Advert. no. 2024_0015
Working at ESO

Are you interested in working in areas of frontline technology and in a stimulating international environment? Do you feel your profile matches our requirements? Learn more about our current vacancies and apply online. Read more..

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive ground-based astronomical observatory. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries.


ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in northern Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor (home to ALMA), and the ESO Headquarters are located in Garching, near Munich, Germany.


At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world's most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory, and will host and operate the southern array of the Cherenkov Telescope Array, the world's largest and most sensitive high energy gamma-ray observatory. ESO is a major partner in ALMA. On Cerro Armazones, ESO is building the 39 metre Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), which will become "the world's biggest eye on the sky" and whose operations will be fully integrated into the Paranal Observatory.


Within the Directorate for Science at its Headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany, ESO is advertising the position of

VLT Programme Scientist


Vacancy closed on 03/04/2024

Deadline 03/04/2024

The VLT Programme Scientist ensures the scientific performance of the VLT, the NTT, the 3.6m telescope and VISTA. This includes the development of strategies for the best scientific use, planning future instrumentation, providing advice to operations and executing instrument science verifications. The Programme Scientist fosters high-level participation from the community and engages with that community to identify emergent areas of astronomical research. ESO Public Surveys also are part of the remit of the VLT Programme Scientist.

We are looking for an experienced scientist to provide overall scientific leadership of ESO's 4m and 8m telescopes in coordination with the other ESO programme (VLTI, ELT, ALMA, CTA) to enable scientific synergies.

Main Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Provide scientific leadership to the VLT programme and ensure that the VLT/I will be scientifically exploited to the best of its capabilities;
  • Work closely with the VLTI Instrument Scientist to ensure that the currently approved VLT/I Programme meets its scientific goals;
  • Work closely with the Instrumentation Programme Manager to maintain, evolve and develop the VLT Instrumentation Plan;
  • Inform the Director for Science about La Silla Paranal Observatory developments, challenges and scientific productivity;
  • Provide advice to the ESO Instrumentation Programme Manager to ensure that the necessary design trade-offs made on the programme are carried out within an appropriate science driven context. Establishes clear scientific priorities in this context;
  • Engage with the community to optimise the usage of ESO optical and near-infrared telescopes;
  • Continue elaborating, updating and implementing the long-term future of the La Silla Paranal Observatory. This should be done in close collaboration with the VLTI Programme Scientist;
  • Prepare and give briefings to ESO governing bodies and committees as needed.

As a member of the ESO Science Faculty, the VLT Programme Scientist is expected and encouraged to conduct an active astronomical research programme on a 50/50 basis.

Reports to:

Director for Science.

Key Competences and Experience:

Essential competences and experience

  • Ability to think strategically, taking a long-term perspective and anticipating future trends;
  • Provide scientific vision and leadership to geographically dispersed multi-cultural/multi-disciplinary teams;
  • Work closely with key opinion-formers at ESO and in the community to develop a vision for the future;
  • Ability to suggest constructive improvements to established ways of working to create positive change;
  • Ability to motivate and inspire others;
  • Provide clear, concise and timely oral and written communications, identifying the key issues, examining options and proposing the way forward;
  • Outstanding communication and diplomatic skills, allowing to effectively communicate at all levels within the organisation and with the science community;
  • A strong record of personal research, demonstrating international recognition in optical and near-infrared astrophysics research.

Desirable competences and experience

  • Experience in project leadership;
  • Knowledge of astrophysics instrumentation;
  • Expertise in facility operations;
  • Experience in community liaison and/or community leadership.


PhD in astronomy, physics or equivalent.

Language skills:

The position requires a full working knowledge of English, both oral and written.

Remuneration and Contract:

We offer an attractive remuneration package including a competitive salary, a comprehensive pension scheme and medical, educational and other social benefits, as well as financial help in relocating your family and support to place your child/children in day care.

Our Salary Structure

ESO's salary structure is based upon a range of career paths which reflect the nature and level of our jobs. Each career path is made up of two or three grades which are used to further reflect experience.

Please follow this attached link for more details

ESO aims to support members of personnel in maintaining a good work-life balance ( between their professional and private life. ESO is also committed to offering family-friendly support (, creating a work environment and policies which allow staff to balance their professional and private responsibilities through flexible and mobile working arrangements, and financial support for families.

The contract is for a fixed term duration of three years and is subject to successful completion of the probation period. There may be a possibility of extension(s) subject to individual performance and organisational requirements, and as defined in the applicable policies and staff rules and regulations. For any further information, please visit ESO's conditions of employment ( Please note that the contract policy and in particular the regulations concerning fixed-term and indefinite contracts are currently under review which may lead to changes in the contractual conditions applicable to this position.

Duty Station:

Garching near Munich, Germany, with regular duty trips to ESO sites in Chile.

Career Path:

VI which comprises two grades.


If you are interested in working in areas of frontline science and technology and in a highly stimulating international environment, please visit for further details.

Applicants are invited to apply online at Applications must be completed in English and should include a motivation letter and CV containing a publication list with a research plan. Also required are the names and contact details of three scientists familiar with your work and willing to provide a recommendation letter. Referees will be automatically invited to submit a recommendation letter. However, applicants are strongly advised to trigger these invitations (using the web application form) well in advance of the application deadline.

The closing date for applications is 3 April 2024.

Interviews are expected to take place in the course of May.

ESO Values

An important element in any successful employment relationship is harmony in values between an organisation and its people.

The ESO Values are:

ESO strives for excellence through innovation.

ESO provides outstanding services to its communities.

ESO fosters diversity & inclusion.

ESO believes in the key role of sustainability for its future.

Achieving the above are recognized as only possible on the basis of personal values and attitudes that we expect from our employees: respect, integrity, accountability, commitment, collaboration, and clear & open communication.

Applicants to any ESO role are asked to reflect on their affinity with these values and advised they may be asked about them if called for interview.


ESO has established diversity as an important value of the Organisation, is committed to providing an equal opportunities environment and is actively seeking to promote a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce. Please visit for further details.


No nationality is in principle excluded from employment at ESO, however, recruitment preference will be given to nationals of our Member States, host states and strategic partners: Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Chile, irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion.

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