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ESA Research Fellowships
in Space Science

The next deadline for applications will be 1 October 2014
Download the application form here


The purpose of this section is to provide some basic information about the ESA Fellowship Programme and to give practical guidelines to young scientists interested in applying for a Fellowship in ESA's space science departments in the Netherlands and Spain.

The ESA Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Programme is aimed at providing young scientists, holding a PhD or the equivalent degree, with the means of performing research in space science. The programme is open to suitably qualified women and men. Preference will be given to applications submitted by candidates within five years of receiving their PhD. Candidates not holding a PhD yet can also apply, but they must provide evidence of receiving their degree before starting the fellowship.

Appointments for an ESA fellowship are for two years, after which Fellows normally leave ESA. The fellowship in space science is tenable at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, or at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Villafranca del Castillo near Madrid, Spain. The Fellowship Programme does not currently grant fellowships in other institutions outside of ESA.

The fellowships are open to nationals of ESA Member States (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and to nationals of states adhering to the PECS cooperation scheme (Canada, Estonia, Hungary and Slovenia).

Furthermore, nationals of other states with which ESA has a cooperation agreement (e.g. Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Russian Federation and Turkey) can have access to a one-year international traineeship, at the post-doctoral level, along lines similar to those of the research fellowship. The programme provides a subsistence allowance to cover the trainees' living expenses during their stay at ESA. Young scientists interested in the possibility of an international traineeship in space science should contact directly the fellowship coordinator, Guido De Marchi, for more information.

Research Programmes

As part of their mandate, ESA's Space Science departments (the Research and Scientific Support Department at ESTEC and the Science Operations Department at ESAC) undertake research programmes covering all areas of Space Science. These research activities are coordinated and carried out by the ESA Science Faculty, a body comprising all scientists in the departments. Research Fellows are encouraged to participate in these programmes, which are led by the departments’ scientific staff (with the appropriate engineering, technical and administrative support), but have no functional duties nor are they involved in support activities for ESA missions.

The research projects proposed by applicants for an ESA Fellowship or for the International Trainee Programme should be related to ESA's scientific missions, to the space research programmes of the ESA member states or to the scientific activities of the ESA Science Faculty. A brief summary of the research activities carried out by Faculty members can be found on the ESTEC faculty research and ESAC faculty research pages. Candidates should consult these pages to identify which of the two centres offers the best overlap with their research programmes and to identify one or more staff members who could act as mentors. Candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the identified staff members to discuss their research proposals before submitting an application. While certain research programmes can be pursued at both centres, in most cases the location of the mentor defines where a fellowship can be held.

A list of ongoing research opportunities with ESA science staff is provided below, together with the relevant contact information. For details on current research activities, please contact the relevant scientists. If uncertain on whom to contact, write to the fellowship coordinator, Guido De Marchi, for advice.

