Mark Sargent, ISSI Science Program Manager

The ISSI Directorate appointed Dr. Mark Sargent as ISSI’s new Science Program Manager as of September 15, 2021. Mark Sargent succeeds Maurizio Falanga, who was the ISSI Science Program Manager since 2009. As of August 1, 2021, Maurizio is now ISSI’s Administrative Director.
 
Mark Sargent was born in Zurich, Switzerland and graduated with a degree in Physics (with specialisation in geophysics) from the ETH Zurich. After completing his PhD studies at the ETH Zurich in Switzerland in 2007, Mark went on to postdoctoral positions at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg (MPIA) and at the “Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA)” near Paris. He subsequently joined the Astronomy Centre at the University of Sussex in 2013 as a member of their teaching and research faculty, and in 2016/17 also held the position of Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research fellow. Before joining ISSI, Mark spent a year at EPFL in Lausanne and Geneva Observatory as visiting fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation.
 
Dr. Mark Sargent, Science Program Manager
Mark works in the field of galaxy formation and evolution, with a particular focus on how the gas and dust content of galaxies evolves over time, and how the process of star formation plays out in different types of galaxies, both in the nearby and distant Universe.
 
He is author or co-author of about 150 publications and in his career has mentored approximately 30 students for MSc or PhD projects. He currently chairs the Square Kilometre Array Science Working Group on Extragalactic Continuum science, and has recently also served the community as chair of the e-MERLIN time allocation committee and as a member of the UK radio astronomy strategy review panel.
 
 
 
 
Mark is very much looking forward to interacting with the whole ISSI community, and to “absorbing” as large a dose as possible of the science discussions that will take place at ISSI in the coming years.

Prof. Dr. Maurizio Falanga is the new ISSI Administrative Director as of 1st of August 2021

The ISSI Board of Trustees and the University of Bern appointed Prof. Dr. Maurizio Falanga to serve ISSI as the new Administrative Director and at the University of Bern as Professor at the Physics Institute. Maurizio Falanga succeeds Rudolf von Steiger in these positions as of 1st of August 2021.


Prof. Dr. Maurizio Falanga

Maurizio Falanga was born in Basel, Switzerland and graduated in Theoretical Physics at the University of Basel. He received his PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy. Afterwards he held various research fellowship positions in astrophysics departments around Europe. His scientific background is in high-energy astrophysics (hot universe and compact objects). He is author and co-author of about 200 published papers and (co-)editor of several books in his research fields. He has been invited to serve on a number of high-level international committees like Board member of the A&A Journal and others. Since 2009 he is the science program manager at ISSI, and between 2013 and 2019 he has been appointed as the first part-time Executive Director of ISSI-Beijing, China. Thus, Maurizio is known to the ISSI community and is highly regarded as a friendly and open-minded person who is always approachable. ISSI is looking forward to working with Maurizio in his new function.

 

 

Prof. Dr. Rudolf von Steiger

Ruedi von Steiger, at ISSI since the first days of the institute in 1995, has retired from his position as Administrative Director and as Professor at the University of Bern by the end of July 2021. For ISSI’s science portfolio, Ruedi represented Solar and Plasma Physics with his own focus on the composition of the solar wind using theoretical modeling and data from Solar Composition Analyzers on space missions such as Ulysses. As the full-time administrative director, Ruedi was essential in running the institute and nurturing its growth from a few to almost a thousand visitors per year. Moreover, Ruedi was the institute’s link to the University of Bern for which he taught courses in Observational Cosmology, Nucleosynthesis, and Quantum Mechanics and served on the Faculty Board of the Faculty of Science. ISSI will forever be thankful to Ruedi for his tireless and inspirational service for more than 25 years.

Prof. em. Dr. Hans Balsiger

Hans Balsiger (picture taken on the ISSI Annual Dinner 2015)
Hans Balsiger (picture taken on the occasion of the ISSI Annual Dinner 2015)

With great sadness, ISSI heard of the passing away of Prof. Hans Balsiger, former Director of the Physics Institute of the University of Bern and Professor of Experimental Physics. Prof. Balsiger helped found the institute and served on the ISSI Science Committee and the Board of Trustees for twenty years, between 1995 and 2014. He was a true friend of the institute and always a great supporter. His advice was highly appreciated. 

 

ISSI and its staff will miss him greatly!

