Markus Kissler-Patig

Head of Science and Operations


Main Research Fields

My main scientific interests are manyfold and evolved during my career.

Originally, I started studying the formation and evolution of stars and star clusters, as well as the formation and evolution of galaxies - and the connection between these two, today and in the early universe. I was a founding member of the MASSIV collaboration, aiming at tracing the mass assembly in galaxies since the earliest times.

For a few years, I concentrated on studying the existence and the role of intermediate-mass black holes, and how these link the two topics above. Our group was mostly observationally driven, but performed simulations on specialised hardware and GPUs.

About ten years ago, I also became interested in Astrobiology and Exoplanets atmospheres.

Interested in getting in touch? Just contact me!


exoplanets, astrobiology, optical/near-infrared telescopes, instrumentation, galaxy formation and evolution, stellar populations

Contact Information

European Space Agency
ESAC - European Space Astronomy Centre
Camino Bajo del Castillo s/n
28692 Villanueva de la Cañada
Madrid, Spain |
T +34 91813 1190 | M +34 66996 1810


Brief Bio

Since February 2019, I have been working as Head of Science and Operations at the European Space Agency. I am located at the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) near Madrid, Spain. Specifically, I am in charge of operating all helioscience, planetary science and astrophysics missions of ESA and of maximising their scientific outcome for the scientific community.

Between July 2017 and January 2019, I served as as Deputy Director for Science at the European Southern Observatory in Garching, where I had worked until 2012 (see below).

Between 2012 and 2017, I served as the Director of the Gemini Observatory. Gemini is an international parternship between Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the United States, with headquarters in Hilo, Hawaii and La Serena, Chile. The observatory is operating two 8m-class telescopes - one on top of Maunakea in Hawaii, the other on Cerro Pachon in Chile.

I am an adjunct Professor (Privatdozent) at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, where I have been teaching since 2005.
In 2015, I taught as affiliated faculty at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.

From 2000 to 2012, I was a senior Faculty member at the European Southern Observatory. Since 2008, I was working as the Project Scientist for the European Extremely Large Telescope Project, and shared my time between project work and astronomical research.

As for my early careeer: I obtained my PhD in early 1997 from the University of Bonn, then moved (partly on a Feodor-Lynen stipent from the Humboldt Foundation) to the University of California Observatories at the UC Santa Cruz where I have spent nearly two years.
I came to ESO in late 1998 on a fellowship and moved on a faculty position in early 2000 to serve as instrument scientist. Over the next years, I worked on the instruments VIMOS, SINFONI, HAWK-I and KMOS before taking up in early 2008 the position of project scientist for the E-ELT.


More details can also be found by scanning through my list of publications or list of referred papers.

For reference, my ORCID ID is: ORCID iD


As an adjunct professor (Privatdozent) at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, I have a light teaching load and been teaching scince 2005.

In 2014 and 2015, I was an affiliated Faculty at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where I taught in Spring 2015.

Links to recent lectures/classes at the LMU:

* IMPRS Graduate School Wintersemester 2019/2020: Astrobiology - an Overview
* LMU Sommersemester 2018: An Introduction to Astrobiology (P4/5.0.29) * LMU Sommersemester 2016: An Introduction to Astrobiology (P4/5.0.29)

PhD/Master thesis topics under my supervision:

Please feel to contact me for Master or PhD thesis subjects.
The area of research I supervise currently are:
* ExoPlanet atmospheres and composition


Between February 2008 and July 2012, I was supporting as Project Scientist the detailed design phase (B) of the European Extremely Large Telescope Project, the next European giant telescope: a 1.2 billion Euro facility that promises incredible scientific breakthroughs.


Between March 2000 and January 2008, I was active as Instrument Scientist in the Optical Instrument department, the Adaptive Optics department, and last in the NIR instrumentation department.
I have acted as Instrument Scientist for the following instruments:

  • VIMOS, an optical multi-object and integral-field spectrograph
  • SINFONI, an adaptive optics assisted near-infrared integral-field spectrograph ,
  • HAWK-I, a near-infrared wide-field imager, and
  • KMOS, a near-infrared multi-object spectrograph based on deployable integral-field units.

I am still actively promoting integral-field spectroscopy, until recently through the Euro3D Research Training Network.