About me

After completing a degree in physics at Oxford University in 1993, I went to Cambridge University to study at the Institute of Astronomy. I completed my PhD there at the end of 1996 working with Mike Irwin, Gerry Gilmore, and Ted von Hippel. I then did a one and a half year postdoc within the Inferential Sciences Group at the Cavendish Laboratory (Cambridge's physics department), where I worked on the modelling of materials processing with the late David J.C. Mackay and Phil Withers. During this time I was also a member of the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy and was a research fellow at St Edmund's College. In 1998 I moved to the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA), one of the research institutions of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. In October 2002 I started a fellowship in the Emmy Noether-Programm of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. As part of this program I was a visiting scientist at the Physics department of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh during 2003. From 2004 to 2008 I led an Emmy Noether research group at the MPIA working on brown dwarfs and preparation for the Gaia data analysis. Since 2006 I lead a DLR-funded group to develop an object classification and stellar parameter estimation system for the Gaia survey. Since 2008 I am a permanent research staff member at MPIA (initially in the GC department, now in APEx). In 2010 I spent a six month sabbatical at the Laboratory for Particle Physics and Cosmology at Harvard University (thanks to my host, Chris Stubbs). In addition to research, I also teach in the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of Heidelberg.

Education and Academic Employment
  • 2012 Habilitation, University of Heidelberg
  • 2010 Visiting Scholar, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Harvard University
  • 2008-present Tenured Scientific Staff, Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg
  • 2004-2008 Emmy-Noether Research Group Leader, Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg
  • 2003 Visiting Scientist, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
  • 1998-2004 Scientific Staff, Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg
  • 1997-1998 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Cavendish Laboratory (Physics Department), University of Cambridge
  • 1993-1996 PhD Astronomy, University of Cambridge
  • 1990-1993 BA (Hons) Physics, University of Oxford
  • Steering Committee of the IAU's Office of Astronomy for Education (2020-2024; as chair 2021-2024)
  • Member of the Gaia CU8 Management Team (2018-2022)
  • MPIA Ombudsperson (2015-2021)
  • Manager of Gaia Coordination Unit 8 "Astrophysical Parameters" (part of the DPAC) (2005-2018)
  • Member of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) Executive (2005-2018)
  • Co-chair of the Gaia Data Analysis Coordination Committee (2005-2006)
  • Member of the Gaia Science Team (2001-2007)
  • Leader of the Gaia Classification working group (2001-2005)
  • Member of the DIVA Photometry working group (2000-2002)
  • Project scientist for the new wide field infrared camera Omega 2000 for the 3.5m telescope at Calar Alto, Spain (1999-2001)
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge (1997-1998)
Grants and awards
  • Grant from the MPG to finance collaborations with Africa, e.g. BMAAS2023
  • DLR grant for GAIA DPAC work (2006-2009, 2010-2013, 2014-2017, 2018-2020, 2021-2024)
  • Grants as part of: DFG-funded SFB on the Milky Way (2011-2014, 2015-2018, 2019-2022); EU-funded ITN GREAT (2011-2014)
  • Emmy Noether research group (2004-2008)
  • Emmy Noether fellowship of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (2002-2004)
  • Royal Astronomical Society 1997 Astronomy Prize (second place) awarded for the best Ph.D. theses in the UK
  • Studentship of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, UK (1993-1996)
Professional Activities
  • Grant application refereeing for PPARC, DFG, Swiss NSF, USA NSF
  • Refereeing of articles for: Acta Biotheoretica, American Journal of Physics, Astronomical Journal, Astronomy & Astrophysics, Astrophysical Journal, Astrophysics and Space Science, IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, Measurement Science and Technology, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Nature, Neural Networks, New Astronomy, Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Statistical Analysis and Data Mining, Science
  • Observing proposal refereeing for ESO, UKIRT, and CFHT
  • Chair and member of various staff and postdoc search committees
  • Examination of Bachelor, Masters and PhD theses
  • Undergraduate and graduate teaching
  • Optical and infrared photometric and spectroscopic observing from ESO (La Silla and VLT), CTIO, KPNO, and Calar Alto
  • Member of the German Astronomische Gesellschaft and the International Astronomical Union (IAU)
  • Organizer of international scientific meetings