Sant'Anna School for Advanced Studies

ESR 6 – Finite element models for dynamical actuation of Liquid Crystal sheets


Sant’Anna School for Advanced Studies is one of the five Italian special statute public university institutions, holding a unique position within the Italian higher education system, and promoting excellence in research and education in applied sciences. Scientific research is carried out in six research institutes, covering a broad range of subjects in engineering, life, and social sciences.

The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna is engaged in advanced education, research and innovation in the area of biorobotics. Internationally recognized fundamental and industrial research are carried out at the institute. The PhD in BioRobotics is among the largest doctoral schools worldwide in robotics and biomedical engineering, with 100+ PhD students enrolled. Doctoral research projects are carried out in very well equipped, state-of-the-art laboratories, in such fields as prosthetic, surgical, therapeutic and healthcare robotics, bioengineering, biomimetics, micro-and nano-technology, soft robotics.


Pisa, a city of over 200,000 residents in its metropolitan area, is located in Tuscany, central Italy, close to other historical and monumental cities like Lucca, Florence, Siena as well as country-side, beaches and mountains. Pisa is not only a welcoming and liveable city, visited by tourists for its natural beauty and its monuments, but also an ideal city for students. The Pisa University System, comprising the University of Pisa, the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and the Scuola Normale Superiore, is acknowledged to be one of the most prestigious centres of academic studies and research in Europe, and it promotes a unique model of multidisciplinary research and education.



Antonio DeSimone (SSSA)



Alessandro Lucantonio (SSSA)

Contact email address of the supervisor:

Research project

Advanced 3D printing techniques allow to fabricate liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs) sheets that undergo programmed, transient shape changes upon activation using diverse external stimuli (light, electro-magnetic fields). 4D printing, i.e., design and control of devices based on actuation of 3D-printed LCEs sheets, requires reliable models for the time-dependent response of these materials.

The ESR project targets the development of multi-physics models for LCEs, the derivation of reduced models for thin sheets (membranes, plates, shells), and their implementation in numerical codes based on the Finite Element Method.

The selected ESR will be hired by SSSA and will develop her/his activity at The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna (Pisa, Italy), performing secondments at EXACT Lab (Trieste, Italy), at Technical University of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart (Germany).

PhD programme – University: PhD in BioRobotics – Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna


Candidate’s profile: 

Required MSc degree in Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, or Materials Science.

English level: If English is not the candidate´s mother language a valid English certificate (at least B1) would be needed.


Desired skills:

We seek talented and motivated candidates with a strong background in the mechanics and physics of solids or fluids, preferably having proven experience in computational mechanics. The candidate should have a strong motivation to carry out interdisciplinary research and interest in theoretical and computational work, teamwork capacity and critical thinking.


Specific requirements for the enrolment in the PhD Programme: 

Official enrolment in the PhD program will take place on October 1, 2021. The selection procedure must be completed before this date.