Science for a Better World

We have previously expressed ISSI’s concern about the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis. The need to maintain science as a platform for dialogue even in times of conflict has become more prominent. As this war continues and other tensions rise around the world, it seems more important than ever to maintain institutions where such peaceful and constructive dialogue can take place. Science is a universal language that knows no geographical or political boundaries, nor boundaries related to race, gender or sexual orientation.

ISSI provides an open and neutral environment where such open and free discussions about Space and Earth Science, and related fields can take place. Dialogue between scientists promotes not only better science, but also a better mutual understanding among people of different origins and cultures. At ISSI we like to think of this as our own small contribution to a better world.

The Team at ISSI and Willy Benz, chair of the Board of Trustees

Rumi Nakamura and Geraint Jones appointed as ISSI Discipline Scientists

ISSI is pleased to announce that Dr. Rumi Nakamura and Prof. Geraint Jones have been appointed as Discipline Scientists as of 1st July 2023. We welcome two outstanding additions to the ISSI Team: Plasma Discipline Scientist Dr. Rumi Nakamura, and Planetary Discipline Scientist Prof. Geraint Jones. Not only Discipline Scientists provide scientific expertise that is complementary to the current ISSI portfolio, but, most important, they are ISSI Ambassadors with their unique communities. As such, they will  channel ideas and develop scientific initiatives that will best  serve their community, while at the same time explore ways to identify how best ISSI can advance  the scientific discourse in their respective fields.


Rumi Nakamura

Rumi Nakamura did her PHD research on “Aurora dynamics and particle injection associated with magnetospheric substorms” at the University Tokyo in Japan. She is currently a group leader at Space Research Institute (IWF), Austrian Academy of Sciences and Lecturer at University of Graz in Austria. Her research interest are space plasma physics; plasma transport and acceleration in the magnetosphere, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, solar wind magnetosphere interaction, substorm and storm dynamics.  She participated in a number of ESA and NASA space plasma physics missions such as Cluster, DoubleStar, THEMIS as a Co-Investigator and is currently leading the Active Spacecraft Potential Control (ASPOC) instrument for Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission.




Geraint Jones

Geraint Jones is Professor of Planetary Science at the UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics and is head of MSSL’s Planetary Science Group in the UK. Geraint Jones’ primarily research interests are outer planet systems and cometary science. He has been a member of three different instrument teams on the Cassini-Huygens mission, and is a member of two JUICE teams. His interest in cometary science have concentrated on interactions between comets and the solar wind, as well as modelling the large-scale structure of dust tails. Topics of particular interest include the behaviour of comets near the Sun, and serendipitous comet tail crossings, of which he has found several examples. Geraint led the proposal to ESA for the Comet Interceptor mission to an undiscovered long-period comet. This project adopted by the agency in 2022, and is planned to launch in 2029. He has been appointed as an interdisciplinary scientist on the mission. 


edited by Andrea Fischer

Thanks and Good-Bye to Tilman Spohn

Time goes way too fast, and 4 years have already elapsed since you became the Executive Director of ISSI. We would like to thank you for everything you have done for ISSI during your term. You managed to steer ISSI through a difficult period in its history (the COVID period) and set a new course. One could call it “e-ISSI”, as you have introduced the online Game Changer seminars, introduced ISSI online Apps and restructured the process of organizing ISSI Workshops. You were able to to keep the institute going by engaging with the entire ISSI community and even increasing the visibility of ISSI. We were particularly impressed by the speed and efficiency with which all these changes were implemented.

Tilman Spohn (ISSI Executive Director 2019–2022)

Specifically, we applaud your persistence in securing stable funding from our funding bodies, ESA in particular, both for Space- and Earth sciences.

Tilman is also widely appreciated as a renowned scientist, e.g., he co-organised the “Venus: Evolution Through Time” Workshop at ISSI and was involved in the Working Group “Extant Subsurface Life on Mars? Science, Tools & Missions Together”. He also pursued fruitful collaborations with several of ISSI’s visiting scientists and published a number of original research papers during his time at ISSI, most notably two papers on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, for which he is Principal Investigator of the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package. 

Now, after four years, you are leaving a thriving institute, with a complete and motivated staff, and with funding secured for the next several years. e-ISSI will continue as your legacy, and we will also soon be ready for an external audit with a management & quality handbook in place.

It was a pleasure to work with you because your openness and clear visions were based on substance, hard work, always keeping in mind the mission of excellence as a small and beautiful institute. Dear Tilman, we are grateful that under your leadership ISSI remained a unique place which is unanimously appreciated by all its visitors.
We wish you all the best for your future!

Your ISSI Directors & Staff

Antonella Nota appointed as the next ISSI Executive Director from January 1, 2023

Following a decision taken by the ISSI Board of Trustees during its meeting on 20 May, 2022, Dr. Antonella Nota will be the next ISSI Executive Director, starting on 1 January, 2023.