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

 

 

Job Posting: Director for Earth Observation

The International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland, invites applications for a part-time position of

 

Director for Earth Observation

 

The new Director is expected to spend about 30% (negotiable) of her/his time working for ISSI at the Institute’s premises in Bern, Switzerland, starting in July 2021 or by agreement. The appointment will be for a period of four years renewable once.

Under the leadership of the Executive Director, each of the Directors of ISSI provides the inspirational scientific environment of the Institute in her/his area of research, namely, (i) Earth Observation, (ii) Solar and Plasma Physics(iii) Planetary Sciences, and (iv) Astrophysics and Cosmology. The directorsare the driving force behind the various activities taking place at ISSI in their fields of research: scientific workshops, forums, working groups and international teams. Their recognized scientific stature ensures the visibility and guarantees the high scientific standards of the Institute.

Scientists corresponding to the above profile, working in any area of Earth Observation from space, are encouraged to apply. Further information about the organisation of the International Space Science Institute and its activities can be found at: www.issibern.ch or in contacting the chair of the Selection Committee:

Prof. Georges Meylan  

Laboratory of Astrophysics

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Switzerland

E-mail: Georges.Meylan@epfl.ch

Interested scientists should submit their applications – a letter of motivation and curriculum vitae in one single pdf file – to the secretariat of ISSI, at their earliest convenience but no later than February 28, 2021:

Silvia Wenger

International Space Science Institute

Hallerstrasse 6

3012 Bern

Switzerland

E-mail: silvia.wenger@issibern.ch

 

Job Posting: Director for Earth Observation >>

“The Earth, a Planet like no Other” – Online Presentation with Anny Cazenave

This presentation was recorded on November 13, 2020 (on the occasion of ISSI’s 25th anniversary).

Abstract: The Earth is the only planet of the Solar System hosting evolved life. «How to build an habitable planet ?» has led to considerable scientific literature in the recent decades and has strongly motivated research on exoplanets. All along its history the Earth has displayed specific chemical and physical properties, including a relatively stable climate that a played major role in the evolution of living organisms. In this presentation we discuss the physical particularities of planet Earth, such as gravity and magnetic fields, rotation, mantle convection and plate tectonics, volcanism and water cycle, and their impacts on climates and life, from paleo times to present. Today, Homo Sapiens polulation is approaching 8 billions, a factor 8 times larger than 2 centuries ago, and an indirect consequence of fossil energy use and associated technological innovation. However, our present-day world is facing a number of new «Grand Challenges», as summarized by the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By providing invaluable information on the Earth system and its evolution under natural and anthropogenic forcing factors, Earth observation from space has a key role to play for reaching several of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda, in particular those related to current climate change, water resources, land and marine biodiversity and food security.

Anny Cazenave received her Ph.D. in geophysics in 1975 from the University of Toulouse. Subsequently, working at the French space agency CNES, she went into space geodesy, the use of satellites to track changes in Earth’s surface, gravity field and orientation in space. She first focused on the dynamics of the oceanic crust and the mechanically strong layer of the uppermost mantle below it. Among other things, she used early space- borne radars to show that the ocean surface is not flat, but follows the topography of the ocean floor. In other early work, she addressed questions about the rotation of Venus and the origins of the Mars moons, Phobos and Deimos. Towards the end of last century, European and American space agencies launched a new series of satellite radar altimeters capable of monitoring sea level everywhere in the world oceans in more or less real time. By the early part of the 21st century, it had been determined that global sea level was rising by at least about three millimetres a year. As one of the leading scientists in the joint French/American satellite altimetry missions, TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, Anny Cazenave has contributed to a greater understanding of this sea level rise and its dependence on global warming. Besides a large number of publications, Anny was lead author of the sea level sections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent full reports, in 2007 and 2014.

Since 2013, she has been director of Earth sciences at the International Space Science Institute in Bern. In 2020, she received the prestigious Vetlesen Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize in geophysics, for her pioneering work in using satellite data to chart and quantify rises in the surface of the oceans, and related changes in ice sheets, landmasses and freshwater bodies.

 

“The Earth, a Planet like no Other” – Online Presentation with Anny Cazenave

The extraordinary talk will take place on Friday, November 13, 18h CET and can be attended online at https://bit.ly/37J001Z (Zoom Webinar).

