Instrumentation Engineer

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Friday, August 2, 2019
Archive Date: 
Friday, August 30, 2019
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
La Serena
Job Announcement Text: 

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a consortium of 40+ US institutions and four international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories. AURA’s role is to establish, nurture, and promote public observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research. AURA is responsible for managing the operations of the Gemini Observatory, the National Optical Astronomical Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Gemini Telescopes

From their locations on mountains in Hawai’i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky. Gemini’s suite of capabilities includes a wide-field laser adaptive optics system that complements current space-based telescopes and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which is being constructed on Cerro Pachón near Gemini South (LSST construction is managed by AURA). Gemini also hosts a robust visitor instrument program (unique among this telescope class). Gemini pioneers innovative approaches to proposing and observing, including: Fast Turnaround (monthly deadlines); Bring-One, Get-One (encourages visits by young career professionals in astronomy research); Large and Long programs (multi-year research); and Priority Visitor mode.

The Gemini international partnership includes the United States, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Korea. These Participants and the University of Hawaii, which has regular access to Gemini, each maintain a “National Gemini Office” to support their local users. Any astronomer in these countries can apply for Gemini time, which is allocated in proportion to each participant’s financial stake. AURA manages the United States’ stake, funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF), under a cooperative agreement.

Engineering Operations group:

 The successful applicant will be a member of the Engineering Operations team based at Gemini South in Chile.This multi-disciplinary team consists of a diverse team of around 20 engineers & technicians with different technical and cultural background. They operate,  maintain and implement upgrades to the telescope, instruments and all auxiliary systems by applying industry standards on maintainability & reliability. Frequent interactions with other groups, like software, information technology and science operations take place, all aligned and aimed to prepare the telescope and instruments for nightly operations.

Some members of the engineering staff are matrixed to development projects that are being carried out by the observatory together with its international partners and focus both on instrumentation  design and development as obsolescence mitigation. In these projects technology development & innovation are key to ensure maintaining our facility scientifically competitive and reliable in every aspect.   

Position Summary:

Act as instrument engineer, taking cross-functional responsibility for all technical aspects, aimed at optimum performance and scientific output by working together with the instrument scientist.

For the telescope and instrumentation, maintenance, reliability engineering, obsolescence and continuous performance improvement are important aspects.

Furthermore, this position is expected to represent operational needs and past experience during the development of new instruments by participating in design reviews.  Exciting opportunities through upgrades and improvements exist to keep our telescope up to date with modern technologies and in order to avoid and mitigate obsolescence.

The working  time will be divided between the telescope site and the sea level base facilities, some international travel may be required.

 Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Take responsibility for one or more (operational) instruments (including adaptive optics), ensuring optimized performance, plan and coordinate preventive maintenance, identify opportunities for upgrades.
  • Provide and/or coordinate & lead engineering support and analysis in one or more of the following fields: electronics, opto-mechanics, cryogenics, vacuum and/or detector engineering.
  • Prepare technical reports, drawings, purchase requisitions, fabrication contracts and other forms of documentation related to the work.

Job Specifications:

Requires a high degree of professionalism and discretion. Must be able to work in a team environment  and perform well under pressure of deadlines. Ability to grapple with competing demands and ensure important issues get handled along with urgent or emergency issues. Requires knowledge of and a proactive attitude toward safety.

Education Required:

Bachelor’s degree, preferably Master’s in one of the following engineering disciplines: opto-mechanical, electronics, systems engineering,  aerospace or instrumentation.

Skills Required:

  • Good communication and negotiation skills, ability to interact with variety of stakeholders
  • Some practical experience with laboratory tools, data loggers, power supplies, oscilloscopes, function generators, logic and spectrum analyzers, etc.
  • Leadership and management of technical activities throughout the system life cycle
  • Analytical and problem solving skills, root cause analysis.
  • Proficiency in Word, Excel, Microsoft Project, Adobe, Internet, etc.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.
  • Safety proactive attitude.

 Experience preferred:

  •  1-3 years observatory experience preferably with instrumentation and/or adaptive optics/lasers
  • Automatic control systems, including servo optimization and tuning
  • Working knowledge of PLC-based systems. (Allen Bradley & Siemens)
  • Some basic digital, analog, and power electronics
  • Profiency in MATLAB, CAD tools, data acquisition, programming software (Labview/Python)
  • Systems engineering and Cross-functional experience applied to operational environment, trend analysis, root cause analysis, configuration control/management. In observatory development projects:  contribute to concept of operations, requirements development and integration and test of development projects while transitioning into operations.
  • Qualification in systems engineering or strong interest in system architecture would be an asset
  • Vacuum and Cryogenic experience
  • Interaction with internal/external (scientific) stakeholders
  • Being part of multi-disciplinary work teams

Essential Job Functions:

Part A - Must possess:

  • Ability to read and understand instructions, drawings, safety guides, and other written materials necessary to perform job.
  • Sufficient visual capacity to perform the applicable functions without assistance of visual aids other than eye contacts or eye glasses.
  • Sufficient spoken aural capacity to hear and understand instructions, warning bells, horns or shouted instructions without assistance of auditory aids other than a hearing aid.
  • Ability to impart information orally so that others understand and can respond appropriately.

Part B – Must be able to:

  • Sit for long periods of time.
  • Drive a 4-w drive vehicle and possess a clean driving record.
  • Take and pass high altitude physical.
  • Travel internationally.
  • Work at 8,900’

Application process:

Please list 3 professional references in your application and attach a CV or resume (PDF files preferred) to your application. Please name any attachments with the following format:  LastnameDocname. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to

AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, is committed to diversity and inclusion. AURA develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA and all of the centers, do not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws.

Preference granted to qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at

Application Deadline: 
Monday, September 2, 2019
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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