Head of Astronomy and Operations (A&O)

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Friday, October 27, 2023
Archive Date: 
Friday, January 19, 2024
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Institution Classification/Type: 
Department Name: 
Astronomy & Operations
Street Line 1: 
Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4
Job Announcement Text: 

Are you our new Head of Astronomy and Operations? 

Are you interested in a senior leadership opportunity? We are looking for a key member of ASTRON's Management Team, who will direct efficient observatory operations and high-quality research that is founded on a vision of the future of radio astronomy. We offer the opportunity to lead and grow a world-class group of researchers and operations professionals as we continue our mission to make discoveries in radio astronomy happen.  Join the team and help push the leading edge of instrument development, data processing, and astronomy research with current and future radio telescopes.

Why  ASTRON?  

ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy, is a world leading institute for radio astronomy and instrumentation development. With a long and successful track record in scientific research, it operates two international facilities and carries out a wide range of technical expertise for the development of next generation radio telescopes. ASTRON’s scientific interests span the range from new discoveries in galaxy evolution, to radio transients, as well as cosmology and fundamental physics.

ASTRON is at a pivotal moment in its history with the move to global scientific facilities. The Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) has matured into a world-leading telescope, facilitating high impact scientific results. Currently, the International LOFAR Telescope is being upgraded to LOFAR2.0 and is beginning its transformation into a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC). Furthermore, the International Governmental Organization for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), for which ASTRON is the national contact point, has started up. Our Science Data Centre currently serves the LOFAR and the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT)/Apertif communities, and soon also the SKA Telescope, together with pipelines and data analytics to deliver unrivaled science-ready data products. We are also a key member of the European VLBI Network (EVN).

ASTRON is one of nine national research institutes, embedded within the Dutch Research Council Institutes’ Foundation (NWO-I). The NWO institutes perform high-value scientific research and act as important national instruments for science policy. They collaborate closely with research groups at universities and with other public and private partners. The institutes jointly contribute to the execution of the Dutch National Research Agenda. At ASTRON, we constantly push the boundaries of science and technology, working at the forefront of innovation. Innovations derived from our work benefit society as a whole.

ASTRON is organised into three departments. The Astronomy and Operations department (A&O) responsible for generating and delivering science of the users, the Innovation and Systems (I&S) department for the research, development and delivery of telescope systems and Business support services (BSS) for finance, HR, communication, IT and facilities.

ASTRON strives to be an attractive workplace for all individuals irrespective of their background. Offering a safe and vibrant workplace is an important topic for our group management. We work alongside experts from various fields in a culture of mutual support. This makes the inspirational environment at ASTRON the biggest playground to innovate where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive and grow. We are committed to decreasing our organisational footprint – in particular we are exploring circular and green computing solutions.

ASTRON is seeking a new Department Head Astronomy and Operations 

We are looking for a collaborative and creative leader with a long-term vision on the pivotal role of LOFAR, WSRT,  and EVN, and SKA within the overall context of astrophysical research in the coming decade. As the Head of Astronomy and Operations, you will play a key role internally and externally by maintaining our connections with the national and international communities associated with academia and industry.

As a Management Team member, you will be responsible for the overall management of the institute together with the other MT members. The Head A&O has a key role to ensure ASTRON maintains its world leading capabilities in radio astronomy research and radio astronomy facility operations. You are responsible for the operations and maintenance of the astronomical facilities WSRT, LOFAR and SDC, the scientific leadership of the exploitation of the existing national facility (WSRT and LOFAR) and the planning of the future facilities.

You will lead and grow ASTRON’s two research teams (LOFAR and SKA science teams), as well as the two operational units (telescope operations and science data center operations).  This corresponds of approximately 40 permanent staff, which is supplemented with temporary staff, postdoc and PhD students (around 30 people). You are responsible for strategic and day-to-day management, including budgets, acquisition of grants, personnel planning, mentoring, and furthering the collaboration between the A&O groups and with the technological (I&S) through development programs and research projects in line with the ASTRON’s strategy. You will be expected to actively stimulate a vibrant, engaged and inclusive community. You will act as a mentor for the team leaders and build a strong team, with the required mindset, skills, and competencies.

As a key advocate of ASTRON, you need to be a strong networker and capable of embedding ASTRON as a vital member in the astronomy landscape. The A&O department enjoys strong ties to all four Dutch astronomy departments, enabling regular collaboration and research supervision of students. The LOFAR science programs connect ASTRON to scientist world-wide and the strong ASTRON involvement in LOFAR and SKA come with an engagement in an international scientific and political landscape, that you will work in. The position offers the opportunity to maintain/acquire an academic relationship with a university yourself for one day a week.