Meeting ID: 846 6905 4306         Password: 972498

Abstract: The Earth is the only planet of the Solar System hosting evolved life. «How to build an habitable planet ?» has led to considerable scientific literature in the recent decades and has strongly motivated research on exoplanets. All along its history the Earth has displayed specific chemical and physical properties, including a relatively stable climate that a played major role in the evolution of living organisms. In this presentation we discuss the physical particularities of planet Earth, such as gravity and magnetic fields, rotation, mantle convection and plate tectonics, volcanism and water cycle, and their impacts on climates and life, from paleo times to present. Today, Homo Sapiens polulation is approaching 8 billions, a factor 8 times larger than 2 centuries ago, and an indirect consequence of fossil energy use and associated technological innovation. However, our present-day world is facing a number of new «Grand Challenges», as summarized by the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By providing invaluable information on the Earth system and its evolution under natural and anthropogenic forcing factors, Earth observation from space has a key role to play for reaching several of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda, in particular those related to current climate change, water resources, land and marine biodiversity and food security.

 

Anny Cazenave received her Ph.D. in geophysics in 1975 from the University of Toulouse. Subsequently, working at the French space agency CNES, she went into space geodesy, the use of satellites to track changes in Earth’s surface, gravity field and orientation in space. She first focused on the dynamics of the oceanic crust and the mechanically strong layer of the uppermost mantle below it. Among other things, she used early space- borne radars to show that the ocean surface is not flat, but follows the topography of the ocean floor. In other early work, she addressed questions about the rotation of Venus and the origins of the Mars moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Towards the end of last century, European and American space agencies launched a new series of satellite radar altimeters capable of monitoring sea level everywhere in the world oceans in more or less real time. By the early part of the 21st century, it had been determined that global sea level was rising by at least about three millimetres a year. As one of the leading scientists in the joint French/American satellite altimetry missions, TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, Anny Cazenave has contributed to a greater understanding of this sea level rise and its dependence on global warming.

Besides a large number of publications, Anny was lead author of the sea level sections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent full reports, in 2007 and 2014.

Since 2013, she has been director of Earth sciences at the International Space Science Institute in Bern. In 2020, she received the prestigious Vetlesen Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize in geophysics, for her pioneering work in using satellite data to chart and quantify rises in the surface of the oceans, and related changes in ice sheets, landmasses and freshwater bodies.

 

 

Recently, a SPATIUM issue on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise by Anny Cazenave was published by the Association Pro ISSI.

ISSI Tuesday Tea(m) Time 1551

Report by Joachim Wambsganss, ISSI Director

Following the interruption of the usual activities at ISSI in Bern due to the Corona crisis, the ISSI directorate discussed other/new/additional ways to promote and enable international space science. We came up with three new initiatives, the first of which started on July 14, 2020: ‘ISSI Tuesday Tea(m) Time 1551’ and will be presented here.

The idea behind it is as follows: Due to national and international travel restrictions, regular full physical meetings at ISSI Bern are presently difficult. This is of particular concern to the ISSI International Teams. International Teams consist of 8 to 15 scientists and typically meet in Bern at the ISSI premises two or three times within roughly two years. At any given time, about 50 International Teams are “active”. Since mid-March, no meeting of an International Team has taken place at ISSI although the first physical meetings will likely resume in September.  

To provide support to International Teams, the ISSI directorate came up with the suggestion to meet “virtually” in form of video conferences. In order to structure this and to give ISSI scientists a chance to participate, we fixed a weekly slot, Tuesdays at 15:51 o’clock Bern time (i.e. CEST or CET, respectively). So ideally, every Tuesday a different team shall meet within the next so many months. The slightly odd-looking time-of-day was chosen because the numerals 1551 look very similar to the letters ISSI and hence have a visual connection and can be easily remembered as well. Since on one hand, this afternoon time is when many cultures celebrate a cup of tea, on the other hand we want each ISSI Team to use this opportunity, we call this new activity: 

ISSI Tuesday Tea(m) Time 1551

(or in short ISSI TTT 1551). Most of the International Teams responded positively, some embraced this new opportunity of a soon-to-be-held team meeting enthusiastically.

The first actual “ISSI TTT 1551”-event took place on Tuesday this week, July 14, 2020. The ISSI International Team An Exploration of the Valley Region in the Low altitude Ionosphere: Response to Forcing from Below and Above and Relevance to Space Weather lead by Jorge Chau (Leibniz Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Rostock, Germany) met online via the ZOOM system, the session had been prepared by ISSI.

