The PhD Programme in Molecular and Experimental Medicine (MEM) aims to address some of the main challenges of life sciences in a highly competitive scientific research environment

This 3-year international programme provides advanced training in various fields of life sciences and molecular medicine.
Applications for the a.y. 2021/2022 are open

The Programme

The MEM PhD Programme provides training in various fields of life sciences and molecular medicine offering a stimulating environment with access to state-of-the-art technology and clinical case lists for translational studies.

Two different curricula are available, candidates are required to specify their curriculum preferences when applying.

  • The MEM Curriculum provides for the research activities to develop along, yet not remain limited to, the following main areas, including: oncological immunopathology, molecular cardiometabolics, genetics, neurosciences. An overall vision of regenerative and precision medicine is the theme running throughout the programme. The curriculum provides specific training for enabling technologies, such as imaging, flow cytometry, genomics and bioinformatics.
  • The MEM-Clinical Curriculum aims to combine basic or clinical experimental research activities with clinical practice involving patient enrolment and assessment in specific trials. The course provides for ordinary clinical practice in the hospital under the supervision of a doctor (up to a maximum of 20 hours per week) and experimental laboratory activities, which include but are not limited to cellular and molecular biology, information technology, immunology and the use of preclinical models. Candidates will be directly responsible for research projects approved by their clinical supervisor and/or laboratory head.

For both curricula, the PhD will be conducted in a stimulating environment involving the organisation of Journal clubs and seminars given by national and international speakers, participation in congresses, informal meetings between different disciplines, encouraging researchers to work independently and collaboration with groups abroad. Liaising with tutors and non-Italian discussants further develops the international dimension.

Career Opportunities for Humanitas PhD students

The PhD program aims to train experts in clinical and industrial research, preparing them to take up careers in biotech companies, translational research, in clinical or academic fields worldwide. Thanks to a “translational” approach, professionals will quickly transfer new knowledge from basic sciences to bio-medicine with the aim of creating new and advanced diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

PhD Coordinator: Prof Maria Rescigno
Places available

8 places

The number of available places and/or scholarships may increase in the event that external funding becomes available by the deadline set for the completion of the call application procedure.




3 years

Beginning of the academic year

1st November 2021

Call for applications 2021 (EN)

Call for applications 2021 (ITA)

Regolamento PhD MEM

Didactic Activities

The PhD course in Molecular and Experimental is articulated into three main types of didactic activities:

Research activities

Every student is assigned a research topic under the supervision of a Supervisor; the research activity in the laboratory is a full-time activity

Mandatory frontal activities

Linguistics, Informatics, Research management and funding, Intellectual property are the main topics

  • Mandatory courses
Course name Year Teacher CFU
Scientific Methods I Rosella Visintin 1,5
Scientific Writing II Miriam Alcalay 1,5
Genomics II Clelia Peano 0,5
Bioinformatics II Paolo Kunderfranco 1
Biostatistics I Stefanos Bonovas 2,5
  • Seminar series (Journal Club on a specific topic between the speaker and the PhD students followed by a public seminar on the same topic)

Elective activities

Seminars and courses, offered by the Humanitas University and Humanitas Research Labs, which the PhD students can freely join according to their research field and interests.

Admission Requirements

MEM Curriculum

Applicants wishing to enrol on the PhD course in Molecular and Experimental Medicine, MEM Curriculum must either have a “laurea magistrale” awarded in accordance with D.M. 270/2004 or equivalent qualification awarded by a foreign university (usually referred to as a Master’s Degree), in one of the subjects listed in the official call for applicants.

Applicants who are waiting to be awarded the required qualification at the date of submission can also take part in the selection process providing they have passed all of the Degree course exams at the time of the online application and are awarded the qualification before the beginning of the academic activities. In the event these applicants pass the selection process, their enrolment on the PhD course is conditional upon providing proof that the qualification is awarded.


MEM-Clinical Curriculum

Applicants wishing to enrol on the PhD Course in Molecular and Experimental Medicine, MEM-Clinical Curriculum must:

  • be enrolled on the Medical Register
  • already possess a specialist medical qualification

Alternatively, applications will also be taken from doctors in specialist training who will enrol in the final year in a School of Specialisation at Humanitas University

Doctors in specialist training who are already enrolled in the final year of Specialisation at any university and who will complete their training by 31st October 2021. In the event these applicants pass the selection process, they may conditionally enrol on the PhD Course and are required to provide proof of the awarded qualification by the beginning of academic activities.

The Immune System

The immune system plays a major role in controlling tumor development via a process which is called immune surveillance. When a cell becomes neoplastic, the immune system recognizes its cancerous state and kills it. Tumor cells display a sort of a flag on their surface to alert the immune system to be eliminated (Figure 1). Unfortunately, when tumor cells find strategies to evade the immune system, they start growing undisturbed. They can either avoid displaying the flag (they hide themselves) or can inactivate immune cells capable of recognizing the flag (Figure 1).

