Dr Alexander Gerst—MSc 2003

Dr Alexander Gerst is a highly regarded volcanologist and astronaut, who has undertaken two missions to the International Space Station (ISS).

During his studies for a Master’s degree in Science at Victoria University of Wellington, Dr Gerst developed new volcano monitoring techniques that can improve volcanic-eruption forecasting. He continued this work during a doctorate undertaken at the University of Hamburg, for which he received the Bernd Rendel award for outstanding research from the German Research Foundation.

After completing his doctorate, Dr Gerst was elected as an astronaut by the European Space Agency in 2009. Since then, he has been a member of the European Astronaut Corps, based in the European Astronaut Centre in Germany.

Dr Gerst first travelled into space in 2014, spending six months on the ISS as flight engineer, and he returned to the ISS in 2018 as commander. He is the first German to have held this position, and only the second European. For his work during the 2014 ISS mission, Dr Gerst was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany.

During his spaceflights, Dr Gerst has carried out a range of experiments on how various chemicals and elements behave in zero gravity, as well as testing new technologies to support future human space exploration. He is an enthusiastic science communicator and, while conducting his work on the ISS, he maintained a popular blog detailing the progress of his experiments, and shared photos and insights from space on social media platforms to a large international following.