Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in Quantum Physics

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  • Posted 1 month ago

European Space Agency

Internal Research Fellowship Opportunity in the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality.

ESA is an equal opportunity employer, committed to achieving diversity within the workforce and creating an inclusive working environment. For this purpose, we welcome applications from all qualified candidates irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, beliefs, age, disability or other characteristics. Applications from women are encouraged.

This post is classified F2 on the Coordinated Organisations’ salary scale .

ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands  

Our team and mission

This research fellowship will be in ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team (ACT), a group of postdoctoral research fellows and young graduates from a broad variety of academic backgrounds who wish to pursue a career in academia. The ACT’s task is to monitor, perform and foster research on advanced space systems, innovative concepts and working methods. Its external interaction is almost exclusively with academia and it operates as a truly interdisciplinary team bound to high scientific standards. Through its research, the team acts as a pathfinder to explore novel and potentially promising areas for ESA and the space sector, encompassing applied as well as fundamental research topics. An important task of the team is to communicate scientific trends and results as input for the strategic planning of the Agency.

The ACT has explored a diverse set of topics in fundamental physics, ranging from quantum physics (quantum metrology, optics, computing, communication and decoherence), and material physics (optical/acoustic metamaterials and nanostructured materials), through to gravitational and high-energy physics and astronomy (relativistic positioning and metrology, strong gravity and black holes, cosmology and dark matter) and combinations of the above. 

Candidates are strongly encouraged to familiarise themselves with the research conducted by the ACT (, in particular in the field of quantum physics and related projects, and are expected to expand the research domains to new areas of interest not yet covered

You are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity/research for the traineeship

If selected for the fellowship, you will explore novel ideas for quantum technologies – including quantum computing, communication and sensing – and foundational questions in quantum information theory. The areas of research will be partly chosen by you based on your expert judgements and insight into trends and developments, and partly chosen by the team so as to follow the Agency’s strategic directions.

Scientifically, you will:

propose and perform high-level research in the field of quantum physics together with universities of ESA Member States, in particular through the Ariadna programme (;
lead and assist interdisciplinary projects with other ACT research fellows in topics where the above-mentioned areas of physics play an important role;
participate, with the rest of the team, in the assessment of proposed space system concepts – as these are not restricted to the area of quantum physics – and propose new concepts and assessment studies;
monitor the progress of research in areas of physics that are of interest to the team in order to identify and report strategic trends;
critically assess ideas and concepts for space systems that are brought to the attention of the ACT, relying on methods or phenomena in the area of quantum physics;
publish results in peer-reviewed publications and use modern communication tools to communicate with the broader audience inside and outside ESA;
perform and participate in assessments on subjects of strategic interest to ESA, providing in-house expertise for strategy development;
benefit from the technology and engineering expertise available at ESTEC.

Technical competencies

Knowledge relevant to the field of research

Research/publication record

Ability to conduct research autonomously

Breadth of exposure coming from past and/or current research/activities

Ability to gather and share relevant information

General interest in space and space research

Behavioural competencies

Result Orientation
Operational Efficiency
Fostering Cooperation
Relationship Management
Continuous Improvement
Forward Thinking 


You should have recently completed, or be close to completion of a PhD in a related technical or scientific discipline. Preference  will  be  given  to applications submitted by candidates within five years of receiving their PhD. In particular for this position, the following is required:

You must have obtained:
•    A degree in physics or mathematics, or equivalent.
•    A PhD (completed before take-up of duty) in physics or equivalent (with a thesis subject relevant to the tasks outlined above).

Additional requirements

You should also have:

Ability and interest in prospective interdisciplinary research;
Aptitude for contextualising specialised areas of research and quickly assessing their potential with respect to other domains and applications;
Aptitude for academic networking to create new links with universities and research institutes;
Ability to work in a team, while being able to work individually on your own personal research plans and directions;
Natural curiosity and a passion for new subjects and research areas.


The position of Research Fellow at ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team is similar to a standard academic postdoctoral placement, with several key differences:
1.    ACT research fellows have no teaching obligations. However, they will likely be involved in mentoring Young Graduate Trainees and student interns within the team.
2.    As the team does not have a professor-like position, ACT Research Follows have more freedom but also more responsibility than most postdoctoral researchers when it comes to their research directions and approaches.
3.    ACT research fellows join a diverse, changing and interdisciplinary research team embedded in a large space agency, in contrast to a more specialised, focused research group with closely-matched abilities and spheres of interest.
4.    ACT research fellows must be committed to reaching out to other disciplines, bringing to bear their inclination for interdisciplinary research projects, and to encouraging other researchers to join them in their core research projects (research at the intersections of disciplines).
5.    ACT research fellows must communicate their expertise and research results internally and externally, including the potential implications and importance for ESA’s long-term strategy.

The working languages of the Agency are English and French. A good knowledge of one of these is required. Knowledge of another Member Stat

Other information

For behavioural competencies expected from ESA staff in general, please refer to the ESA Competency Framework .

For further information on the Internal Research Fellowship Programme please visit: Internal Research Fellowship

The Agency may require applicants to undergo selection tests.

In addition to your CV and your motivation letter, please add your proposal of no more than 5 pages outlining your proposed research in the “additional documents” field of the “application information” section.

At the Agency we value diversity and we welcome people with disabilities.  Whenever possible, we seek to accommodate individuals with disabilities by providing the necessary support at the workplace.  The Human Resources Department can also provide assistance during the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss this further please contact us at [email protected] .


Please note that applications are only considered from nationals of one of the following States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Nationals from Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, as Associate Member States, or Canada as a Cooperating State, can apply as well as those from Bulgaria and Cyprus as European Cooperating States (ECS).

According to the ESA Convention, the recruitment of staff must take into account an adequate distribution of posts among nationals of the ESA Member States*. When short-listing for an interview, priority will first be given to candidates from under-represented or balanced Member States *.

In accordance with the European Space Agency’s security procedures and as part of the selection process, successful candidates will be required to undergo basic screening before appointment conducted by an external background screening service. 

*Member States, Associate Members or Cooperating States.

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