Screenshot of the first Tuesday Tea(m) Meeting with the J. Chau Team and ISSI Staff Members

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This “ISSI TTT 1551”-premiere worked very well. After a few introductory words by ISSI representatives, the team chair Koki Chau presented a draft agenda for the meeting. First some administrative issues were discussed, e.g. whether the next envisioned physical meeting team meeting at ISSI Bern – foreseen for end of September – could or should be held, maybe combined as a hybrid meeting with remote participation possible. Then the team discussed how to proceed with another new ISSI activity, namely an ISSI@25 video, meant to celebrate 25 years of ISSI with a 25 second video per International Team (this will be reported about in the near future with a separate spotlight). Following a brief status of activities, three short science talks (10 min each) were presented by team members followed by a Q&A period. A general discussion concluded the meeting.

This first ISSI TTT 1551 was an excellent realization of our vision at ISSI of how such a meeting should work. Five ISSI staff members participated, at least for part of the time. They enjoyed the opportunity to meet the team and get an excellent impression on what their science is all about as well as of the enthusiasm of the team members. This team was an excellent pioneer and did extremely well from our ISSI perspective. We certainly hope that the team enjoyed their Tea Time as well. We look forward to many more interesting and exciting ISSI TTT 1551 events with other active ISSI International Teams in the coming months!

Obituary Prof. Johannes Geiss (1926-2020)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is with great sadness that we must bid farewell to our founding father and honorary director

Prof. Johannes Geiss (1926-2020)

Johannes Geiss died on January 30, 2020 at the advanced age of 93. In him, we have lost a great scientist and supporter of the sciences forever.

Johannes Geiss was born on September 4, 1926 in Stolp in what was then Western Pomerania as the son of an estate manager. How different the world must have looked in that time, when his grandfather had the horse hitched to the cart every two days in order to travel to the barber in the neighboring village for a shave; not fifty years later, his grandson landed an experiment on the Moon.

During the war years, Johannes Geiss was able to attend Gymnasium (high school), which he left in 1944 with a Notabitur (early school-leaving qualification in wartime) in order to immediately start a physics degree in Göttingen. Even then, his lecturers must have been struck by the young student’s rapid comprehension and irrepressible need to communication, and he was thus employed as a teaching and research assistant even during his studies. In 1950, he obtained a degree in physics from Max von Laue, and he obtained his doctorate from Wolfgang Paul in 1953. The latter he referred to, with the greatest respect, as the real part of the equally well-known but more flamboyant Wolfgang Pauli, who worked at the ETH at the time; Geiss loved such wordplays which reveal themselves to mathematical initiates.

During his time in Göttingen, Johannes Geiss also met his wife, Carmen, with whom he shared a deep partnership all his life.

His first position as a physicist brought Johannes Geiss to Fritz Houtermans’ institute at the University of Bern. Houtermans wanted to apply mass spectrometry, with which Geiss had successfully been able to determine the isotopic composition of lead, to determine the age of meteoric matter. So, at the beginning of the fifties, his glass mass spectrometer with him, he went to Bern, which would become the new center of his life, and by 1974 he was a naturalized citizen of Switzerland.

Johannes Geiss brought a breath of fresh air to an institute which was perhaps a little outdated at the time and soon found enthusiastic companions to establish a group which would quickly make a name for itself in astrophysics. Periods spent abroad in Chicago with Harold Urey and as a young professor in Miami broadened and rounded out his education; in between, he habilitated in experimental physics, in particular extraterrestrial physics, at the University of Bern in 1957. He was appointed as an associate professor in 1960, and as a full professor in 1964. At the beginning of the sixties, he had to take over management of the institute for the increasingly ill Houtermans, and was thus appointed director of the institute following Houtermans’ death in 1966; a position which he held until his retirement in 1990. In 1970/71, he also served as dean of the Faculty of Science, and in 1982/83 he served as rector of the university.

But Johannes Geiss was pulled to other places time and again in order to maintain and develop his ever-growing network. He spent the year before the first landing mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – at NASA in Houston in order to lobby for the ingeniously simple solar wind sail developed by him and his group. The solar wind would be captured with an aluminum foil during the astronauts’ time on the surface of the Moon as the solar wind arrives there unhindered because of the Moon’s lack of an atmosphere and a magnetic field. The simplicity of the experiment and the excellent reputation of the Bernese mass spectrometer made him perfect for the job. But it took great tenacity, coupled with the previously mentioned enthusiasm and the necessary bit of luck for the sail, which weighed scarcely a pound, to fly with Apollo 11 in July 1969 and then a further four times. Its analysis, in particular the ratio of the helium isotopes captured, corresponded to a measurement of the average density of the universe as a whole – a ground-breaking result for which he, together with Hubert Reeves, was awarded the Einstein Medal by the Albert Einstein Society in Bern in 2001.

