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TMT International Science Development Teams

Events and Announcements


A new call for ISDT applications will be available soon and published on the website.

Please stay tuned for more details early 2024! 



The TMT International Science Development Teams (ISDTs) are groups of researchers who work together to provide scientific input and feedback to the TMT Science Advisory Committee and the TMT project, to stimulate planning for future TMT observing programs, and to build connections between the TMT and the international astronomical communities The ISDTs foster scientific collaboration across the TMT partnership and beyond, into the broader astronomical community.

There are nine ISDTs, each one steering activities related to a dedicated science goal within TMT. Click below on each ISDT to view its members. In addition, each ISDT has two conveners. Two TMT Science Advisory Committee members, who are also ISDT members, oversee all ISDT activities. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the conveners to learn more about the ISDTs and their activities.

International Science Development Team Conveners
Fundamental physics and cosmology Ian Dell'Antonio
Jarah Evslin
Early universe, galaxy formation and the intergalactic medium Michael Balogh
Marie Lemoine-Busserolle
Supermassive black holes
Yue Shen
Milky Way and nearby galaxies Raja GuhaThakurta
Eric Peng
Stars, Stellar Physics and the Interstellar Medium
Lalitha Sairam
Formation of stars and planets Gregory Herczeg
Manoj Puravankara
Exoplanets Thayne Currie
Christian Marois
Our solar system Tomohiko Sekiguchi
Michael H. Wong
Time domain science Guy Stringfellow
Masaomi Tanaka
TMT SAC ISDT Leaders Ian Dell'Antonio
Lei Hao
Manoj Puravankara


ISDT membership is open to all qualified Ph.D. scientists, both from the current TMT partners and associates, and from the astronomical community at large.

Recent and ongoing examples of ISDT activities include:

  • Thoroughly revising and updating the TMT Detailed Science Case and providing techncal input for the flowdown from science cases to technical requirements
  • Developing concepts for possible TMT Key Programs - large, collaborative observing programs that will achieve transformative new science with TMT
  • Organizing topical scientific sessions and discussions at the annual TMT Science Forum
  • Providing scientific input to project working groups that are convened to work through particularly challenging issues, e.g. The Polarimetry and Time Resolved Working Group, The High-Contrast Working Group
  • Organizing topical conferences within their interest areas, e.g. Shedding Light on the The Dark Universe with Extremely Large Telescopes and Extremely Big Eyes on the Early Universe
  • Leading the development of white papers on 2nd generation instrument concepts


  • Help to define the observatory capabilities and operations to maximize its scientific output.
  • Broaden the base of scientists actively engaged in the TMT project, including, e.g., observers, theorists, high-energy physicists.
  • Build science-driven collaborations across the partnership.
  • Demonstrate the full potential of TMT in key science areas cutting across instrumentation boundaries.
  • Increase visibility of the TMT science by producing white papers and organizing workshops.


  • Update, expand and maintain the TMT Detailed Science Case document. Future efforts will use the TMT Science Case Development Tool.
  • Work closely with the TMT Department of Operations (DeOps) group to transform science cases into science and technical requirements.
  • Write white papers (e.g., defining possible TMT key programs) that will inform decisions on operations issues, such as time allocation procedures and data management.
  • Work with the instrument science teams, e.g., providing input on science requirements for the instrument designs, or to simulate TMT instrument capabilities.
  • Model theoretical predictions that can guide scientific and instrumentation planning.
  • Identify ancillary data and precursor datasets needed to prepare for TMT observations.
  • Identify astronomical projects, surveys, technology development, etc. that need to be done and items that need to be in place before first light at the observatory, to support instrument and software development.
  • Exercise data-reduction pipelines early.
  • Advertise TMT science; sponsor education and public outreach programs.
  • Advise on future instrumentation by connecting with instrument working groups.


  • The ISDTs were established in 2013. There are currently nine ISDTs (see list above), each with two conveners who organize the group's activities.
  • ISDT conveners are selected by the TMT SAC.
  • The ISDTs are self-organized. Each ISDT will set its own detailed goals and timeline in accordance with the guidelines of the SAC.
  • Calls for new members will be issued every year. The SAC approves membership applications based on the recommendations of a panel consisting of all the ISDTs conveners.
  • Membership requires real work. Applicants will need to clearly and credibly identify the time and resource commitments to the working group. Membership of multiple ISDTs is allowed, provided enough time and resources are available.
  • Membership is annual. Members who wish to continue their participation to the ISDTs will have to submit a renewal request to the conveners. The sole criterion for renewal is active participation. Current members do not need to re-apply. Instruction for membership renewal will be circulated to current members by the conveners.
  • Membership is open to Ph.D. scientists anywhere, including faculty, staff, and postdocs. Members can nominate their graduate students as affiliate members.

Membership Benefits

  • Meet potential collaborators throughout the TMT partnership community.
  • Become better informed about TMT. Be ready to write successful proposals and make the best use of TMT at first light.
  • Ground-floor membership in large-project consortia.
  • Membership may help secure support from funding agencies.
  • The registration fee to the TMT Science Forum is waived for ISDT members.

Membership of the ISDTs does not imply access to telescope time nor to funding from the TMT project.

How to Join

The call for new applications is now closed (stay tuned for the next call happening early 2024)

Application for individual membership in an ISDT should be emailed to include the following parts:

  • Title and abstract (<200 words)
  • Which ISDT do you wish to join?
  • Describe your scientific interests and your qualifications for participating in the ISDT.
  • Describe the scientific goals of your participation, and activities that you might carry out in support of the TMT effort. For example, might you carry out simulations? Write forecasting papers? Contribute to the TMT Detailed Science Case? Develop tools to help with TMT planning, observing, or data analysis? Engage with instrument teams? Gather and work on ancillary datasets? Form new scientific collaborations?
  • Provide a quantitative estimate of the level of effort you can dedicate to the ISDT, and describe available resources that can support your effort.
  • A short curriculum vitae.

The length of the application is limited to 2000 words for items 3-5 above, and no more than 1 page for figures, plus 2 pages maximum of curriculum vitae. There is no application form or template; please format your materials as a single PDF file.

Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Expertise in the relevant areas of astronomy.
  • Commitment to carry out work in support of the ISDT’s goals.
  • Contribution to the overall TMT project.

Propose a new ISDT

Proposals for new ISDT working groups can also be submitted. New ISDTs may focus on science that does not fit well within the scope of the existing ISDTs, or may focus on subtopics drawn from one or more existing ISDTs that merit additional emphasis within TMT planning.

Proposals to create a new ISDTs should include the following parts:

  • A proposed name for the new ISDT.
  • A discussion of the scientific scope for the new ISDT.
  • A clear rationale for forming a new group.
  • The names of at least five scientists who would become members of the new ISDT. It is strongly encouraged that the new ISDT should include members from two or more TMT partners and associates. These may be members of existing ISDTs, or new members not currently participating in another ISDT. 

There is no strict length limit for a proposal for a new ISDT, but a recommended guideline is up to 2000 words for items 2 and 3 above, with 1 or 2 pages of figures. Proposing astronomers who are not currently ISDT members should submit individual membership applications, as described above. Scientists who are already ISDT members are not required to submit new, individual applications.

  • Proposals for new ISDTs may be submitted by current ISDT members or by astronomers who are not currently members of an ISDT to
  • If a new ISDT is approved by the SAC, it will be advertised among the existing ISDT membership community, and there will be an opportunity for interested ISDT members to join the new group.
  • The conveners of a new ISDT will be appointed by the SAC.