Max Riekeles


Max Riekeles

Technische Universität Berlin      
Hardenbergstr. 36 a
10623 Berlin
Room ER127
Tel.: 030 314-79486

Max is a M.Sc. aerospace engineer, who graduated at the Technical University of Berlin.  In 2017/18, he was a short-term scholar at the University of Michigan, writing his master’s thesis “Searching for Life on Europa: Motility as a Biosignature”. He is interested in the interdisciplinary questions of astrobiology, particularly in the in-situ life detection on space missions.

Since October 2018, he is a research assistant at the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics of the TU Berlin. Working in the astrobiology group of Professor Schulze-Makuch, he is currently in preparation for his doctoral dissertation, extending his master’s thesis topic.

From January - September 2022, he took part in the JVSRP program of JPL (California Institute of Technology). He worked in Dr. Chris Lindensmith's OWLS group, developing an automated tracking algorithm for digital holographic microscopes.


Fundamental Research on Microbial Motility and its use as a universal Biosignature

His doctoral project investigates the use of microbial motility as a universal biosignature. It will investigate both, the motility behavior of microorganisms (bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes) under a variety of conditions, as well as engineering strategies for automated microscopic detection of life during space missions.

The main objective of the proposed study is to develop and test an automated microbial motility detection device with adjustable environmental conditions.

Goal 1: Establish the automated detection of microbial motility with specific microbial species of known motility type under different conditions.

Goal 2: Develop algorithms that allow the distinction between abiotic and biotics movement at the microscopic level.

Goal 3: Implement the algorithms in hardware for in-situ life detection in different environments.

This work will propel research in the field of the molecular biology of motility and allow to better understand locomotive behavior within natural microbial ecosystems. The upcoming missions to Mars and other potentially habitable environments in the solar system, such as the icy moons as Europa or Enceladus, require biochemistry-independent biosignatures for detecting potentially alien life forms; ‘motility’ is an ideal candidate in this context.


Riekeles M, Albalkhi H, Dubay MM, Nadeau J and Lindensmith CA (2024) Motion history images: a new method for tracking microswimmers in 3D. Front. Imaging. 3:1393314. doi: 10.3389/fimag.2024.1393314

Megan Marie Dubay, Jacqueline Acres, Max Riekeles, Jay L. Nadeau, Recent advances in experimental design and data analysis to characterize prokaryotic motility, Journal of Microbiological Methods, 2022, 106658, ISSN 0167-7012,

M. Riekeles, J. Schirmack, D. Schulze-Makuch (2021) Machine Learning Algorithms Applied to Identify Microbial Species by Their Motility. Life 2021, 11, 44. doi:

Conference Paper:

Nitschke, T.; Adirim, H.; Balke, A.; Leglise, J.; Melan, E.; Riekeles, M.; Schmid, M.; Wüstenberg, P. (2016). Launch Campaign Of The Upper & Lower Stage And Development Of A 3D-Printed Experimental Rocket At TU BerlinDeutsche Gesellschaft für Luft- und-Raumfahrt (DGLR).


Patent Nr: 10 2021 105 030, Optisches Gerät zur Bestimmung von Biopartikeln in einem fluiden Medium, insbesondere unter Verwendung eines tragbaren Geräts, insbesondere Smartphone, IPC: C12Q 1/04, Inhaber: Airo, Alessandro; Riekeles, Max; Schirmack, Janosch; Schulze-Makuch, Dirk


Best Presentation Award of the German Astrobiological Society for "Development of a Microscopic Life Detection System for Mars", Essen, Germany, September 2021


Please check out the new astrobio quiz app Quastro:

  • 10 levels with 10 questions each (more than 100 questions in total)
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad, Macbook)
  • iPhone SE 2nd generation or newer (older versions do not work)
  • First  version-> I'm happy about usability & content feedback
  • In case of errors, bugs, remarks please send feedback to with subject Quastro
  • Android version planned
  • Extension of app is planned