Johannes Geiss made clever use of his growing reputation in order to continue improving the conditions in Bern and to make the institute one of the top names in astrophysics and keep it that way. Under his leadership, the mass spectrometer was made so much smaller that it could be flown on space probes. At the same time, he was able to realize the necessary laboratories and a top-notch clean room in Bern for the tests and calibration. Bern thus became an internationally sought-after partner for space missions, a role which it still retains today thanks to the tireless efforts of Johannes Geiss and his successors. Of the many missions which Johannes Geiss was involved in as principal investigator or as co-investigator, the solar wind ion composition spectrometer stands out as a prime example. Developed with his friend George Gloeckler, this instrument orbited the sun on the Ulysses space probe for almost two decades on a polar orbit. This experiment achieved (among many other results) a refinement of the isotopic signature of helium measured with the solar wind sail. It is hard to find a better illustration of his progressive, unceasing spirit of research.

Even after his retirement, Johannes Geiss’ drive diminished not one jot. He still mustered all of his enthusiasm and convinced those in charge of the European Space Agency ESA and the Swiss Space Center to establish a new institute which would focus on the interdisciplinary analysis, evaluation and interpretation of the results of space missions. The International Space Science Institute was thus born almost exactly 25 years ago. In the first eight years, he served as its executive director and made the institute a center where scientists from all around the world come together in an informal and interdisciplinary setting in order to reach for new scientific horizons. Thanks to his vision, the ISSI has today become a place of meeting and exchange for thousands of space scientists.

Johannes Geiss’ work was internationally recognized with many distinguished honors. He didn’t like the often stiff atmosphere of such events, greatly preferring informal discussions with colleagues, students and anyone at all, when it came to science or any other topic which sparked his enormously broad and active interest. However, some of these honors filled him with a certain amount of pride – and deservedly so: His appointment as a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (1978), his honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago (1986), the aforementioned Einstein Medal (2001) and the Bowie Medal, the highest honor of the American Geophysical Union (2005).

Johannes Geiss passed away in his sleep on January 30, 2020 surrounded by his loved ones. He leaves behind his wife Carmen and his daughter Jana, with her family. His legacy will continue to shine at the Physics Institute at the University of Bern and at the International Space Science Institute.

Bern, February 6, 2020
Rudolf von Steiger

 

Nachruf Johannes Geiss (Deutsche Version) >>

In Memoriam: Johannes Geiss  – Obituary written by Len A. Fisk and Roger-Maurice Bonnet >>

Pro ISSI Nachruf Johannes Geiss >>

Dr. Anny Cazenave, ISSI Earth Science Director, Receives the 2020 Vetlesen Prize for her Pioneering Work in Charting Modern Sea Level Change

Dr. Anny Cazenave is to receive the most prestigious Vetlesen Prize 2020 for Achievements in the Earth Sciences.

The Vetlesen Prize is designed to be equivalent to the Nobel prize and will be administered at a ceremony at Colombia University this spring. Cazenave, a geodesist by training,  will be honored for pioneering the use of space satellite data to measure the topography and the rise of the surface of the oceans, together with related changes in ice sheets, glaciers, ocean temperature and land water storage. Her work has linked the sea level rise with climate change.

Sea level rise is seen as one of the most important and threatening consequences of climate change. Two thirds of the sea level rise is now understood as coming from the melting of land ice as a direct consequence of global warming and one third from the expansion of ocean water. That ratio was only half to half when Cazenave started her work.

As director of ISSI’s Earth Science Program Anny Cazenave has supervised the program and has organized a significant number of workshops related to global change. ISSI is proud to have her on the scientific staff.

The Vetlesen Prize is awarded every three years for “scientific achievement resulting in a clearer understanding of the Earth, its history, or its relation to the universe”. The prize was established in 1955 by George Unger Vetlesen, a Norwegian born sailor, naval engineer and shipbuilder in the United States.

 

More Information >>