There are challenging work and exciting projects ahead of us that you will be contributing to. To highlight just a few:

  • The major upgrade of the international LOFAR telescope
  • The realisation of an ASTRON science data center offering science ready data products and services to the community to increase the impact of our telescopes and in preparation of the Dutch SRC.
  • The building and commissioning of SKA and the preparation of the Dutch scientific community for that.
  • Mitigation of risks to our facility operations; including windfarm, solar farm and telecommunications.

Calling all talented astronomers and leaders, with the following competences

The Head of A&O will ideally have a research background in (radio-) astronomy (at the PhD level) or related fields as a strategic vision on the future of radio astronomy is a crucial asset. A track record of running a mid-scale to largescale research infrastructure is a strong qualification. An ideal candidate will be a strong people manager and have proven experience in leading, managing and supporting multi-disciplinary teams that include research and operational staff. An affinity for and experience with the technological side of instrumentation development would also be highly valued.

It is important that the new Head of A&O is a team player, who has shown the ability to inspire and lead staff that have a wide range of expertise and cultural backgrounds. The new Head of A&O will need the ability to establish and foster a collaborative and an inclusive working environment, including connecting and communicating easily with stakeholders in the (inter)national astronomical community, academia and industry, (inter)national advisory and subsidy bodies.

A candidate will need  full professional proficiency in English and  (willing to become) proficient in the Dutch language.

We strongly believe that true progress, creativity, and innovation is only possible in an inclusive and diverse environment. We explicitly encourage candidates of diverse sexual background, gender,  abilities, and potential dual-academic career hires to apply. Please note that not ticking all the boxes does not diminish our interest in your application.

What we offer:

Employment of this position is by NWO-I (The Netherlands organisation for Scientific Research Institutes) and the appointment will initially be for a period of five years after which the position will become permanent. The exact starting date is flexible, but we desire a candidate that can ideally start sometime during 2024. The position is located at the inspiring, innovative, and pleasant working environment at our premises near Dwingeloo, in the midst of our beautiful National Park ‘The Dwingelder Veld’. We house an international and inclusive work culture, with the exceptional combination of astronomy, operations and engineering in one building. We offer opportunities and encouragement to grow and develop yourself and your career.

NWO-I/ASTRON has good primary and secondary conditions such as:

  • A gross monthly salary in scale 15 or 16, in the range of € 6.766,- to € 9.596,- (full-time gross salary), based on relevant experience, additionally an 8% holiday allowance and a of 8.33% year-end bonus.
  • 42 vacation days per year on a full-time basis.
  • Flexible working conditions, also tailored to your needs, for example a part-time appointment, parental leave. Working in a good balance, combining organizational, team, and private stakes with an eye for sustainability, on ASTRON premises and remotely.
  • A comprehensive and solid pension scheme (ABP).
  • Generous relocation expenses and support with finding accommodation and, if needed, support to search for a suitable job for your partner.

Your contract is in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes. The terms of employment are in accordance with the Dutch Collective Labour Agreement Research Institutions (for more information about NOW-I, check www.nwo-i.nl/en/).

For more information about ASTRON check our website www.astron.nl, and to discover firsthand experiences of colleagues who love working at ASTRON click this link. 

For more information about this vacancy please contact our Director Jessica Dempsey,  [email protected] or the Head of I&S Roelien Attema, [email protected], as chair of the search committee. For information on the employment conditions please contact HR Manager Harrianne ter Meer ([email protected]).

Looking forward to your application

Please respond via our website www.jobsatastron.nl. We look forward to receiving your motivation letter and curriculum vitae, including the names and contact details of two references, before January 15th, 2024.

Applications will be considered by our Advisory Committee by the end of January 2024. There will be a round of online interviews first in February, and then a subset of shortlisted candidates is expected to attend an in person interview somewhere in March. After the second round of interviews, we might contact your references. A development assessment may be part of the procedure. Candidates will be considered until the position has been filled.


Application Deadline: 
Monday, January 15, 2024
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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Attention To: 
Dr. Jessica Dempsey
Head of Astronomy and Operations (A&O)
Street Line 1: 
Oude Hoogeveensedijk 4
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Attention To: 
Dr. Jessica Dempsey
Head of Astronomy and Operations (A&O)