Recent advancement in cancer therapy has demonstrated that strategies aimed at reactivating the immune response are very powerful. They can reactivate the immune cells that recognize the flag. Belong to this type of immunotherapy the so called immune check point inhibitors whose discovery earned a Nobel prize to the inventors in 2018 (Figure 2a). These immune checkpoint inhibitors, however, are ineffective when there are no immune cells to recognize the flag to be reactivated. In this case another strategy aimed to instruct immune cells to recognize de novo the flag has been proposed. This strategy resembles the vaccination against infectious agents, with the difference that the enemy to attack in this vaccination is the tumor (Figure 2b). It is not preventive but should be administered to patients already having a tumor either just after its removal to avoid recurrence of the disease, or in patients with metastases where surgical removal is not feasible.

While immune checkpoint inhibitors have demonstrated to be very powerful, vaccination is still under evaluation, and probably the combination with immune checkpoint blockade can improve its efficacy. We have proposed a new strategy of vaccination that has been financed by the Italian Foundation for Cancer Research (AIRC 5×1000) and that we will be testing in a clinical trial on metastatic melanoma patients.

In some patients vaccination coupled to immune checkpoint inhibition may still not be successful because of the ability of tumor cells to avoid displaying the flag. With the Alan Ghitis fellowship, a PhD student at Humanitas University and Research hospital will evaluate strategies to induce the tumor cell to express the flag on their cell surface so to avoid hiding from the immune system (Figure 2c).

Cancer immunotherapy and the advent of immune checkpoint blockade have revolutionised cancer treatment. It reactivates the immune system to recognize and kill tumor cells. Although a good proportion of patients respond to immune checkpoint blockade, still many do not. This is because they do not have an immune response to be reactivated. Within the AIRC 5×1000 project, which funds a network of 8 units in 4 different institutions in Italy, we will vaccinate patients so to improve immunocheckpoint based intervention. With the Alan Ghitis fellowship, a PhD student at Humanitas University and Research Hospital will further this approach by evaluating strategies to induce the tumor cell to re-express a flag on their cell surface that alerts the immune system of their neoplastic nature to allow immune cells to recognize it and kill it.


Fees and Scholarships

PhD students are required to pay an annual fee for access and attendance, set at €250,00 for the academic year 2021/2022, including the regional tax and stamp duty.

Detailed information about each topic’s scholarship or equivalent contract can be found in the research topics table below, by clicking on each topic ID.

Associazione Alan Ghitis

Associazione Alan Ghitis   was founded in February 2019 by the family and friends of Alan Ghitis, who valiantly fought but lost at the age of 40 the battle against melanoma skin cancer.

The Founders wish to continue his fight so that others may have a better chance. The purpose of the Association is to engage in the fight against cancer by promoting oncological research and supporting cancer patients and their families. Melanomas will be given precedence, but all forms of cancers will be considered.

The Association may engage in oncological research by contributing to projects by private, public or university organizations. It may also distribute scholarships to university students in cancer research, as well as finance especially innovative start-up projects in cancer research by entities or individuals. It may also want to contribute to hospitals and/or clinics in their purchase of equipment destined to cancer therapy.

Experience of a student who received the Alan Ghitis Scholarship

Valentina Ferrari, Alan Ghitis Scholarship winner, answers the following questions.

What does the Alan Githis fellowship mean to you?

The Alan Ghitis scholarship is special to me because it has given me the amazing opportunity to learn cutting-edge technology from top scientists in the field of cancer research.

Why did you choose to work on cancer?

I am passionate about this disease because for me cancer is personal – after my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I became adamant in my pursuit of knowledge in the field of cancer immunotherapy and continue to be so today.

How to Apply

Applications for the a.y. 2021/2022 are open
  • Registration or access with your LOGINMIUR credentials
  • Application form submission
  • Payment of the application contribution

The application form must be completed in all its parts, on penalty of exclusion. In particular, applicants must submit all of the following documents in PDF format:

  1. Curriculum vitae
  2. Motivation letter
  3. Copy of a valid ID or passport (for Non-EU citizens)
  4. Diploma Supplement
  5. Copy of the receipt of payment of € 30,00

Additionally, applicants may indicate name and contacts of maximum two referees, preferably chosen among those who have had a supervising role of the candidates. The referees will be directly contacted by Humanitas University and asked to complete a brief letter of reference.

Further details about the application procedure will be reported in the official call for applicants.


Admission Process

Admission to the PhD Programme is based on a public selection process consisting of:

  • the comparative evaluation of the titles and qualifications and
  • an interview carried out in English by a Committee composed of a maximum of seven members.

The aim of the selection process is to assess the knowledge, competencies and aptitude of the applicants for scientific research as well as their motivation for undertaking the PhD programme.

Prior to the interview, applicants may be asked to take a multiple choice test, aimed at assessing the applicant’s specific knowledge in the fields of the research projects of the Campus.

A good knowledge of English is required and will be tested during the interview.

Should reasons justify it, the test and interview can be conducted via video-conference. Those who intend to conduct the interview via video-conference or request special assistance should specify this on the application form.

Academic Board

PhD CoordinatorProfessor Maria Rescigno

Research Topics


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.