meet and interact with world renown experts in all the scientific areas of the School.

Informal Talks on MERC, where board members present their research activities and possible research projects.


Admission to the Ph.D. course is through a public competitive exam that takes place every year as detailed in the Call for Applications that will be published on the website of the Scuola Superiore Meridionale and the University of Naples Federico II.

The competition is open to any candidate with a master’s degree or an equivalent degree.  A panel of experts appointed by the University will select candidates on the basis of a brief scientific report, curriculum vitae, personal statements and recommendation letter(s) submitted by the candidate, and an oral interview.

The Ph.D. program is articulated over 4 years. During the first year, students attend courses and seminars, and carry out short individual and team projects in a variety of different areas.  The remaining years will be mainly devoted to research activities.

The research and education activities of the program will be focused on the following subjects of interest:

  • Modeling and analysis of complex systems
  • Network science
  • Control of complex and multi-agent systems
  • Advanced simulation for complex and multi-agent systems
  • Stochastic modeling and reliability theory
  • Modeling and analysis of natural hazard
  • Modeling and analysis of anthropic risks
  • Modeling and analysis of industrial risk
  • Machine-learning and data-science
  • Applications of risk and complexity to civil engineering
  • Applications of risk and complexity to economics and finance
  • Applications of risk and complexity to industrial and process engineering
  • Design of resilient complex systems

During the four years, the students should obtain 240 credits (60 credits per year) by taking an active part to the following activities:

First year
The first year is devoted primarily to training activities. First year students should obtain 60 credits by performing the following activities:

– taking elective Ph.D. courses provided by the School, other universities or research centers  passing the corresponding exams or assessment tests.

– attendance to seminars, summers schools and workshops organized by the School, other universities or research centers (up to 5 credits).

– Individual or team project work (up to 10 credits).

Second year
During this year student should obtain 24 credits by attending seminars, summers schools, courses, and workshops organized by the School, other universities or research centers. The remaining 36 credits will be allocated for research activities.

Third year
All 60 credits will be devoted to research activity.

 Fourth year
A total of 60 credits will be devoted to research activity and preparation of the Ph.D thesis.

At the beginning of the second year, students will communicate to the Ph.D. coordinator the names of the supervisor(s) they chose for their thesis, considering the list of research projects made available to them by the Ph.D. board. The supervisor can be either a member of the Ph.D. board or an external professor or researcher. The choice must be approved by the Ph.D. board.

In order to be admitted to the second year, after collecting the necessary credits, students will give a talk on their topic of choice in front of a committee formed by members of the Ph.D. board. The talks will be also attended by all other Ph.D. students.
In order to be admitted to the subsequent years, students will present a report and give a presentation on the progress of their research, which will be evaluated by the Ph.D. board.

During the Ph.D. program, students are required to visit other scientific institutions for a period of at least nine months; this period can also be completed through multiple visits.

The Ph.D. program aims to build a series of international partnerships to foster the mobility of staff and students, encouraged also by the many links of the PhD board with many prestigious foreign institutions.
The current links include the following institutions, with whom joint research projects are ongoing:

  • Tandon School of Engineering, New York University, U.S.A.
  • University College London, U.K.
  • Stanford University, U.S.A.
  • University of Bristol, U.K.
  • University of California Santa Barbara, U.S.A.
  • Humboldt Universitaet, Germany
  • University College London, U.K.
  • Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • University of Montpellier, France
  • John Hopkins University, U.S.A.
  • Oxford University, U.K.

In addition, a group of national and international satakeholders from industry and other research institutions will be formed to support ad advise the student activities. This group will provide input for the development of the Ph.D. activities based on emerging needs and further opportunities for applied research, guidance and training “in the field”.

With the aim of improving soft and multidisciplinary skills, several activities will be organized together with the other Ph.D. programs at the Scuola Superiore Meridionale and with the University of Naples Federico II.

Examples of such activities free for all students in the program include Italian language courses for foreigners as well as English, German, French and Spanish courses available at the University Federico II Language centre; training courses on writing a research proposal and seeking research funding; courses on advanced software packages and computer systems; communication and dissemination of science; public engagement.