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Born in Cologne, he graduated Physics in Cologne and Bonn, and obtained a PhD at the University of Bonn in 1995. He was a staff astronomer at MPIfR (1996-1998), a Max-Planck Otto-Hahn fellow at the University of California at Berkeley (1998-1999), Lecturer (1999-2003), Senior Lecturer (2003-2005) and Reader (2005-2006) at the University of Manchester, Head of the Pulsar Group of the Jodrell Bank Observatory/Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (2005-2009), Associate Director of the Jodrell Bank Observatory (2007-2009). He is currently a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council.

His expertise lies in radio astronomy with a focus on the observations of pulsars for experimental tests of gravitational physics. He was a member of the team which received the Descartes Prize of the European Union in 2005, he won the Marcel-Grossmann Award in 2009 and the Academy Award of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science in 2010.

In 2013 he was also awarded the Herschel Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in the UK.