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Sapienza ERC Principal Investigators

ERC Programme funding supports principal investigators of excellence, of any age and nationality, engaged in borderline research in the 27 EU member states and associate countries. Calls for proposal presentation are published annually for each grant (Starting Grant, Consolidator Grant and Advanced Grant). Calls are evaluated on the basis of their scientific excellence.

Here are some of Sapienza’s Principal Investigators and their ERC Projects.

Prof. Paola Buzi. Progetto “PAThs - Tracking Papyrus and Parchment Paths: An Archaeological Atlas of Coptic Literature - Literary Texts in their Geographical Context”

Call Reference ERC-2015-AdG. Panel ERC: SH6. Project duration: from 01/11/2016 to 31/10/2021. Department of History Cultures Religions

Paola Buzi is a Professor of Egyptology and Coptic Civilization at the Sapienza Department of History, Cultures and Religions. Professor Buzi has published numerous on historical-literary issues as well as codicology and archaeology. In 2016, she obtained an ERC Starting Grant for Project PAThs.

PAThs aims to provide an in-depth diachronic understanding and effective representation of the geography of Coptic literary production and, in particular, of the corpus of literary writings, almost exclusively of religious content, produced in Egypt between the 3rd and the 11th centuries in the Coptic language.

PAThs takes an original and multi-disciplinary approach, combining philology, codicology, archaeology and digital humanities, in order to explore the process of production, copying, usage, dissemination and storage of Coptic works in relation to the concrete geographical contexts of origin of both the texts themselves and their related writing supports.

An exhaustive digital Atlas of Late Antique and Early Medieval Egypt – a versatile tool that will allow detailed and focused research and correlation of chronological, regional and thematic data – will illustrate the relationship between settlements, as revealed by archaeological investigations and the intellectual production revealed by manuscripts, and will provide a new comprehensive perspective on the diffusion and development of Coptic literature and manuscript culture.

For more information: PATHs


Prof. Aldo Schiavone. Progetto “SIR – Scriptores iuris Romani. Texts and Thought”

Call: ERC-2014-AdG. Panel ERC: SH6. Project duration: from 01/12/2015 to 30/11/2020


Professor Schiavone is one of the most distinguished historians of law, whose works have been translated into many languages. He has covered important academic and scientific roles and received numerous national and international awards. He is Principal Investigator for ERC Project “SIR” at the Department of Legal Studies of Sapienza University.

The goal the project intends to reach is to create the basis – in texts and interpretation - for a new approach to the remains of ancient Roman jurists. What it suggests is an up-to-date paradigm in considering the most important part of Roman law: the Justinian Digesta, and other Late antique juridical anthologies.

A change of perspective of great impact not only for the scholars in Antiquity, but also for an educated audience, interested in law and history - a historiographic model that will overturn current outlooks, making way for a new view, useful both for legal and historical studies, that shifts the focus from the institutes, the norms and the rules of Roman Law – in the misleading form of the Code - to the effective legal thinking of ancient authors, the iuris prudentes.

The project aims to reconstruct and produce an annotated edition, in several volumes, of the writings of the jurists handed down in the Digesta and in other anthologies, an undertaking that has never been attempted before.

We will proceed by author and by work. A collection, entitled Scriptores iuris Romani will gather the reconstructed texts.

For further information: Project SIR


Description: Irene Bozzoni: Project MUNCODD - Role of Long Non-Coding in Muscle Differentiation and Disease

Call ERC-2013-AdG. Panel ERC: LS1. Project Duration: 01/07/2014 to 30/06/2019. Department of Biology and Biotechnology.

Prof Irene Bozzoni is a member of the MIUR “Rita Levi-Montalcini” Commission for the “Young Researchers” Programme (and has also served as a member of the Experts Committee for Research Policies). Prof Bozzoni has published over 120 scientific papers and is the owner of 8 patents, including 3 that have been sold to industry.