Until last May, Antonella Nota was the Head of the European Space Agency (ESA) Office at STScI, in Baltimore, USA. Over the years, she has been, among other responsibilities, ESA HST Project Scientist; Mission Manager, ESA HST Project Scientist; JWST Project Scientist, Head of the Science Division at STScI, and Associate STScI Director for ESA.

Her research interests are related to the fields of massive stars and young stellar clusters.  

A full press release will be published by ISSI near the end of 2022.

The ISSI Board of Trustees


The Chair of the ISSI BoT and the ISSI Executive Director are, like the ISSI staff, deeply shocked and saddened by the current events in Ukraine. As a scientific international institution, we consider that mutual respect, integrity and kindness, as well as dialogue among ourselves are absolutely essential.

Our thoughts and sympathy are with all those who suffer during these terrible times.

Dr. Vittorio Manno

Vittorio Manno

Dr. Vittorio Manno, former and first Science Program manager of ISSI between 1995 and 2009, born on 31st July 1938, passed away at the end of the night on 1st February 2022 in Brussels where he lived. He was recruited by Professor Johannes Geiss who died on 30th January 2020, nearly exactly two years before him. He was a genuine eclectic scientist, though a profoundly humble person, fully honest and loyal. He was deeply appreciated and admired by the members of the international space science community, ISSI teams and workshop members, for his personal sense of service and his impressive scientific culture covering all fields of space science. Vittorio Manno was both a man of dialogue and also certainly of principles. He will be remembered by all ISSI staff members who have certainly lost a very elegant respected colleague and a very dear friend.

Roger-Maurice Bonnet

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.

Board of Trustees appoints Prof. Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet as ISSI Honorary Director

ISSI Honorary Director Prof.-Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet

Over time, Prof. Dr. Roger-Maurice Bonnet has constantly supported the development of the International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland. In addition, during two specific periods of time, he has played an especially important role in establishing ISSI.

First, as the director of Science of the European Space Agency (ESA), Prof. Bonnet helped Prof. Dr. Johannes Geiss in paving the way, which led to the creation of ISSI in January 1995.

Second, as the successor of Prof. Geiss as Executive Director of ISSI, from 2003 till 2012, Prof. Bonnet has expanded ISSI scientific interests and developed the tools by which ISSI now engages a global scientific audience.

Acknowledging his pivotal role and expressing deep gratitude for his steady and effective support and leadership that has made ISSI a beacon in space science, the ISSI Board of Trustees presents Prof. Roger-Maurice Bonnet with the title of Honorary Director of the International Space Science Institute, effective as of June 1, 2021.

With this award, the Board of Trustees wishes to highlight Prof. Bonnet’s essential role, both in the past and today, as a true ambassador of ISSI to the international scientific community.

The ISSI Board of Trustees


ISSI Game Changer Online Seminar: News from the ISSI Team

Dear Friends of ISSI and the ISSI Game Changer Online Seminar!
The first season of the ISSI Game Changer Seminar Series “How missions change(d) our view of the Solar System, the Universe, and the Earth” ends with the end of this month of March. 

In four blocks since July 2020, we first covered missions such as Rosetta, Hayabusa II, and SOHO to solar system objects, and then astrophysical space telescopes such as Gaia, Integral, and the Hubble Space Telecope. In 2021 to date, we presented Earth observation missions such as SMOS, Cryosat and GRACE. The series will conclude on March 25 with a presentation on CFOSAT, a joint Chinese and French oceanography mission to understand ocean dynamics and climate variability. 

Before that, however, we present three more highlights: First, this Thursday, March 4, Prof. Stamatios Krimigis will report on the space odyssey of the two Voyager probes, which have now left the solar system and are cruising in interstellar space!  This will be followed on March 11 by a talk on the Apollo program and its scientific legacy presented by Prof. Jim Head a witness to the first manned landing on an extraterrestrial body. For March 18, we are soliciting a talk on an x-ray astrophysics mission. 

The Game Changers seminars will then take a break in April. In May we plan to resume the series. But this time the focus will not be on missions but rather on themes, “Ideas and Findings about the Solar System, the Universe and our Terrestrial Environment”, as we plan to call it. 

Foreseen are talks on topics like the origin of the Moon and of the Solar System, comparing it to other planetary systems. Spectroscopy of extrasolar planetary atmospheres will be on our agenda as well as Martian Seismology, the composition of the Sun, space weather and astrobiology. We will further look at the latest on the Hubble constant controversy, present new results on the merger history of the Milky Way, and offer exiting views on supermassive black holes – in our Galaxy and elsewhere. For our terrestrial environment we will keep an eye on problems related to climate and global change and their societal impact but also compare the Earth to its siblings in the solar system.  
We plan not to proceed in blocks this time but rather mix themes. An astrophysical topic can therefore immediately follow an environmental topic and precede a planetary topic.  

While in our present program we have been looking back at those missions that helped us better understand our world, for the new series we dare to look ahead to topics that we consider to be particularly promising for the future.
With our best regards and stay safe & tuned

Your ISSI Team