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.
  • A young graduate (master's degree) willing to enroll into a PhD programme in engineering / applied sciences, under the formal supervision of their home university, developing new technologies for our instruments and telescopes at ESO Garching under the co-supervision of ESO engineers.
  • 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).

What do we offer?

  • PhD studentship with a contract of up to 3 years, to be agreed with the home university.
  • 6-months internships for working on a master's theses
  • 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
  • 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 Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).
  • An attractive remuneration package.

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
    Modelling CRIRES+ AO PSF for exposure time calculator J. Paufique
    Commissioning and Verification of FIAT N.Bezawada       
    Cryogenic Performance Evaluation of COTS Op-amps N. Bezawada
    Preparation for the ELT commissioning J. Spyromilio  
    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.



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

    Please 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;
    • An outline of why you wish to join one of the above-mentioned ESO projects (maximum one page). If you apply to the internship or studentship (master's or PhD thesis) please indicate exactly the subject you would like to work on.
    • The names and contact details of three persons familiar with your research and/or engineering work and willing to provide a recommendation letter on later request.



     If you are applying for a Masters Internship please send the following via email to , Françoise Delplancke-Ströbele:

    • A motivational letter including the subject of interest
    • Your Curriculum Vitae

    The closing date for applications is 9 December 2019.

    PhD studentships are expected to begin in the last quarter of 2020. The master's theses are expected to begin in March or April 2020.


    For any additional questions please contact:

    Françoise Delplancke-Ströbele

    Tel. +49 89 3200 6510