Irene Bozzoni’s scientific field of interest is the study of RNA metabolism in eukaryotic cells and the role of post-transcriptional processes in the control of gene expression. Her research focuses on the study of gene expression and especially on post-transcriptional control processes. She has received several awards and prizes, including the Giovanna Jucci Award, the Tartufari Award from the “Accademia dei Lincei” and the Sapienza Research Award.

In 2013, Prof Bozzoni received an ERC Advanced Grant for Project MUNCODD. The main objective of the project is to study the molecular networks controlling normal muscle differentiation and to identify the alterations that take place in case of pathologies. The state of art in this field is thoroughly advanced: the genes (transcriptional factors and miRNAs) that regulate muscle development and differentiation are well known. To date, however, another recently discovered gene component still remains to be understood, that of non-coding RNA, which does not generate proteins. This is an innovative research field that will help us not only to understand the molecular processes underlying normal and abnormal processes of muscle development and differentiation, but also to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for neuromuscular and heart diseases.

For further information: Department of Biology and Biotechnology


Description: Fabio Sciarrino. Project “3D-QUEST - 3D-Quantum Integrated Optical Simulation”

Call ERC-2012-StG. Panel PE2. Project Duration: 01/08/2012 to 31/07/2017. Department of Physics

Prof Fabio Sciarrino is the author of over 100 publications in international journals, including 10 publications on Nature. He has received prestigious awards such as the Sapio Junior Award for Italian Research, the “Science in Physics” Medal, the President of the Republic Medal and the Sapienza Research Award. Prof Sciarrino also coordinates a number of European projects (3dquest, Picque e Quchip). His research activities, which are devoted to experimental quantum optics, quantum information and computation, and the foundations of quantum mechanics, have led to the development of new techniques in these fields.

In 2012, Prof Sciarrino won an ERC Starting Grant for Project 3D-QUEST. The aim of 3D-QUEST is to develop and implement quantum simulation by exploiting 3-dimensional integrated photonic circuits. Its main objective is to understand the quantum nature of information and learn how to process it with physical systems that operate by following quantum mechanical laws. Quantum simulation is a fundamental instrument to investigate phenomena related to quantum systems dynamics, such as quantum transport, particle localizations and energy transfer, quantum-to-classical transition, and even quantum improved computation, all tasks that are hard to simulate with classical approaches. In this context, integrated photonic circuits have a strong potential as hardware for developing quantum information processing via optical systems. 3D-QUEST is structured to demonstrate the potential of linear optics in implementing a computational potential far exceeding that of classical computers, a scenario that may be disclosed through the development of multi-photonic-multimode platforms.

Prof Sciarrino has also recently obtained an ERC Proof of Concept (3D-COUNT project).

For further information: 3D-QUEST


Description: Roberto Navigli Project “MultiJEDI - Multilingual Joint Word Sense Disambiguation

Call ERC-2010-StG. Panel PE6. Peoject Duration: 01/02/2011 to 31/01/2016. Department of Computer Science.

Roberto Navigli is an Associate Professor at the Sapienza Department of Computer Science whose research focuses on the elaboration of natural language. In 2007, Prof Navigli received the Marco Cadoli AI*IA National Award for the best doctoral thesis in artificial intelligence and the Marco Somalvico AI*IA Award in 2014 as the best young Italian researcher in artificial intelligence. and he is Co-PI of Project "Language Understanding cum Knowledge Yield" (LUcKY), which received the Google Focused Research Award.

In 2010, Prof Navigli obtained an ERC Starting Grant for Project MultiJEDI, which aims to bridge the gap in terms of intelligent systems capable of performing unified semantic processing of textual resources in a multitude of different languages. In multilingual processing, we currently mainly rely on aligned bilingual texts or limited-range multilingual sources to accomplish cross-linguistic disambiguation, an unrealistic requirement when working with an arbitrary number of language combinations. The project investigates new methods of multi-lingual word sense disambiguation (WSD) by devising and experimenting new graphic based algorithms to jointly disambiguate different languages. However, while WSD is typically performed in monolingual settings, in order to enable multilingual processing, the semantic connections between word senses in different languages need to be exploited. The project will have an impact not only on WSD research, but also on related areas such as Information Retrieval Machine Translation.

