ESO Engineering and Technology Research Fellowships / Studentships

ESO Engineering and Technology Research

Post-doctoral Fellowships, PhD Studentships,
Master Internships


The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere has as its primary mission to build and operate state-of-the-art facilities for the advancement of astronomical research.  A strong Research & Development (R&D) programme is therefore at the core of ESO's activities.




What are we looking for?

  • Dynamic young individuals ready to take an active part in the ESO R&D projects with a good deal of team spirit, curiosity and eagerness to learn.
  • Depending on the availability of the positions, we are regularly looking for under-graduates for ~6-months internships in the frame of their studies, for graduates wanting to do (part of) their PhD at ESO in collaboration with an institute, and for post-doctoral fellows, wanting to develop their own research programme and help ESO with its projects
  • Currently we have several positions available for young under-graduates looking for a challenging short research project of 5 to 6 months in the frame of their engineering or physics studies (master 2 level or equivalent).

What do we offer?

  • Several possibilities to work on a master's thesis (of 5 to 6 months) at ESO Garching in an engineering field.
  • An international, multi-disciplinary environment, situated on the Garching science campus close to Munich, Germany, next to the best German universities and world-renown research centers: Technical University Munich (TUM), Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) and its observatory, Maier-Leibnitz-Laboratory (MLL), Max-Planck Institutes for Astrophysics (MPA), for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), of Quantum Optics (MPQ), for Plasma Physics (IPP), Walter-Meißner-Institute (WMI), Leibniz Supercomputing center (LRZ) and the Walter-Schottky-Institute.  ESO participates in the Excellence Cluster Universe, also based on the Garching campus.  A very active campus life takes place with many open lectures in all scientific fields.  Garching also attracts the high-tech research centers of worldwide companies like General Electric.  ESO collaborates with many partner institutes and high-tech industries in the ESO member states.  See
  • Working in collaboration with ESO's partner institutes and high-tech industries in the ESO member states.
  • Three observatories at the forefront of ground-based astronomy and of technology: La Silla, Paranal and ALMA. And one of the most challenging telescopes under construction: the Extremely Large Telescope
  • An attractive remuneration package for fellows and PhD students / Decent compensation of living costs for master students.
  • If available, a room in a shared ESO apartment for some months, when you arrive.

What kind of R&D is being done at ESO?

ESO has been and is currently working on developments in many fields of engineering:

  • advanced visible and infra-red detectors (development of new e-APD arrays and CMOS detectors in collaboration with the industry, modeling and advanced testing of the detectors, characterization and optimization, controller development
  • sub-millimeter receivers for ALMA (development of cryogenic first-stage amplifiers, development of band 2+3 cartridges)
  • adaptive optics => extreme adaptive optics testbench for exo-planet observation; development of new technologies for deformable mirrors in collaboration with the industry; advanced, extensive AO simulation tools …



  • laser guide stars => solid state laser development in collaboration with the industry; testing of the laser guide star return flux; up-link and down-link tip-tilt correction for laser communications in collaboration with ESA; field experiments at la Palma (Canary Islands) …



  • interferometry => fringe tracking; differential astrometry; data reduction for high angular resolution imaging …



  • optics and photonics technologies => deflectometry feasibility studies; active phasing experiment; optical metrologies for the characterization at sub-micron level of large scale structures … in our 900 m2 of optical laboratories and integration halls

  • opto-mechanics and cryogeny for astronomical instrumentation and telescopes => finite-element analysis and modeling of large structures including wind, gravity and temperature effects.



  • vibration analysis and fighting
Video: ALMA Transporter Damping Tests    
  • complex control systems => PLC controllers for instruments and cryostats, Real Time Computing Systems for adaptive optics and for the ELT.
  • systems engineering => prototyping a model-based system engineering (MBSE) approach, verification and commissioning of complex systems…





The currently funded active R&D projects are:

  • Development of deformable mirrors for future ESO projects, with a very large number of actuators.
  • Development of a detector test bench for advanced and complete testing of the detectors that are being used in ESO instruments.
  • Common Instrument Systems for the ELT: prototypes for the technical visible and infra-red cameras of the ELT, definition of the real time software toolbox.
  • PCS (Planetary Coronograph System) technology development: extreme adaptive optics.
  • Cryo-amplifiers for advanced ALMA receivers.
  • Field experiments with Pyramid WFS and pulsed lasers.
  • VISIR-AO (NEAR): AO instrument to discover planets around Proxima Cen.
  • Advanced reflective coatings (pre-study).
  • Large Saphira (e-APDs) Detector (in preparation)




    Research subjects for Master's, PhD theses and fellowships

    The candidates for a master's thesis can choose one (or a couple) of the subjects proposed in Table 1 according to their studies, experience and interests.

    It is expected from the PhD studentship candidates that they develop and grow their research plan based on one of the original subjects given in Table 2, in discussion with their supervisor in their home university and with the potential ESO supervisor.



    Master's Thesis topics Thesis supervisor
    Study of the LIFT wavefront sensor S. Oberti
    Commissioning and Verification of FIAT N.Bezawada       
    Upgrade of the ESO mid-IR detector test facility G. Jakob
    Day-time local phasing of a segmented mirror based on Multiwavelength interferometry S. Lévêque
    Mirror alignment methods using laser trackers, Computer generated holograms, multi-channels absolute distance interferometers and Field aberration mapping S.Lévêque                              
    Anomaly detection in ALMA calibration data D. Petry

    Table 1: List of subjects (and supervisors) for the Master's theses.



    PhD Thesis topics Thesis supervisor
    Optimal regularization and pupil fragmentation for Pyramid wavefront sensing M. Le Louarn
    Optimisation of LGS and NGS measurements for high performance tomographic and multiconjugate AO systems                                S. Oberti                             
    Feasibility of segmented mirror phasing using Laser Guide Star S. Lévêque

    SCAO Simulation of prism-based wavefront sensors, using Octopus

    M. Le Louarn  
    A digital prism-based WFS test bench M. Le Louarn  
    Detector simulation framework for ground and space based astronomy

    E. George

    B. Serra


    Table 2: List of subjects (and supervisors) for the PhD theses.



    If you are interested in enhancing your early career through a masters thesis at ESO please use the ESO recruitment portal and include the following documents:

    • A motivational letter including the desired period of the internship and an outline of why you wish to join one of the proposed  subjects (maximum one page);
    • A Curriculum Vitae

    This is an open call. We have a limited number of positions every year.


    For any additional questions please contact:

    Françoise Delplancke-Ströbele

    Tel. +49 89 3200 6510