The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT ”la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spanish or Portuguese territory. Sponsored by ”la Caixa” Foundation, it is aimed at supporting the best scientific talent and fostering innovative and high-quality research in Spain and Portugal by recruiting outstanding international students and offering them an attractive and competitive environment for conducting research of excellence.


The Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona is a research centre accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence María de Maeztu in 2020, the perfect place to carry out your PhD project through an INPhINIT Incoming fellowship.


Research Project:

This PhD project aims at building quantum machine learning algorithms to study the structure of atomic nuclei and to describe their interaction with dark matter particles. The nature of dark matter is one of the main open puzzles in modern physics. While all evidence for dark matter relies on astrophysical observations, several international collaborations aim to detect dark matter particles in laboratories by measuring their scattering off atomic nuclei. Experimental analyses demand a complete modelling of how dark matter interacts with nuclei. The outcome of this project is precisely to simulate nuclei using quantum machine learning techniques and consistently incorporate nucleus-dark-matter interactions in the model. The outcomes will be key to unveil the nature of dark matter once it is detected. 


The project will be hosted by the Hadronic, Nuclear and Atomic Group (HadNucAtUB) at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences at the University of Barcelona (ICC-UB). The Group's expertise covers many-body techniques to describe strongly interacting nuclear, hadron and atomic quantum systems. In this project, you will work alongside Drs Arnau Rios and Javier Menéndez. Dr Rios has pioneered the use of machine learning techniques to solve quantum many-body nuclei, and Dr Menéndez is one of the world leaders in the study dark matter interactions with nuclei. The HadNucAtUB Group has a long tradition of PhD supervision; hosts an active seminar program, and PhD candidates at ICCUB have access to a series of engaging activities including conferences, colloquia and outreach events.  This project involves research at the cutting edge of several fields, including nuclear, particle physics and astrophysics. ICCUB is unique in that it actively combines all these fields in a single institute.

Job position description

You will join the HadNucAtUB group at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences at the University of Barcelona (ICCUB) to develop innovative theoretical methods at the frontier of current research. This will allow you to describe the interaction of one of the most promising candidates for dark matter particles, WIMPs, with atomic nuclei. You will calculate this from first principles, based on the fundamental theory of the strong interaction, quantum chromodynamics (QCD), and on the interaction of WIMPs with the fundamental Standard Model fields, quarks and gluons. This has been challenging in the past due to the difficulty to solve QCD at low energies, the complexity of strongly correlated atomic nuclei, and because the interactions of dark matter with quarks and gluons are not known. At ICCUB, we are in a unique position to tackle these challenges. You will use techniques, including effective field theory, to describe nuclear interactions and also to organize consistently the possible interactions of dark matter particles with nucleons; you will learn quantum many-body theory, to describe atomic nuclei; and finally, you will become familiar with high-performance computing, to generate different sets of simulations. All of these will be used as input in a machine learning environment that will provide a direct connection between the nucleon-nucleon interaction, the coupling of dark matter particles with nucleons, and the nuclear responses expected to be observed at world leading experiments.


This PhD project will create a new state-of-the-art model to predict the nuclear response observed at direct dark matter detection searches, starting from the most basic information on nuclear interactions. Combined with an eventual measurement, the results will be used to pin down the nature of dark matter. All in all, the project will provide candidates with a unique blend expertise at the interface between nuclear science, astroparticle physics and artificial intelligence techniques.


More information:

Group leader 

Dr. Arnau Rios Huguet 

Research product / Research group 

Arnau Rios' personal website

Website for the Institute of Cosmos Sciences-UB

Hadronic, Nuclear and Atomic Physics Group Website at ICC

twitter feed of the ICCUB

twitter feed of the Hadronic, Nuclear and Atomic Physics group at ICCUB

twitter feed of Dr Arnau Rios Huguet




Employment conditions 

The maximum total payment amount will be €122,592, as broken down below: 

- An annual payment of €35,800 to the institution to cover the Fellow’s contract, who will receive a gross annual income around €28.000. This amount might vary if there are modifications in the legal framework.


- €3,500 per year, as an additional amount for conferences, courses, research stays, consumables, equipment, charges for the use of intellectual property, etc. 