For further information: Prof Roberto Navigli


Description: Foto prof. CollettiniProf  Cristiano Collettini. Project “GLASS - Integrated Laboratories to Investigate the Mechanics of Aseismic vs. Seismic Faulting”

Call ERC-2010-StG. Panel PE10. Project Duration: 01/10/2010 to 30/09/2015. Department of Earth Science.

Cristiano Collettini is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Earth Science. His research encompasses fault mechanics and rheology, seismo-tectonics, earthquake mechanics and physical-chemical aspects of rock deformation. He has published over 60 articles (including 2 on Nature and 4 on Geology) and has received several awards, including the Ramsey Medal and the Shell Award.

In 2010, Prof Collettini received an ERC Starting Grant for Project GLASS, which introduces a novel approach for the integrated study of geological, seismological and laboratory data that can open new horizons to our understanding of seismic and aseismic faulting. Our understanding of the physical processes connected to earthquakes is limited by the impossibility of carrying out direct in-depth measurements where earthquakes initiate and propagate. The project aims to unravel the physical-chemical processes responsible for fault phenomena. In particular, GLASS will: (i) locate and analyse different types of transient seismic signals; (ii) study deformation processes in the outcrops of ancient faults; (iii) characterize the fluid flow and frictional properties of faults in rock deformation experiments; (iv) investigate earthquake nucleation and recurrence by developing numerical models that will be constrained by field and experimental data, and calibrated by seismological records. This will lead to unprecedented insight into the mechanics of earthquakes and the investigation of deformation processes from the crustal level to the Nano-scale and over a time window ranging from the seismic cycle to entire geological fault history.

For further information: Prof Collettini


Description: Foto Prof. parisiProf Giorgio Parisi. Project CriPheRaSy - Critical Phenomena in Random Systems

Call ERC-2009-AdG. Panel PE2. Project Duration: 01/01/2010 to 31/12/2014. Department of Physics

Prof Giorgio Parisi is one of the most influential theoretical physicists, not only in Italy, but in the international scientific panorama. Together with Carlo Rubbia, he is the only Italian physicist who is member of the American National Academy of Sciences. Prof Parisi’s studies, which range from the physics of elementary particles to statistical physics, have had a significant impact not only on physics, but also on other fields, such as anthropology, cognitive sciences, finance and social sciences. Prof Parisi has received numerous awards, including the Enrico Fermi Award, the Dannie Heineman Award, the Galileo Award and the prestigious Max Planck Medal.

In 2009, Prof Parisi received an ERC Advanced Grant for Project CriPheRaSy, which aims to develop a theoretical understanding of the most important large-scale phenomena in classical and quantum disorder systems. Disordered systems are in many ways remarkably peculiar (i.e., non-perturbative phenomena like Griffiths singularities) and the conventional approach often does not work, leaving many crucial issues unclear. The project aims to bridge this gap in the understanding of disordered systems, concentrating on some of the most important and studied systems, including: spin glasses, random field ferro-magnets, Anderson and Mott localization (with possible experimental applications for Bose-Einstein condensates and electron glasses), and surface growth in random media (KPZ and DLA models).

For further information: Prof Parisi


Description: Leonardo Guidoni. Project "MultiscaleChemBio - Electronic Structure of Chemical, Biochemical and Biophysical Systems Multiscale Approach with Electron Correlation 

Call ERC-2009-StG. Panel PE4. Project Duration: 01/10/2009 to 30/09/2015. Department of Physics (in collaboration with University of L’Aquila).

