European Space Agency (ESA)

Internal Research Fellow (Postdoc - Biomimetics)

European Space Agency (ESA)

Job Description


Internal Research Fellow (PostDoc) in Biomimetics

Job Req ID:  17649 Closing Date:  21 June 2023 23:59 CET/CEST Establishment:  ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands Directorate:  Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality Publication:  External Only Vacancy Type:  Internal Research Fellow Date Posted:  31 May 2023


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 carried out in ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team (ACT), a group of researchers, mainly research fellows (post-docs) and recently graduated early stage researchers from a wide variety of academic fields aiming for an academic career. The Team’s task is to monitor, perform and foster research on advanced space systems, innovative concepts and working methods. Externally, it interacts almost exclusively with academia and operates as a truly interdisciplinary team bound by the highest scientific standards. Via its research, the Team acts as a pathfinder to explore novel and potentially promising areas for ESA and the space sector, ranging from applied to basic fundamental research topics. An important task of the Team is to communicate scientific trends and results as input to the Agency’s Strategic Planning.

The Team has performed research in biomimetics since 2002, concentrating on research topics related to artificial muscle and joints, seed dispersal, bioinspired sensing, neuromorphic computing and radiation shielding, to name but a few. This research aims to bridge the gap between nature-inspired technologies and space engineering applications.

You are strongly encouraged to familiarise yourself with the research carried out by the ACT (, especially in the field of biomimetics, and also in the complementary field of bio-engineering, as well as all of the Team’s other main research lines.

You are encouraged to visit the ESA website:

Field(s) of activity/research for the traineeship

You will carry out research in the field of biomimetics. Areas of research and research projects will be partly chosen by you based on your own expert judgement and insight into trends and developments, and partly chosen by the Team to follow the Agency’s strategic directions.

Scientifically, you will:
•    propose and perform novel research in the field of biomimetics for space applications, where appropriate in collaboration with universities of ESA Member States (in particular through the Ariadna scheme:;
•    monitor, liaise with and, where appropriate, cooperate with international, European or national research programmes and projects linked to biomimetic research, placing these within a space perspective;
•    monitor developments in the Team’s previous biomimetic research projects.

As an ACT researcher, you will:
•    publish results in peer-reviewed publications and use modern communication tools to communicate with the broader audience within and beyond ESA;
•    lead and assist interdisciplinary projects with other ACT researchers;
•    participate with the Team in the assessment of proposed space system concepts - as these are not solely restricted to biomimetics - and propose new concepts and assessment studies;
•    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 biology, technical biology, bio-engineering, biomimetics engineering or a related field;
•    a PhD (completed before taking up duty) in biology (or possibly another discipline with a solid biomimetics focus), with the subject of your thesis relevant to the description of the tasks outlined above

Additional requirements

You should also have:

•    Aptitude for and interest in prospective interdisciplinary research;
•    Ability to contextualise specialised areas of research and quickly assess their potential with respect to other domains and applications;
•    Academic networking to add active links to universities and research institutes; 
•    Ability to work in a team, while being able to work individually regarding your personal research plans and directions; 
•    Natural curiosity and a passion for new subjects and research areas;
•    Proficiency in computer programming and data Analysis.

Specific characteristics of the research fellowship

The position of Research Fellow in ESA’s Advanced Concepts Team is similar to a regular academic post-doc placement with, however, a few key differences:
1.    ACT Research Fellows have no teaching obligations. However, they will likely be involved in the mentoring of Young Graduate Trainees and student interns within the Team.
2.    As the Team does not have the position of professor or similar, ACT Research Fellows have more academic independence than most post-docs. They therefore have more freedom but also more responsibility for 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 related or similar abilities.
4.    ACT Research Fellows need to actively reach out to other disciplines, bringing to bear their competencies in interdisciplinary research projects and encouraging other researchers to join them in their core research projects (research spanning the intersection of various disciplines). 
5.    ACT Research Fellows need to 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 State language would be an asset.     

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


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 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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