Research Interests

Exploring Exoplanet Atmospheres.

I research cloud formation on 3D exoplanet atmospheres. My goal is to deepen our understanding of cloud formation and their impact on climates. To this end, I implement kinetic cloud formation in general circulation models and analyse their feedback to the climate.
During my master thesis, I added IFS support to PynPoint to test the performance of differential imaging techniques. With it, new exoplanets can be searched in old and new observations.

Curriculum Vitae


  • 10/2020 - current: PhD in Astronomy, KU Leuven & University of St. Andrews
    Thesis: "Cloud formation on 3D exoplanet atmospheres"
  • 09/2018 - 09/2020: MSc. Physics, ETH Zürich, Swizerland
    Thesis: "Improving Direct Imaging of Exoplanets using Spectral Observations from SPHERE/IFS"
  • 09/2015 - 09/2018: BSc. Physics, ETH Zürich, Swizerland
    Thesis: "To Measure a Transit with a 0.5m Telescope"

Additional Skills

  • Python, LaTeX and basics of Fortran 77/90, C++, C#, Java, MatLab
  • German (native), English (advanced, C1), French (intermediate, B1)

Practical Skills:

  • Processing of high contrast imaging data (incl. PynPoint, EsoReflex)
  • Operating optical telescopes (e.g. Celestron C14)

Extracrricular Activities

My interessts outside university life extend in various directions. I was always intrigued by project based work in diverse teams.

ARIS - Building Rockets

11/2018 - 09/2019

During my time at ETH I joined ARIS, a rocket team that competed at the 2019 Spaceport America Cup, the largest sounding rocket competition in the world. I was head of the payload team and the safety officer of our team. My team and I developed three CubeSat experiments which flew with our student-build sounding rockets to 3’000m as precisely as possible. The work paid off and we won second place. In addition, we earned an honourable mention for our safety measures.



I spent a week on Diavolezza at 3000m investigating "The Life, Death and Remnants of Stars". We researched the optimal observation plan and developed python routines to analyse our observations. Meanwhile, we learned to operate the 0.2m C8 Celestron and a 0.35m C14 Celestron telescopes in the open at 3000m above sea level. Unfortunately, a storm was raging during the whole week and, despite all efforts, we were not able to observe any stars. At one point we tested our telescopes on ourselves which resulted in the amazing picture you can see to the left.

Team Derpalert - Amateur Game Development

01/2015 - 09/2016

During high school, I programmed my first video game. The experience was incredibly fun, and I wanted to share this excitement with others. That is why I founded Team Derpalert, an amateur game development team. We had several groups within the team working on the code, design, storytelling, music, and organisation. This project gave its members the possibility to live out their passions while improving their skills. Even though we never published our work, I consider Team Derpalert a huge success.

Massive Exoplanet Meme Exhibition (MEME)

29.01.20 and 29.01.21

I co-organized the first and second edition of the MEME together with friends. In the first edition, we collected and created original memes which we then displayed in our office. The second edition was held remotly thus allowing people from all over the world to join. The exhibition can still be visited here. Additionally, we invited high school students in a separate educational exhibition.

Contact Me

Sven Kiefer
Celestijnenlaan 200d
3001 Heverlee