With over 1000 alumni hailing from 84 countries, including 28 from the least developed nations, and with more than 75% of its graduates either holding or actively pursuing PhDs, ICTP's Postgraduate Diploma Programme stands as one of the centre’s flagship initiatives. As a new academic year begins, a fresh cohort of students has converged upon ICTP in Trieste, embarking on a journey that promises to enrich their academic careers.
The programme is designed to nurture young talented graduates in physics, mathematics, or related fields for doctoral studies. This year-long academic journey serves as a bridge for students from developing countries, preparing them for admission to doctoral programmes in esteemed universities worldwide. Drawing students from every corner of the globe, it fosters an environment steeped in international diversity and multiculturalism.
Launched in 1991, the Postgraduate Diploma Programme has grown and evolved over the years. Initially, it offered courses related to only two of ICTP's research sections, but it has since expanded into five distinct fields: High Energy, Cosmology, and Astroparticle Physics (HECAP); Condensed Matter and Statistical Physics (CMSP); Earth System Physics (ESP); Mathematics (MATH); and Quantitative Life Sciences (QLS). This expansion reflects ICTP’s dedication to grow and evolve, but more importantly, its commitment to providing a diverse range of educational opportunities to students, aiming to help them discover the areas of study that best suit their interests.
Many of today's cutting-edge research requires an interdisciplinary approach. The Diploma Programme is keen to follow that trend to prepare its graduates for wide-ranging possibilities. Mikhail Kiselev, the Coordinator of the Postgraduate Diploma Programme and Head of ICTP Postgraduate Unit, sheds light on their future plans: “We are actively working on interconnecting diploma programs across different sections, with the goal of creating collaborative courses. For instance, we’ve already initiated joint courses between the Condensed Matter and Earth System Physics sections, including courses like numerical methods. However, our aspiration is to expand these collaborations.”
Diploma Programme: More than just Academics
When Diploma students first arrive at ICTP, they often feel some apprehension, as they must confront new challenges and may be far from home, perhaps for the first time. This adjustment is not always easy. Yet, here at ICTP, they have the opportunity to meet fellow students from the programme, hailing from different countries, cultures, and religions, all grappling with similar challenges. They quickly learn that despite the vast differences between nations, they share much in common.
According to former ICTP staff member Concetta Mosca, who was the Diploma Programme's first secretary back when it launched in 1991, “This is another fundamental goal of the programme: to help students realize that the world shares similarities everywhere." As a result, they form lasting friendships that endure through the years, transcending borders and cultures. Said recent Diploma graduate Deborah Osei-Tutu, "I really like the multicultural community here. When I think about this, I really appreciate the fact science is universal. It doesn't depend on your background, race or colour; just like-minded people coming together to think and work."
Kiselev, echoing ICTP founder Abdus Salam, emphasizes that science is humanity’s heritage. He encourages current and prospective students to embrace the opportunity offered by ICTP. “My advice to future students is, first of all, to see what’s going on at ICTP and to keep an open mind when considering applying for the programme," he says, adding, "Don’t be deterred by thoughts that your current level may not be sufficient. The Diploma Programme is designed to accommodate students from various backgrounds and levels of expertise. ICTP is a truly unique institution where individuals from diverse countries around the globe converge. Here, they come together for a year, attend classes, form friendships, and grow in knowledge. So, be open-minded, and remember, some dreams do become a reality.”