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Organization: CSIC


​Xavier Barcons was born in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (Catalonia, Spain), on July 16th,  1959.  He obtained his Physics degree at the University of Barcelona (1981) and his PhD in Science at the University of Cantabria (1985). He was Teaching Assistant (1981-87) and Lecturer/Associate Professor (1987-1993) at the University of Cantabria. He also enjoyed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute of Astronomy (Cambridge, UK) during 1986/87; he returned to IoA as a sabbatical visitor in 1997.  In1993 he obtained a permanent Research Scientist position at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). He was promoted to CSIC Research Professor in 2002. He was founding member and first Director (1995-1999) of the Instituto de Física de Cantabria, a research centre shared by CSIC and the University of Cantabria. He leads there the Galaxies & AGN group.

Project development, management & science policy

He's been involved in ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory mission, both as co-I of the Survey Science Centre and as member (2000-2001) and chair (2010-2014) of XMM-Newton's Users Group. He has taken a leading role in the proposal and selection of next ESA's X-ray observatory mission since 2000 (first on XEUS, then IXO, and finally Athena). Served in the Athena Science Study Team (2014-2017), lead the Athena Community Office (2015-2017), and chaired the Athena/X-IFU science advisory team. He served in ESA's Astronomy Working Group (2002-03) and in the Space Science Advisory Committee (2004-06).

From 2004 to 2014 he was advisor on Astronomy matters to the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. This included the management of the Astronomy programme (2004-06), the creation of the Spanish network of astronomical infrastructures (RIA) in 2007 and serving as its coordinator (2007-10) as well as coordinating in-kind negotiations with ESO, resulting in the accession of Spain to ESO in 2006. He led the Spanish delegation to ESO, serving as Council delegate from 2007 to 2011. He was ESO Council Vice-president (2011) and President (2012-14) and served in several ESO auxiliary bodies. Served in the ALMA Board (2008-14) and its subcommittees. 

He has been appointed ESO Director General, starting 1 September 2017.


Works on active Galaxies and X-ray sky surveys. He founded the first Spanish X-ray astronomy group, still a national and international reference. He triggered new developments in Transition Edge Sensor calorimeters for X-ray astronomy in Spain.  He has published over 120 papers in international journals, which have received over 4000 citations (H=35). He's delivered many dozens of conferences by invitation in international meetings, develops significant activities in public outreach and has supervised 7 PhD students – all of them active researchers.

  • Instituto de Física de Cantabria
    Edificio Juan Jordá
    Avenida de los Castros, s/n
    E-39005 Santander
    Cantabria, España

  • El Instituto de Física de Cantabria es un Centro Mixto del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas y de la Universidad de Cantabria.