Solar Physics, Heliophysics and Space Plasma Physics
  • studying the physics of the Earth's magnetosphere using data from the Cluster, Double Star and Themis missions as well as from any other relevant facility. Topics of interest include magnetic reconnection, magnetospheric boundary layers, plasma transfer processes, ULF waves, polar cusp and inner magnetospheric dynamics [contact Harri Laakso, Philippe Escoubet or Matt Taylor at ESTEC]
  • studying the plasma environment of solar system bodies using data from all relevant planetary missions [contact Olivier Witasse at ESTEC]
  • work on a number of topics in solar physics using data from SOHO, TRACE, Hinode or any other relevant facility. Topics of interest include studies of the structure and dynamics of the solar corona, chromoseismology, modeling of photospheric and coronal magnetic fields, and helioinformatics (development of advanced techniques for data assimilation, visualisation, and browsing) [contact Daniel Müller at ESTEC or Bernhard Fleck]
  • study of plasma physics through X-ray high-resolution spectroscopy of active stars [contact Andy Pollock at ESAC]
Planetary Science
  • work on a number of topics on comparative planetology, including geology, impact craters, spectroscopy/mapping, water on Mars, planetary rings, atmospheres, ionospheres, meteors and astrobiology, with emphasis on the use of data from the Mars Express, Venus Express, Smart-1, Cassini-Huygens, Demeter, Bepi Colombo and Chandrayaan-1 missions as well as from other relevant facilities [contact Agustin Chicarro, Detlef Koschny, Olivier Witasse, Johannes Benkhoff, Luigi Colangeli, Håkan Svedhem, Dmitri Titov or Bernard Foing at ESTEC or Patrick Martin or Nicolas Altobelli at ESAC]
  • support the scientific preparation of the ExoMars rover mission with regards to early Mars (Noachian) surface and atmospheric history and landing site selection activities, with emphasis on the use of morphologic and spectral data from Mars Express and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, via interaction with the ExoMars rover instrument teams and with MEX and MRO investigators [contact Jorge Vago at ESTEC or Patrick Martin at ESAC]
  • investigation of minor bodies in the solar system, including the Martian moons, to understand their formation and evolution in the frame of planetary system formation, using data from Rosetta, Herschel, other space missions and ground-based observations [contact Rita Schulz, Detlef Koschny or Olivier Witasse at ESTEC, or Nicolas Altobelli or Michael Kueppers at ESAC]
  • investigation of asteroids, cosmic dust and planetary discs, with space-based and ground-based observations and numerical models, to better constrain the orbital dynamics and physical and chemical properties of these objects [contact Detlef Koschny, Luigi Colangeli and Håkan Svedhem at ESTEC or Nicolas Altobelli or Michael Kueppers at ESAC]
  • investigate the physics and chemistry of terrestrial planets and minor bodies through numerical modelling of their interior and near surface layers in order to better understand their formation and thermal evolution [contact Johannes Benkhoff at ESTEC]
  • petrology and astrobiology analysis of mineral and organic samples exposed in Earth orbit or from Moon-Mars-planetary simulated analogues [contact Bernard Foing at ESTEC]
Astrophysics: Stars and Planets
  • study of stellar populations, star formation in the local group, pre-main sequence stars, the and dynamical evolution of stellar clusters, the properties of their initial mass function and its relationship with the physical conditions of the environment, using UV, optical and IR data from space (HST) and ground-based (VLT) facilities [contact Guido De Marchi at ESTEC]
  • observational studies of galactic star-forming regions (Orion, Carina, etc.), including low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, circumstellar discs, jets, and outflows, as well as field brown dwarfs, using X-ray, optical, and IR data from ground-based telescopes (VLT, VISTA, UKIRT) and space-based facilities (Chandra, Spitzer, and ultimately JWST) [contact Mark McCaughrean at ESTEC]
  • study of young high-mass star-forming regions with observations from Spitzer, Herschel, and ground-based facilities [contact Stephan Birkmann at ESTEC]
  • understanding the evolution of massive stars and star clusters using ground- and space-based facilities to study the most massive stars stars in the Galactic Center, 30 Doradus (the Tarantula Nebula) and beyond; including proper motion searches for walkaway, runaway and hyper-velocity stars [contact Danny Lennon at ESAC]
  • Multi-wavelength studies of massive stars (using XMM, HST, Herschel, VLT, and others) with abroad science objectives which include understanding the phyics of massive stars, their formation and evolution, interaction with their environment and impact on the Universe. We are also interested in techniques which enable discovery and exploitation of astrophysical archives. [contact Danny Lennon, Tony Marston, Andy Pollock, Michael Rosa, or Eva Verdugo at ESAC]
  • Multi-wavelength study of disc evolution and exo-planet formation with observations from Spitzer, Herschel, WISE, SDSS, AKARI with potential follow-up of transitional discs from major ground-based observatories (GTC, VLT, ALMA and others) [contact Bruno Merin at ESAC]
  • observational and theoretical work on debris discs around stars using existing space- and ground-based observations, including data from Herschel and ongoing ground-based submillimetre observations [contact Göran Pilbratt or Ana Heras at ESTEC]
  • studies linked to the scientific yield of the Gaia mission, in particular structure and evolution of open clusters, OB associations or star forming clouds in the Gould Belt, using astrometric, photometric or spectroscopic data [contact Timo Prusti or Jos de Bruijne at ESTEC]
  • characterisation of the far-infrared properties of stars in the transition phase from the asymptotic giant branch to the planetary nebula stage through the analysis of data taken by the Herschel space observatory; search for new transition sources using WISE all-sky survey data at mid-infrared wavelengths, complemented with AKARI data obtained at mid- and far-infrared wavelengths, and data taken by other space facilities using Virtual Observatory techniques [contact Pedro Garcia-Lario at ESAC]
  • study of plasma physics through X-ray high-resolution spectroscopy of active stars [contact Andy Pollock at ESAC]
  • research on X-ray binaries (black holes and neutron stars), emission mechanisms, physics of accretion, activity timescales, X-ray bursts [contact Arvind Parmar at ESTEC or Erik Kuulkers or Peter Kretschmar at ESAC]
  • X-ray studies of Classical Novae in outburst [contact Jan-Uwe Ness at ESAC]
Astrophysics: Galaxies and Interstellar Medium
  • studies of the galactic interstellar medium using observations from the all-sky surveys by Planck [contact Jan Tauber or Rene Laureijs at ESTEC]
  • Observational studies of large organics in space (such as fullerenes and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs) using interstellar spectroscopy [contact Bernard Foing at ESTEC]
  • investigating the nature of nuclear star clusters and their connection with active galactic nuclei and supermassive black holes, using optical, IR and sub-mm data from space (HST) and ground (VLT, IRAM) facilities [contact Torsten Böker]
  • X-ray spectroscopic studies of acretion processes onto supermassive black holes in Active Galactic Nuclei, and of nuclear activity feed-back onto the host galaxy environment on various scales (pc to kpc) [contact Norbert Schartel, Maria Santos-Lleo, or Matteo Guainazzi at ESAC]
  • study of morphology and complexity of the diffuse interstellar medium in the Galactic plane and in star-forming clouds of the Gould's Belt, using data from Herschel large-scale surveys [contact Roland Vavrek at ESAC]
  • studies of X-ray emission components in nearby spiral galaxies (diffuse and point-like) including extra-planar halo emission and the environment of cluster galaxies [contact Matthias Ehle at ESAC]
  • studies of the Galactic Centre, especially Sgr A* and the Central Molecular Zone [contact Guillaume Belanger at ESAC]
  • work on cosmological surveys using existing Herschel observations, with particular focus on lensing galaxy clusters, high redshift clusters, follow ups to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field survey and other Herschel extragalactic surveys [contact Bruno Altieri, Luca Conversi, Miguel Sanchez-Portal or Ivan Valtchanov at ESAC]
  • work on cosmic microwave background and its foregrounds, with specific focus on galaxy cluster studies by means of the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect, using Planck and Herschel data [contact Luca Conversi or Xavier Dupac at ESAC]
Fundamental Physics
  • development of LISA Pathfinder data analysis algorithms and methods, with the goal of extending this work to future low frequency gravitational wave detectors, such as eLISA [contact Paul McNamara at ESTEC]
  • work on the development of algorithms and methods for LISA data analysis [contact Oliver Jennrich at ESTEC]
  • work on applications of atomic quantum sensors (atomic clocks, atom interferometers, etc.) to fundamental physics studies in space [contact Luigi Cacciapuoti at ESTEC]
  • preparatory work in support of the JUICE mission to analyse and model the local Jovian environment, especially concerning the energetic radiation and its effects on the mission and scientific payloads, using data from previous Jupiter missions and ground-based observations together with various environment models of Jupiter and its moons and radiation transport tools such as Geant4 [contact Petteri Nieminen at ESTEC]

