Our Students

ICFO supports a diverse and highly international student population. More than 70% of our PhD students come from outside Spain, drawn from more than 40 countries.

PhD students are selected based on merit and potential, previous experience, personal achievements and background for the position. We aim to attract exceptional researchers, motivated to work amongst the top scientists in their fields. Less than 10% of eligible candidates are eventually admitted to ICFO.

ICFO has graduated over 100 PhD students, who have gone on to careers in academia and industry throughout the world. Today they can be found leading research groups in Europe, the USA, India, China and South America, working in multinational companies in Germany, France and the USA, starting out as postdocs at universities such as Harvard and Cambridge, or launching startups anywhere from Silicon Valley to Barcelona.

The PhD experience at ICFO is a joint venture of scientific challenges, with constant innovative ideas in photonics, and also a continuous opportunity to interact with your colleges through a complete agenda of extra activities.  At ICFO, it is expected from the PhD students to have an outstanding scientific production, which comes along with hard work but at the end the satisfaction of important achievements that will definitively push your career.

Paola Mantilla Pérez
Paola Mantilla PérezPhD Student at ICFO

I loved my time at ICFO. It felt like a startup, but in academia. Hard work and high standards, Independence and excitement, great people and great friendships.

Daan Brinks
Daan BrinksPostdoc, Harvard University

ICFO is not just an institute with excellent facilities and world-leading research but makes you feel part of a community. There are so many different activities going on, both related to research such as talks, workshops, conferences, lectures, colloquiums or tutorials and also related to everyday life: sports groups, outreach activities, language courses, or one-day trips. You would not get bored or frustrated here!

Sandra de Vega Esteban
Sandra de Vega EstebanPhD Student at ICFO

My PhD at ICFO was not just my entrance door to world leading research, but also a place to meet great friends who then went on to take leading academic or industrial positions worldwide.

Giorgio Volpe
Giorgio VolpeLecturer (Assistant Professor), University College London

I enjoyed ICFO’s dynamics very much, constantly reinventing itself and very open to new ideas. If you have ambition and are willing to work for it, you will get all the support you need.

Jan Gieseler
Jan GieselerPostdoc, Harvard University

Doing my PhD studies at ICFO has turned out to be an excellent choice:  I’ve found a great environment, active collaborations, and freedom to pursue my own ideas.

Martí Perarnau
Martí PerarnauPhD Student at ICFO

Looking back, ICFO was not a temporary place for me. It was a family that will stay with me.

Parisa Farzam
Parisa FarzamResearch Fellow, Harvard University

Doing my PhD at ICFO was one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I receive an education on the highest level, I also made many close friends who became a second family.

Philipp Hauke
Philipp HaukePostdoc, University of Innsbruck

One of the things I like from doing my PhD at ICFO is that, having so many different experts in optics, you can always find someone with a good advice to solve the problems that arise when building new experiments.

Pau Mestres
Pau MestresPhD Student at ICFO

Doing my PhD at ICFO was, without any doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. You may ask me why; well, picture yourself working with the nicest and brightest people in the world, in a place with countless scientific resources, where the only thing you need to worry about is how to exploit your skills to create new technologies. That is ICFO, a place that prepares you to work anywhere in the world.

Roberto de J. León-Montiel
Roberto de J. León-MontielPostdoctoral Research Fellow, University of California San Diego

Working at ICFO has been a great personal and professional experience so far. Scientifically, you get access to the perfect environment to pursue frontier research, as well as the network to collaborate with top international partners (both from academia and industry). Personally, you get the opportunity to work in a multi-cultural environment and to travel worldwide.

Carlos Abellán Sánchez
Carlos Abellán SánchezPhD Student at ICFO

I highly appreciate and value my experience and achievements during my PhD at ICFO, which helped greatly in developing my future career.

Osamu Takayama
Osamu TakayamaPostdoc, Technical University of Denmark

ICFO PhD Program

Our PhD program is designed to prepare PhD students for leadership in the academic and the industrial worlds. ICFO offers a focused 4-½ year PhD program in partnership with the Universitat Politènica de Catalunya, with an emphasis on intensive research-based training. From the start PhD students are integrated into one of ICFO’s 24 Research Groups under the supervision of ICFO’s Group Leaders to begin their research projects, and participate in ICFO+: ICFO’s Training and Development Program.

Benefits of a PhD at ICFO

  • access to cutting-edge experimental infrastructures and research facilities
  • participation in scientific lectures, specialized courses and seminars
  • wide-ranging opportunities for personal and professional development
  • tailor-made training programs
  • active mentoring by experienced and world-class researchers
  • outstanding support from Human Resources and Education
  • lively student community, ICONS, an active social program and language training
  • participation in extensive outreach program