ICTP/IAEA Sandwich Training Education Programme

PhD fellowship opportunities in physics and mathematics

Through its Sandwich Training Educational Programme (STEP), ICTP and its UN partner, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), offer fellowships to PhD students from developing countries in the fields of physics and mathematics.

STEP's goal is to strengthen the scientific capability of young scientists and researchers from developing countries to better contribute and serve the scientific, technical, and economic development of their home countries. STEP fellowships enrich their doctoral studies by giving students access to ICTP's and the IAEA's international community and world-class research and training facilities.

With a STEP fellowship, PhD students study at their home universities but have the financial support to visit ICTP or a collaborating institute for a three- to six-month stay each year for up to three successive years. Fellows work on their PhD theses with their advisors at their home institutes and co-advisors at the hosting institutes. Their PhD is awarded at their home institutes.

Fellowships are awarded on the merit of a thesis project proposed by students and their home country advisors. The STEP fellow is assigned to an appropriate host institute with a designated co-advisor.

Training and/or research work can take place in one of the following institutions located in the Trieste geographical area:

Training and/or research can also take place at the IAEA laboratories at Seibersdorf, Vienna, and the IAEA Marine Laboratory in Monaco.

Field of research

Atomic and nuclear physics

Nuclear, isotope and laser techniques applied to: human health, agriculture, biotechnology and bio-photonics, water resources and environmental studies

Synchrotron radiation and applications

Medical radiation physics

Condensed Matter Physics

Earth System Physics


Science, Technology, and Innovation

Who can apply

Applications are welcome from students in developing countries who are enrolled in a PhD course at their home university. PhD students who are supervised by an ICTP Associate are encouraged to apply.

The programme aims at an equitable participation of fellows, and therefore especially welcomes applications from woman scientists. Priority will be given to young researchers.


The STEP fellowship includes a stipend of EU 1,400 per month during each stay at the host institute as well as the costs of travel and medical insurance.

It is understood that, during all other periods not covered by the STEP fellowship, i.e. when at the home institute, all support needed for continuing and finishing the fellow’s research work is provided by other funding sources.

STEP fellowships are assigned by the merit of the thesis proposed by the student and the home country advisor, as decided by the STEP selection committee. Once a STEP fellow is selected, ICTP will assign the fellow to the appropriate host institute with a designated co-advisor. The advisors from both the home and the host institutes will jointly supervise the fellow's research. The two advisors are expected to coordinate the research and training work of the fellow, which is concluded when the fellow student obtains the PhD at his/her home institute.

The fellowships are awarded for a period of at least three months to be spent by the fellows at host institutes during the first year. Pending the approval of the host institute and the two supervisors, the fellowship is renewable for up to two additional successive years.

How to apply

Applicants should complete the online form (Part I). Once this form is submitted with also the contact details (email) of the applicant's PhD supervisor at the home institute, the home supervisor will receive a link to fill the second part of the application (Part II). Only complete applications with both online forms (i.e., Part I & Part II) submitted by the deadline will be considered.

Applications and supporting documentation are accepted during the application window only via the ICTP online application system. Applications, supporting documents and additional information arriving by other means (email or regular post) will not be considered.

The online application form requires the following information:

PART I - Candidate's application

The online application comprises two parts where information must be entered:

  1. Student's Profile - The first part is a profile of the applicant themselves. Once completed, it is saved (but may be updated whenever needed) and is thus available for all applications to ICTP. 
  2. Student's Application - Once the profile is completed the application for a STEP fellowship will become available. Students will be asked to:
  • provide the title of their PhD project (this could also be a thesis title);
  • describe the research proposal or training programme to be supported by this fellowship (please note that the area of research must be of relevance to the list of sub fields as in the announcement of this programme): this includes a summary of the research activity/project to be supported by this fellowship (one page minimum), reference to previous work/publications relevant to this project done by the applicants or his/her PhD supervisor and a time outline of the proposal including specific objectives to be achieved and dates;
  • list any possible previous participation in IAEA activities;
  • upload a copy of their English proficiency certificate in pdf format (this can be any certificate or document, which gives proof of their ability to follow advanced level courses, to study and to write scientific articles in the English language);
  • upload any other documentation (strongly recommended) to support their application, including suggestions for co-supervisor/host Institution(s) or a support letter from a potential co-supervisor.

Once the application is submitted, students will be asked to send the invitation to their PhD supervisor at their home institute. Their supervisor will receive an invitation email with a link to fill the second part of the application (Part II) along with the instructions on how to proceed with the application - including the deadline for the application. Applications without the Supervisor's part won't be considered.

Note that logging out of the system saves whatever information has been entered (after clicking on the Save button). While it is possible to make changes or additions at any time to the profile, the application form itself is closed immediately after the deadline and can be no longer modified (it is however visible as a pdf file on your "Open applications" page).

PART II - Home Supervisor's part

This part comprises two sections where information must be entered:

  1. Home Supervisor's Profile - The first section is a profile of the home supervisors themselves. Once completed, it is saved (but may be updated whenever needed) and is thus available for all applications to ICTP.
  2. Home Supervisor's supporting information- Once the profile is completed the part regarding the student (Fellow)'s application becomes available. The supervisors will be asked to:
  • explain how the experience gained by the Fellow's participation in the STEP fellowship will directly benefit scientific research at their Institute;
  • provide specific information regarding potential European collaborators and institutes with expertise relevant to the Fellow's research project;
  • give a justification of the applicant´s research plan;
  • provide a list of recent publications on  ongoing research work;
  • provide the titles of the Ph.D. theses already supervised in the last 5 years;
  • upload a recommendation letter for the applicant's participation in the programme.

ICTP-IAEA Sandwich Training Educational Programme
The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics
Strada Costiera, 11
I-34151 Trieste, Italy

Ms. Sandra Alimanovic
LB Room A/bis
Telephone: +39 040 22 40 362
Telefax: +39 040 22 40 388

Sandwich Programme
PhD student
for Developing countries
ICTP; or collaborating institute
From 1 to 3 years; stay of 3 to 6 months per year.
31 Mar 2023
ICTP | International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)