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Final Report Summary - ESO-FEL-ALMA08 (ESO fellowship programme for ALMA)

The European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) operates the world-leading La Silla-Paranal Observatory in Chile, and is the European partner of the Atacama Large Millimetre / submillimetre Array (ALMA), which is the major global project for sub-millimetre ground-based astrophysics. Since the end of 2005 ESO has been working together with its user community of European astronomers and astrophysicists to define the new giant telescope, called European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) needed by the middle of the next decade. This revolutionary new ground-based telescope will have a 39-metre main mirror and will be the largest optical / near-infrared telescope in the world. On 13 March 2013, the ALMA Observatory was formally inaugurated during an official ceremony held at the ALMA site on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes. ALMA is the largest astronomical project in the world and the inauguration ceremony marked its formal transition from a construction project to a fully-fledged observatory. ALMA is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The observatory consists of an array of 66 antennas spread over an area 16 kilometres in diameter. More than 50 of ALMA's antennas are already in operation, and all 66 are fully assembled. The ALMA correlator, a record-breaking supercomputer - the only one of its kind working at this altitude - and which will be used to combine the data from the individual antennas, is also complete. The correlator is capable of performing as many calculations per second as three million laptop computers combined.

With the aim of offering young scientists opportunities and facilities to enhance their research programmes through close contact with ESO staff, ESO runs a post-doctoral fellowship programme since 1976. Through the ESO-FEL-ALMA08 project ESO managed to extend this fellowship programme with 9 additional 3-year long positions. These additional fellows were given the possibility to interact more closely with the ALMA global astronomical project and learn from the beginning how to use and optimally exploit this new facility.

Altogether 39 fellows from 16 different countries were hired under the ESO-FEL-ALMA08 project. 17 fellows started their fellowship in 2009, 16 started in 2010, and finally 6 in 2011. The gender balance demonstrated by the programme is the following: 61 % male and 39 % female applications, 74 % male and 26 % female contracts.

The fellows provided impressive research results during their stay at ESO, illustrated by an average 10 publications per fellow. The fellows were encouraged to participate at conferences, workshops and other scientific events, as well as language and managementtraining possibilities. On average, the fellows attended 20 events during their ESO fellowship.

The success of the ESO fellowship programme is demonstrated by the ability of the fellows to find permanent positions after the end of their fellowship. Two of the fellows left ESO before the originally planned end date of their fellowship contract, as they were offered permanent positions at national astronomical institutes. 6 fellows concluded their fellowship at ESO until the end of the ESO-FEL-ALMA08 project, and all of them found prestigious positions at different European astronomical institutes and universities. The rest of the fellows will finish their fellowship contracts at ESO in the coming 2 years.

Relevant contact information:

Head of Office for Science: Prof. Eric Emsellem (

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