ESO Engineering and Technology Research Fellowship

ESO Engineering and Technology

Research Fellowship 2018

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere has as 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?

  • Early-career researchers with a PhD degree in an engineering related     discipline or in physics / astronomy with a strong technology content. A Masters degree with additional R&D experience in the industry or research organisations is considered equivalent.


  • An outstanding independent research plan with broad relevance to ESO R&D programme.
  • Dynamic young individuals ready to take an active part in the ESO R&D projects (see below) for a minimum of 50% of their time with a good deal of team spirit, curiosity and eagerness to learn.

What are we offering?

  • Engineering post-doctoral fellowships with an initial contract of one year followed by a two-year extension (three years total).
  • An attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary and allowances (tax-free), comprehensive social benefits, and financial support for relocating families.
  • 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) , Walter-Schottky-Institute. ESO is participating in the Excellence Cluster Universe present on the Garching campus. A very active campus life is taking place with many open lectures in all scientific fields. Garching is also attracting the high-tech research centers of worldwide companies like General Electric. ESO is working in collaboration with many partner institutes and high-tech industries in the ESO member states. See
  • Three observatories at the forefront of ground-based astronomy and of technology in Chile: la Silla, Paranal and ALMA. And one of the most challenging telescopes under construction: the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

What kind of R&D is possible?


As mentioned above the fellows shall spend minimum 50% of their time supporting and contributing to existing ESO R&D projects. The rest of the time shall be dedicated to the fellow’s own research, which shall be aligned to the broad interests of ESO and compatible with the infrastructure available at ESO. Some examples of past, current and potential new R&D projects and a short description of the available infrastructure are given here below.

Past, current and future Research & Development projects led by ESO

On the left are the past, completed projects. In the middle the current ongoing and funded R&D projects on which the duties will be done. And on the right are concrete proposals of new projects on which fellows could work as part of their personal research or in the future as part of the duties. At the bottom are short descriptions of areas in which ESO is active, has interest in and has some infrastructure available.

Advanced visible and infra-red detectors for astronomical instrumentation

Past Projects Current Projects Possible new directions
  • Near-IR APD arrays (Avalanche Photo-Diodes) for astronomical use (in collaboration with Industry)
  • Development of CMOS detectors for the ELT (in collaboration with industry)
  • Testing of new large infra-red detectors (Hawaii-4-RG, in collaboration with the University of Hawaii)
  • In-house development of an advanced test-bench for detector testing.
  • Development in collaboration with industries of new visible and infrared detectors for E-ELT instruments, guiding cameras and wave-front sensors





ESO laboratory test equipment for detector characterization on next generation detectors, includes everything from cryostats, scanning monochromators to blackbody sources etc... ESO is collaborating closely with the industry for the development of new detectors.

Sub-millimetre receivers


Past Projects Current Projects Possible new directions

Adaptive optics & laser guide stars           

Past Projects Current Projects Possible new directions
  • Solid state laser development (in collaboration with industry)
  • Laser R&D and testing of laser guide star return flux (in collaboration with the Astronomical Institute of Canary Islands)
  • Development incollaboration with industries of the technology to produce new deformable mirrors for future adaptive optics instruments.
  • Extreme Adaptive Optics system for the observation of exo-planets around nearby stars development in the short-term of an experiment to be placed on the Very Large Telescope and longer-term research of concepts and technologies for a second-generation instrument for the E-ELT, PCS (Planetary Camera & Spectrograph)
  • Field experiments at la Palma, Canary Islands, together with international teams from UK and France, for the ELT baseline LGS-AO systems, using the ESO laser guide star unit and the CANARY adaptive optics.  
  • Study of advanced wave-front sensing concepts for the E-ELT, including simulation and possible laboratory testing on prototypes
  • Improvement of ESO adaptive optics simulation tools, including the coding of new simulation features and the optimisation of the code and computing architecture to reduce the simulation time.
  • ESO collaboration with ESA, DLR and European research institutes to execute experiments of highly innovative Laser Guide Star concepts in view of future ESO instruments and of space communication: visible LGS-AO correction with pyramid wavefront sensors (CaNaPy); retrieval of the LGS uplink tip-tilt for satellite communications and of the downlink tip-tilt for LGS-AO applications with 100% sky coverage. The experiments will take place in the ESO laboratories and at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos.


ESO has developed, over the years, an extensive simulation tool for adaptiveoptics and is improving it continuously. We have several test-benches developed both for instruments delivered to the observatories and for advanced studies on high-order corrections and high-contrast imaging. We have access to technical time on the many adaptive optics instruments installed at Paranal observatory: several curvature and Shack-Hartmann systems, the adaptive optics facility with its deformable secondary mirror.

ESO has also developed, in collaboration with industry, new fibered lasers at 589nm. The laboratories are equipped to continue these studies and novel developments. We have a field laser guide star unit used for experiments at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (canary Islands) and have access in the frame of an international collaboration to the William Herschel Telescope in la Palma.

Optics and photonics

Past Projects Current Projects Possible new directions
  • Deflectometry feasibility studies
  • PEACE -Phasing ELT with Adaptive optics Control Experiment
  • Optical metrologies for characterisation at sub-micron level of large scale structures and telescopes


ESO has more than 900 m2 of optical laboratories with a wide range of equipment (interferometers, spectrometers, optical fibers, segmented mirrors, laser metrologies...), many optical benches for small experiments and a large integration hall for larger scale prototyping, integration and testing. These laboratories are continuously improved and adapted to the growing size of the telescopes and instrumentation.

System engineering

Past Projects Current Projects Possible new directions
  • Prototyping a model-based system engineering (MBSE) approach for engineering development


ESO has licenses for tools needed to support system engineering. The team of the system engineering department includes more than 25 people working on different aspects of system engineering: processes, simulations, analyses, modeling, technical follow-up of projects, verification, commissioning. ESO has an extended experience particularly in the commissioning, operation and maintenance aspects thanks to its numerous telescopes, instruments and observatories.

Software, electronics and control

Past Projects Current Projects Possible new directions
  • Development of PLCs for instrument control systems and for cryogenic control systems
  • Development of a framework for future Real Time Computing systems for adaptive optics.
  • Investigation and definition of real-time computer framework for the E-ELT instruments


ESO has several workshops and laboratories for the assembly of full electronics control system as well as for the testing and optimisation of new technologies for the control of instruments. Our departments of control, software and electronics engineering are working hands-in-hands to deliver complete systems. Of course a good computer hardware and software infrastructure is supporting all developments


Mechanics & cryogenics



ESO has developed a strong expertise in opto-mechanical design including cryogenic aspects for its instrumentation, in finite-element analysis and modeling of large structures for the telescopes and in the design and development of the related handling equipment. Effects of wind, temperature, gravity on the equipment are being integrated into end-to-end models of our facilities


If you are interested in enhancing your early career through an ESO Fellowship, then please apply by completing the web application form available at


Include the following documents in your application:

●      a cover letter;

●      a curriculum vitae with a list of publications, if any, and including an outline of your technical/practical experience;

●      a proposed research plan (maximum of one page);

●      an outline of why you wish to join one of the above-mentioned ESO projects (maximum one page);

●      the names and contact details of three persons familiar with your research and/or engineering work and willing to provide a recommendation letter.


It is also highly recommended that you contact the EETRF Programme coordinator, Françoise Delplancke-Ströbele, before applying, to check the feasibility of your research plan within ESO infrastructure and possible support.


The closing date for applications is 15 October 2017.


Fellowships are expected to begin in the first half of 2018.



For any additional questions please contact:

Françoise Delplancke-Ströbele,    Tel. +49 89 3200 65 10