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September 19, 2023

New opportunities for industrial PhDs in partnership with ESA to work on game-changing Earth Observation topics

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As part of the Italian National PhD in Earth Observation scheme, coordinated by Sapienza University of Rome, ESA is supporting 10 industrial research fellowships in trailblazing areas such as data fusion, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Driven by the need to nurture new talent in Italy to create the Earth observation experts of tomorrow, the PhDs will involve the analysis and use of Earth observation data, and in particular Italian capabilities such as the IRIDE constellation, across a variety of applications, ranging from crisis management to climate change and agriculture. Each fellowship will include a six-month placement within Φ-lab at ESA’s ESRIN establishment near Rome.

Earth observation (EO) is key to monitoring our planet and guiding our society towards a more sustainable future. While the demand for space-based information to address global challenges such as climate change is rapidly growing, it is increasingly difficult to find the right talent for combining the necessary cross-disciplinary skills, including the understanding of physics, geoinformation processing, AI and computer science. EO scientists need to be able to draw on these fields in order to turn Big Data into new, sound scientific knowledge and information services.

In recognition of the importance of EO and the need to develop a skilled workforce to make the most of existing and upcoming Italian EO capabilities, the Italian University and Research Ministry (MUR) has recently supported the creation of the National PhD in Earth Observation (DNOT). DNOT aims to provide training and integrated skills for young researchers in EO, geomatics and geoinformation in response to the need to train professionals with transverse and integrated capabilities in EO and computer science, along with specific application, administrative and legal skills.

Tomorrow’s EO workforce will need to enhance the already existing services and design new ones, in close collaboration with actual and potential users of EO data. To this end, DNOT is fully integrated with the Copernicus Academy and offers a scheme to enhance knowledge through real hands-on experience with selected industrial partners.

ESA is one such partner, and together with the DNOT network has set up fellowships for 10 PhD researchers. The fellowships will be based at various universities across Italy, comprising Sapienza University of Rome, IUSS di Pavia, Università di Bologna, Università di Firenze, Università di Napoli Federico II, Università di Padova and Università di Pavia. The aim is to address a variety of EO applications ranging from data fusion to edge computing and new data products to support the understanding and better management of natural disasters, climate change, water cycles, landscape evolution and farming. A particular focus will be on using the upcoming IRIDE constellation to create new synergistic products with existing European EO assets such as Copernicus.

The cohort of researchers will also have the opportunity to spend six months at ESA Φ-lab over the course of their PhD, in order to bring new experiences and technologies like AI into the heart of their research. Φ-lab is a powerful enabler of innovation and groundbreaking research in Earth observation, and its areas of interest marry well with the topics chosen for these 10 positions.

Applications are encouraged from graduates in mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, geosciences, engineering and computer science who are keen to help shape the future of Earth observation. Details can be found on the fellowship call webpage (reference D – DM117).

To know more: Φ-lab, DNOT

Photo courtesy of ESA/NASA