Scientific Staff Positions at NOIRLab, Astronomer/Scientist Tracks

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Saturday, November 13, 2021
Archive Date: 
Saturday, January 15, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Tucson, Hilo, La Serena
Arizona, Hawaii, Chile
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

NSF’s National Optical Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) invites applications for six or more scientific staff positions to conduct scientific research and support the mission of NOIRLab. Candidates working in all areas of astronomy will be considered. Researchers with expertise in solar system science, large-scale surveys, exoplanets, time-domain astrophysics, high-resolution spectroscopy, data-intensive methods, and technology development are particularly encouraged to apply. The successful applicants will provide operational, developmental, and/or community support for one or more Programs operated by NOIRLab, including Rubin Observatory operations, Gemini Observatory, the Mid-Scale Observatories, and the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC).  

Positions are available on both the astronomer track (equivalent to tenure-track with 50% time for independent research) and the scientist track (emphasis on NOIRLab service roles with 20% time for independent research). Applications from candidates at all career stages will be considered. Successful candidates will be part of a “faculty” of more than 70 research scientists and astronomers at NOIRLab engaged in a wide range of astronomical and planetary research. The NOIRLab research staff will play key roles in NOIRLab’s response to the recommendations related to ground-based OIR astronomy in the Astro2020 Decadal Survey report Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s.

The successful candidates for the “astronomer” track are expected to carry out a vigorous research program commensurate with attaining tenure in any area of astronomy/astrophysics or planetary science. Those appointed to the “scientist” track are also expected to engage in forefront research projects; their contributions may be over a wide range of areas involving participation in and enabling research in astronomy/astrophysics, planetary science, or a related field, including technical and/or educational areas that support the broader goals of NOIRLab. The extensive telescope facilities, data archives, and computing resources of NOIRLab, including  the data-products from Rubin Observatory’s LSST survey are available to NOIRLab staff to build enhancements that benefit them as well as the community at large.

As part of the NOIRLab faculty, scientists and astronomers are free to engage in all aspects of astronomical research. It is expected that their innovations result in published works in professional journals appropriate for the area of their contributions. NOIRLab staff in both tracks are encouraged to pursue synergies between their service work and their research goals, and to become active scientific stakeholders in the success of the telescopes, instruments, data sets, and software systems that they support.

NOIRLab recognizes the excellence that diversity brings to our research, operations, and community support, and is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  We continually seek to broaden participation on our staff and strongly encourage individuals from underrepresented groups to apply. All NOIRLab staff are funded to spend up to 3% of their time on DEI activities of their own initiative or as part of existing NOIRLab programs. 

NOIRLab operates the 8m Gemini telescopes on Maunakea, Hawaii and Cerro Pachon, Chile; the 4m Mayall telescope and the 3.5m WIYN telescopes at Kitt Peak in Arizona; as well as the 4m Blanco telescope on Cerro Tololo and the 4m SOAR telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile.  NOIRLab will be the lead operational partner of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory when it embarks on its Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), a 10-year survey of the available sky from Cerro Pachon in Chile.  The CSDC at NOIRLab headquarters in Tucson provides archival data and tools for data-intensive astronomy. Scientific staff are assigned service roles at the above facilities in support of NOIRLab deliverables. The assignments may change over time in response to both the evolving priorities of NOIRLab within the dynamic scientific landscape and the evolving personal aspirations of the particular staff member.

Specific service roles that we seek to fill at this time include:

  1. Community Scientists at Rubin Observatory: Astronomers with experience in wide-field optical imaging surveys, large scientific collaborations, web-based data analysis platforms, and/or research aligned with the main LSST science goals to join the Rubin Observatory's Community Engagement Team (CET) as Community Scientists. The CET’s strategy for community engagement has three main components: (1) to facilitate access to and analysis of the data products via the Rubin Science Platform; (2) to coordinate the expertise of the project staff and the science community to resolve issues; and (3) to nurture and empower a self-supporting and collaborative community. The appointments are expected to be on the Tenure track.
  2. Operations Support Astronomer at Gemini South: Astronomers interested broadly in observatory support, including calibration and testing of instrumentation and telescope subsystems, preparing nightly observing plans, and executing queue-based observations for astronomers in the international Gemini community. The successful candidate will also assist users in defining their observing programs, introduce visiting observers to the telescope and instruments, and develop documentation for software and astronomical equipment as needed. Research in Time Domain Astronomy, wide-field AO imaging, and/or high-resolution optical and near-infrared spectroscopy would be especially well aligned with the instrumental capabilities at Gemini South. This appointment is expected to be on the Tenure track.  
  3. Lead Archive Scientist and Lead Pipeline Scientist for CSDC: the Lead Archive Scientist will provide scientific leadership of CSDC’s data archiving initiatives and further develop NOIRLab’s role as the national center for ground-based OIR data archiving. Areas include operation of CSDC’s Astro Data Archive, integration of data archives across NOIRLab, interoperability with other astronomical data centers, plans and strategies for archiving high-value data from non-federal OIR facilities, and leveraging commercial cloud technology to deliver new archive capabilities. The Lead Pipeline Scientist will provide scientific leadership for new data-reduction software initiatives at NOIRLab. Areas of interest include the adaptation of the Rubin Science Pipelines for automated operation on images from DECam and other instruments, collaboration with open-source projects such as Astropy to address unmet community needs in astronomical data-reduction software, and strengthening collaboration in data-reduction software development across all NOIRLab Programs. Both CSDC appointments are expected to be on the Scientist track.
  4. Operations Support Astronomer for the Blanco and SOAR Telescopes: Astronomers interested broadly in observatory support, including calibration and testing of instrumentation and telescope subsystems. The successful candidate will assist users of the Blanco and/or SOAR telescopes in defining their observing programs, introduce observers to the telescope and instruments, and develop documentation for software and astronomical equipment as needed. Research in Time Domain Astronomy, wide field imaging and/or spectroscopy in the optical and near infrared would be especially well aligned with the instrumental capabilities of the Blanco and SOAR Telescopes. This appointment could be on the Tenure or Scientist track. 

However, our search is not limited to these roles, and applicants with expertise and interest in any area of NOIRLab service work are welcome.  Successful candidates are expected to take up residence at one of the three NOIRLab sites: Hilo, Hawaii; La Serena, Chile; or Tucson, Arizona, as appropriate for their agreed upon service role.


Minimum Requirements:  PhD in Astronomy, Physics, Planetary Science, or a closely related field, and at least two years of research experience post-PhD.

Successful candidates are expected to carry out a vigorous research program commensurate with the fraction of research time available for the respective track.  We are interested in seeing your application and hearing about how your innovative, new, and different ideas can support NOIRLab’s mission and build a strong and diverse staff to take us forward. 

Compensation and Benefits:

Starting salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. AURA provides a generous compensation package including health coverage, paid vacation leave, parental leave, home leave for expatriates in Chile, and retirement contributions.

To Apply:

To apply, please submit: (1) a cover letter describing your interest in the position, including any specific support interests; (2) a curriculum vitae or résumé with a bibliography; and (3) a statement summarizing your most important research contributions and proposed program of research at NOIRLab.  Please limit the research statement to 3 pages (plus references), and submit all documents as PDF files, named with the following format: Lastname_Docname.pdf (where Docname is CoverLetter, CV or Resume, or Statement).  Please also append a list of 3 professional references, with contact information, to your Cover Letter.  References will be contacted at a later stage in the recruitment.

For full consideration, applications should be received by January 16, 2022.

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

Questions regarding these positions should be sent to Dr. John Blakeslee at [email protected] or to Dr. Abhijit Saha at [email protected] 

COVID-19 UPDATE: Effective December 8, 2021, AURA will require all U.S. based employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.  Vaccination will be a condition of employment, with exemptions granted only for valid medical or religious reasons. This is a requirement for all employees working onsite or from home (telework or hybrid remote work schedule).  Currently the vaccination requirement does not apply to any future AURA employees working in Chile, regardless of their nationality or type of contract.

AURA currently offers a mix-model workspace (office & virtual) and stimulating environments for all, with most staff working virtually from home during the COVID-19 crisis through December 2021. The safety of our staff and community is our top priority. We will continue to interview and screen candidates in this new virtual landscape and offers of employment can be extended and new hires will onboard virtually. Employees are required to be residents in their base job location within a limited time from their start date.

Additionally, all employment is contingent on establishing eligibility to work in the United States, including obtaining an appropriate visa, if necessary.  Work outside of the United States or Chile is not permitted.

Application Deadline: 
Sunday, January 16, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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