Fellow awarded European Research Council grant

Wednesday 29 November 2023


A Fellow of St Catharine’s has been awarded a prestigious consolidator grant by the European Research Council (ERC). Professor Chiara Ciccarelli (2018), Director of Studies in Physics and Astrophysics at St Catharine's, has received a €2.1 million grant to explore new ultra-energy-efficient data storage solutions using magnets. 

Professor Ciccarelli, who is also Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the Department of Physics, said: 

“Our group studies magnets and seeks ways to write and read their magnetic state as fast and as energy-efficiently as possible. This is because magnets remain the best way, that we know of, to store digital data for a long time.

“Our ERC project, PICaSSO, explores new ways to ‘write’ magnets at low temperature by interfacing them with superconductors. Although this research is still at an early stage, it would allow the development of ultra-energy-efficient cryogenic memories, a necessary requirement for the realistic scaling of quantum computers.

“I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded a consolidator grant. It is an incredible opportunity to do great science and an important recognition of the work of my amazing team.”

Professor Chiara Ciccarelli
Professor Chiara Ciccarelli

Funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe programme, the consolidator grant is designed to support excellent scientists and scholars at the career stage where they may still be consolidating their own independent research teams to pursue their most promising scientific ideas. 

Sir John Benger (1979, English), Master of St Catharine’s, welcomed the news and added:

“I am certain that the St Catharine’s community will join me in congratulating Professor Ciccarelli on her ERC consolidator grant. Having only recently celebrated the award of a professorship by the University of Cambridge, this prestigious grant underscores the importance of her cutting-edge research.”

This year, the ERC received 2,130 applications and decided to award grants to 308 researchers, totalling €627 million. Scientists at UK institutions have won the second greatest number of grants in Europe, of whom four are at the University of Cambridge. Across Europe, the number of women receiving grants has increased for the third year running.

Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, announced the 2023 grants and commented:

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the brilliant researchers who have been selected for ERC Consolidator Grants. I'm especially thrilled to note the significant increase in the representation of women among the winners for the third consecutive year in this prestigious grant competition. This positive trend not only reflects the outstanding contributions of women researchers but also highlights the strides we are making towards a more inclusive and diverse scientific community.”