Prof Leonardo Guidoni is part of the CBBC Research Group on Computational Biophysics, Biochemistry and Chemistry, which involves students, post-docs and researchers from the University of L’Aquila and Sapienza University in Rome. Leonardo Guidoni’s scientific activity covers a wide range of fields in theoretical and computational chemistry, while his research focuses on the quantitative study of chemical and biochemical systems and, in particular, the development and innovative use of prime principle methods (Car-Parrinello and Monte Carlo Quantistic) in combination with classical molecular dynamics. His scientific achievements are demonstrated by the high impact of his wide-ranging publications on numerous international journals.

In 2009, Prof Guidoni obtained an ERC Starting Grant for Project MultiscaleChemBio, which aims to develop and apply innovative computational techniques to study molecular proprieties. Current computational methods often encounter serious issues in describing molecular systems with a strong electronic correlation, such as radicals, photoreceptors and near-half-filled transition metals. These systems, however, are fundamental to both basic and applied research in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The multi-scale techniques used in this project are based on the Quantum Monte Carlo Methods (QMC), which is very accurate and exploits the full potential of existing supercomputers. These techniques are used to address open multidisciplinary issues and, in particular, the study of molecular mechanisms on which natural and artificial photosynthesis is based.

For further information: Prof Guidoni


Description: Felice Cervone - Project “FUEL-PATH - Exploiting the Saccharification Potential of Pathogenic Microorganisms to Improve Biofuel Production from Plants”

Call ERC-2008-AdG.  Panel ERC LS9. Project Duration: 01/01/2009 to 30/06/2014. “Charles Darwin” Department of Biology and Biotechnology.

Prof Cervone is a Professor at the “Charles Darwin” Department of Biology and Biotechnology, President of the Italian Bio-Science Federation and former President of the International Society of Plant-Microbe Interactions. After studying Biochemistry and Enzymology, his activity focused on plant innate immunity and on the role of cell walls in resistance to microbes and in plant development. Prof Cervone is the author of numerous publications in prestigious journals, has been invited as speaker to national and international conferences and has received important national and international research grants.

In 2008, Prof Cervone received an ERC Advanced Grant for Project FUEL-PATH, which aims to unveil new knowledge on plant cell walls and innovative biotechnological solutions for biomass utilization. Mimicking a strategy successfully used by phyto-pathogenic microorganisms, which produce pectic enzymes to weaken the cellular wall components of the host, FUEL-PATH’s objective is to improve plant saccharification, a key process for biomass utilization, through microbial polygalacturonase or vegetal inhibitors of pectin methyl esterase.

For further information: Prof Cervone


Description: Foto prof. ScopignoProf Tullio Scopigno - Project “FEMTOSCOPY - Femtosecond Raman Spectroscopy: ultrafast transformations in physics, chemistry and biology”

Call ERC-StG-2007. Panel PE3. Project Duration: 01/09/2008 to 31/08/2013. Department of Physics

Tullio Scopigno, Professor at the Department of Physics, has prevalently conducted experimental research on the physics of matter. His scientific production is ample and has a significant scientific impact. It exhibits originality and scientific innovation, as, for example, his research on liquid metal microscopic dynamics, and on glass transition and relaxation processes. He has received numerous international awards and coordinates important national and international research projects, including Project FEMTOSCOPY.

Project FEMTOSCOPY was financed in 2008 by an ERC Starting Grant to address the study of ultrafast processes of physical, chemical and biological interest and develop an innovative laboratory. The project, in particular, aimed to develop a femtosecond broadband stimulated Raman setup to tackle ultra-fast chemical, physical and biological processes taking advantage of the top-notch structural sensitivity inherent in the Raman process. In fact, the use of a pump-probe stimulated scheme allows time-energy restrictions dictated by the uncertainty principle to be overcome and reach the femtosecond timescale with energy resolutions on the scale of a picosecond time domain in the Heisenberg sense.

For further information: Prof Scopigno