About me

I am an associate professor at the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in Suzhou. Prior to that, I was a  Bairen Research Professor at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (KIAA) at Peking University. I lead a research group that focuses primarily on the dynamical evolution of exoplanet systems, the solar system, star clusters, and binary/multiple stellar systems. Our research is supported by the 985 project, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, and the National Astronomical Observatories of China (Chinese Academy of Sciences).

Research appointments

2006 - 2009 PPARC/STFC Research Associate, Department of Physics and Astronomy, The University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
2009 - 2012 International Astronomical Union (IAU) Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation (PPGF) Fellow, Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, China
2009 - 2016 Bairen Reseach Professor (Hundred Talent Program), Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, China
2016 - present
Associate Professor, Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China

Honorary appointments

2009 - 2009
Visiting Researcher, Korea National University of Education, Korea
2010 - present
Visiting professor, Rizal Technological University, the Philippines
2015 - present
Visiting professor, Qiannan Normal University for Nationalities, China
2016 - present
Honorary faculty, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
2016 - present
Director, East Asian regional Office of Astronomy for Development (EA-ROAD), International Astronomical Union (IAU)


1996 - 2002 BSc/MSc in Astrophysics, Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden, the Netherlands
2002 - 2006 PhD in Astrophysics, Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands


I was born in Kwintsheul, a small village in the Netherlands. Kwintsheul is located in Westland municipality, which is among the largest agricultural areas in the Netherlands. My interest for astronomy and space exploration emerged at during my first years of elementary school. After finishing my elementary school in Kwintsheul, I attended the Interconfessioneel Westland College in Naaldwijk. In 1996 I started the integrated BSc/MSc programme in astrophysics at  the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. At Leiden Observatory carried out two undergraduate research projects. I worked with Martin Bureau on an optical/HI study of the Magellanic dwarf galaxy ESO394G029, and with Tim de Zeeuw and Ellen Verolme on constraining the dynamical distance and internal structure of the globular cluster NGC 5139 (omega Centauri), using radial velocity and proper motion data. I subsequently started my PhD at the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). In Amsterdam I worked with Lex Kaper, Anthony Brown, Simon Portegies Zwart, and Ed van den Heuvel on the primordial binary population in the young association Scorpius-Centaurus (Sco OB2). At 27 September 2006 I obtained my PhD degree in Astrophysics. From 2006 to 2009 I worked as an PPARC/STFC research associate at the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom), where I worked primarily with Richard de Grijs and Simon Goodwin on star cluster dynamics. In September 2009 I joined the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University in Beijing, China as a faculty member, and at the same time I was awarded the International Astronomical Union Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellowship Prize. My current work focuses dynamics of various types of systems, ranging from the solar system to globular clusters. In mid-2016 I moved to XJTLU (the China campus of the University of Liverpool) in Suzhou.

Other interests

I have a strong interest for science and education in developing countries. I am involved in various activities in the fields of international development and science research, outreach and education.

My name

I have a long name. My official name is Mattheus Bartholomeus Nicolaas Kouwenhoven, and is used for official documents and scientific publications. My spoken name is Thijs kouwenhoven, which is used for all informal communication. In Beijing you can also call me by my Chinese name 柯文采.