The ”la Caixa” Foundation will award a prize of €7,500 (subject to taxes), which will be paid to the  fellows who deposit their thesis within 6 months after the third year of their fellowship has ended.

  • The tuition fees to the official doctoral programme 


In addition to financial support, the fellowship includes a training programme on transversal skills, which has been specially designed by leading international institutions in the sector. 


For more information on the employment conditions, please refer to this document.


Working at the Institute of Cosmos Sciences

The Institute of Cosmos Sciences is a research institute of the University of Barcelona. It is an interdisciplinary centre dedicated to fundamental research in the fields of cosmology, astrophysics, and particle physics. In addition, the institute has a strong technology program through its participation in international collaborations in observational astronomy and experimental particle physics.


Moreover, the ICCUB participates in many key international scientific consortia and projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider, the Gaia astrometric space mission, the MAGIC / CTA high-energy astrophysics telescopes, and the Virgo gravitational wave detector, among others. Additional information about the Institute and the University of Barcelona can be found here.


You will be encouraged to contribute and interact with other researchers in the vibrant and international research environment as well as to participate in our outreach initiatives, more information at serviAstro and serviParticules.


As part of the University of Barcelona, the ICCUB is a recipient of the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research (HRS4R) Award, which recognises, among other achievements, respect for equal opportunities and the capacity to attract talent in a positive working environment that promotes the pursuit of successful research careers. The ICCUB respects the principles of open, transparent, merit-based selection. We strongly encourage women and underrepresented minorities in physical sciences to apply. For additional information please see the Diversity, equity and inclusion Commission.


The ICCUB is located in Barcelona, considered the 8th World's Best Cities 2021: one with near-perfect weather year-round, miles and miles of beaches, iconic parks, striking architecture and colourful neighbourhoods that march to their own beat—artistic, sophisticated, bohemian. Moreover, it is a pole of attraction for the technology sector, a top choice to establish a company in this sector, and it hosts some of the world's major technological events, such as the Mobile World Congress and the Smart City Expo. In addition, Barcelona and its metropolitan area is a leading destination on the map of global technological ecosystems and has infrastructures such as science parks, universities and the 22@ district.



In order to be accepted, candidates must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Experience: At the call deadline, applicants must be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree or be in a position to apply for one. 
  • Studies pursued: Applicants must hold a higher education degree that makes them eligible to enroll in a doctoral programme before starting at their host institutions.

The host university will verify, upon starting the admission process to the doctoral programme, that the studies taken up by the selected candidates make them eligible to enroll in an official doctoral programme in accordance with the regulations in force in Spain or Portugal. Should they be found not eligible after verification, the fellowship will be withdrawn. 

Under no circumstances may candidates have previously enrolled in the same doctoral studies for which they are applying for the fellowship.


  • Geographic mobility: Candidates must not have resided or have carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Spain for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the call deadline. Short stays, such as holidays, done in a country other than their country of usual residence (where they carried out their main activity), will be considered as time spent in their country of usual residence.
  • Level of English: Candidates must have a demonstrable level of English (B2 or higher).

For more information on the candidates requirements, please refer to this document.


Application Procedure

All applications must be submitted online through the following link in English. For more information on the application procedure, please refer to this document.

Inquiries about the application submission can be directed to


Deadline: Please submit your applications by January 25th 2023 at 2pm. 


Selection process:

The process is comprised of three phases:

  • Eligibility screening: all applications received are reviewed to check the accomplishment of the eligibility criteria published in the rules for participation
  • Remote evaluation (shortlisting): an evaluation panel will review the applications and those that receive the highest scores will pass to the next stage.
  • Personal interviews: shortlisted candidates are invited to a remotely interview before a multidisciplinary committee on May 23, 35 and 25 2023.

The rating criteria that govern the selection process can be found in the Evaluation of applications section of the ”la Caixa” Fellowship Programme website.

For more information on the selection process, please refer to this document.




Funding: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No713673.

The co-funded part of the programme runs from 01/10/2016 to 30/09/2021 and finances the researchers recruited under Call 2017 and 2018.