How to apply

The next deadline for applications will be 1 October 2014. The application form can be found here. Candidates should produce a PDF file using the application form as a template and submit it electronically by e-mail to the address, as indicated on the form. The length of the text in sections 23, 24 and 25 of the form should not exceed the indicated limits. Also please note that, unlike other ESA fellowships, for the Fellowship in Space Science no additional material or annex such as CVs, certificates of degrees or copies of articles should be attached. The only information needed is that indicated in the application form.

Candidates must also arrange for three letters of reference to be sent by e-mail, before the deadline, to the same address The letters must be sent by the referees themselves, one of whom should be the candidate's PhD supervisor. In the unlikely event that a letter of reference cannot be submitted electronically, it may be sent by post to: ESTEC, Fellowship Programme, Human Resources Division, Keplerlaan 1, 2200 AG Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Applications and letters arriving after the deadline will not be considered.

Enquiries on the scientific aspects of the programme can be sent at any time to the fellowship coordinator, Guido De Marchi.

Within six to eight weeks of the application deadline, candidates selected for an interview will be notified (all travel expenses are covered by ESA). Interviews will take place within two months. Besides an interview, candidates are asked to give a short talk (15 min + 5 min for questions) to present their current and proposed research programme at a jamboree open to the whole science faculty. During their visit, normally lasting two days, candidates are encouraged to interact with other fellows and staff members, to familiarise themselves with the ESA science faculty. Successful candidates will be notified by early February and normally fellowships commence in the autumn (September/October). Note that it is required to have obtained a PhD before starting the fellowship.

Research budget, conferences

Research expenses for Fellows, such as publication charges, observing trips and attendance to conferences, are covered by the research budget of the Space Science departments. Fellows can usually attend three international conferences each year, provided that they have important new results to present. Fellows have also access to the Science Visitor Programme and can invite external collaborators to spend time at ESTEC or ESAC, funded by ESA, to work with them.

Financial conditions and benefits

The salary of ESA fellows falls within a pre-determined range and varies depending on qualifications and experience. Average monthly net salaries (tax free) are around € 2500. Fellows may be entitled to an expatriation allowance and/or to an installation allowance if they meet the conditions of entitlement. Removal expenses are not reimbursed. Depending on their place of recruitment, fellows may be reimbursed travel expenses in economy class (when travelling by air) or in first class (when travelling by train) to their duty station for themselves and, if applicable, for their spouse and children at the beginning and end of their assignment. Fellows are enrolled in the ESA's Social Security Scheme which covers medical expenses, invalidity and death benefits. A monthly deduction covers these short-term and long-term risks.

     Copyright © 2014 European Space Agency. All rights reserved.
This page was first created on 2 February, 2004 and was last updated on 30 October, 2013.
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