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Michele Parrinello

Senior Researcher - Principal Investigator
Professor of Computational Sciences

Research Line

Atomistic Simulations


IIT Central Research Labs Genova


USI Lugano, Via Giuseppe Buffi 13, 6900 Lugano, Switzerland
+41 (0)58 666 48 01


Michele Parrinello is currently Professor at ETH Zurich, and the Università della Svizzera Italiana Lugano, Switzerland. Together with Roberto Car he introduced the ab-initio molecular dynamics method, which he is still developing and applying. This method, which goes under the name of Car-Parrinello Method, represents the beginning of a new field and has dramatically influenced the field of electronic structure calculations for solids, liquids and molecules. He is also known for the Parrinello-Rahman method of molecular dynamics, which permits the study of crystalline phase transitions under constant pressure. Lately he has developed metadynamics, a new method for the study of rare events and the calculation of free energies. Parrinello’s scientific interests are strongly interdisciplinary and include the study of complex chemical reactions, materials science and protein dynamics. Professor Michele Parrinello was born in Messina, Italy, and obtained his degree in physics in 1968 from the University of Bologna, Italy. Prior to moving to Switzerland in 2001 he was Director at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany, and before that his positions included research staff member at the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, and full professor at SISSA, Trieste, Italy. He has been a Visiting Scientist at many institutions. For his research Parrinello has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2001 American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry, the 1995 Rahman prize of the American Physical Society, the 1990 Hewlett-Packard Europhysics prize, the 2009 Dirac Medal, the 2011 Marcel Benoist Prize and the 2017 Dreyfus Prize. He is a member of several academies among which the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy for Arts and Sciences, the British Royal Society and the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. He is author of more than 600 publications and his work is highly cited.


Molecular simulations, machine learning, and integrative structural biology.

Proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids interact, rearrange, and modify their shape while effecting their functions in every living cell. We develop computational methods, including advanced molecular simulations and machine learning approaches, with the aim of understanding the complex structure-dynamics-function interplay in biomolecules. We also apply methods to integrate computer simulations and experimental data to tackle problems for which experiment or computation alone do not provide an answer. The final goal of our research is to provide powerful, robust, and predictive computational tools to advance our understanding of biological processes, to rationally design drugs and to gain mechanistic insights into disease-causing genetic mutations.

Selected Publications


Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize (with R. Car), European Physical Society (1990) Boys-Rahman Prize, Royal Society of Chemistry, UK (1994) Rahman Prize (with R. Car), American Physical Society (1995) Award in Theoretical Chemistry, American Chemical Society (2001) Schroedinger Medal of the World Association of Theoretically Oriented Chemists (2005) Triennial Somaini Physics Prize, Italian Physical Society (2006) Gutenberg Lecture Award, University of Mainz, Germany (2008) FOMMS Medal Award, University of Michigan, USA (2009) Sidney Fernbach Award (with R. Car), IEEE Computer Society, USA (2009) Dirac Medal (with R. Car), ICTP Trieste, Italy (2009) Berni J. Alder CECAM Prize (with R. Car), CECAM, Switzerland (2010) Marcel Benoist Prize, Marcel Benoist Stiftung, Federal Dept. of Home Affairs, Switzerland (2011) Enrico Fermi Prize, Italian Physical Society, Italy (2012) Hirschfelder Prize, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA (2012) Grande Ufficiale della Repubblica Italiana (2012) The Dreyfus Prize in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, New York, USA (2017) ISQBP President’s Award, The International Society of Quantum Biology and Pharmacology, Barcelona, Spain (2018) Ertl Lecture Award, Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany (2018)


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I numeri di IIT

L’Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) è una fondazione di diritto privato - cfr. determinazione Corte dei Conti 23/2015 “IIT è una fondazione da inquadrare fra gli organismi di diritto pubblico con la scelta di un modello di organizzazione di diritto privato per rispondere all’esigenza di assicurare procedure più snelle nella selezione non solo nell’ambito nazionale dei collaboratori, scienziati e ricercatori ”.

IIT è sotto la vigilanza del Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca e del Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze ed è stato istituito con la Legge 326/2003. La Fondazione ha l'obiettivo di promuovere l'eccellenza nella ricerca di base e in quella applicata e di favorire lo sviluppo del sistema economico nazionale. La costruzione dei laboratori iniziata nel 2006 si è conclusa nel 2009.

Lo staff complessivo di IIT conta circa 1440 persone. L’area scientifica è rappresentata da circa l’85% del personale. Il 45% dei ricercatori proviene dall’estero: di questi, il 29% è costituito da stranieri provenienti da oltre 50 Paesi e il 16% da italiani rientrati. Oggi il personale scientifico è composto da circa 60 principal investigators, circa 110 ricercatori e tecnologi di staff, circa 350 post doc, circa 500 studenti di dottorato e borsisti, circa 130 tecnici. Oltre 330 posti su 1400 creati su fondi esterni. Età media 34 anni. 41% donne / 59 % uomini.

Nel 2015 IIT ha ricevuto finanziamenti pubblici per circa 96 milioni di euro (80% del budget), conseguendo fondi esterni per 22 milioni di euro (20% budget) provenienti da 18 progetti europei17 finanziamenti da istituzioni nazionali e internazionali, circa 60 progetti industriali

La produzione di IIT ad oggi vanta circa 6990 pubblicazioni, oltre 130 finanziamenti Europei e 11 ERC, più di 350 domande di brevetto attive, oltre 12 start up costituite e altrettante in fase di lancio. Dal 2009 l’attività scientifica è stata ulteriormente rafforzata con la creazione di dieci centri di ricerca nel territorio nazionale (a Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) e internazionale (MIT ed Harvard negli USA) che, unitamente al Laboratorio Centrale di Genova, sviluppano i programmi di ricerca del piano scientifico 2015-2017.

IIT: the numbers

Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) is a public research institute that adopts the organizational model of a private law foundation. IIT is overseen by Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca and Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze (the Italian Ministries of Education, Economy and Finance).  The Institute was set up according to Italian law 326/2003 with the objective of promoting excellence in basic and applied research andfostering Italy’s economic development. Construction of the Laboratories started in 2006 and finished in 2009.

IIT has an overall staff of about 1,440 people. The scientific staff covers about 85% of the total. Out of 45% of researchers coming from abroad 29% are foreigners coming from more than 50 countries and 16% are returned Italians. The scientific staff currently consists of approximately 60 Principal Investigators110 researchers and technologists350 post-docs and 500 PhD students and grant holders and 130 technicians. External funding has allowed the creation of more than 330 positions . The average age is 34 and the gender balance proportion  is 41% female against 59% male.

In 2015 IIT received 96 million euros in public funding (accounting for 80% of its budget) and obtained 22 million euros in external funding (accounting for 20% of its budget). External funding comes from 18 European Projects, other 17 national and international competitive projects and approximately 60 industrial projects.

So far IIT accounts for: about 6990 publications, more than 130 European grants and 11 ERC grants, more than 350 patents or patent applications12 up start-ups and as many  which are about to be launched. The Institute’s scientific activity has been further strengthened since 2009 with the establishment of 11 research nodes throughout Italy (Torino, Milano, Trento, Parma, Roma, Pisa, Napoli, Lecce, Ferrara) and abroad (MIT and Harvard University, USA), which, along with the Genoa-based Central Lab, implement the research programs included in the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan.