Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) solicits applications for one or more LCO Postdoctoral Fellows.
Las Cumbres Observatory’s global, robotic telescope network was custom-built specifically for time-domain astronomy. Our 25 robotic telescopes provide instant access to the sky in both hemispheres. LCO Fellows will join a unique environment that is a public/private partnership conceived from some of the best ideas at companies like Google and Apple, but in an academic setting consisting of in-house scientists and engineers. Our staff scientists lead a diverse range of research into the characterization of explosive transients, tidal disruption events, and gravitational waves (Andy Howell); exoplanets and microlensing (Rachel Street); and Solar System astronomy, particularly Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and comets (Tim Lister). They have established multi-national networks of collaborators where the fellow would be welcomed as a partner. LCO scientists are active contributors to preparations for LSST, which promises to be transformative for all areas of astrophysics, particularly time domain astronomy. They are leaders in the Rubin Science Collaborations and our postdoctoral scholars have the opportunity to gain experience and familiarity with all aspects of the survey, and will be well positioned to explore the survey's scientific results as it becomes operational in the near future. Andy Howell’s group works closely with Lars Bildsten's stellar theory group at KITP. Fellows can also interact with the Astro group at UC Santa Barbara. LCO participates in an active outreach program, co-sponsoring Astronomy on Tap in Santa Barbara with UCSB. Fellows can also look to Wayne Rosing, the LCO founder and a former Vice President at Google, for both his technical expertise and life experience in management at Apple, Sun, and Google.
We are seeking scientists who are interested in advancing an independent research program and collaborating on projects that include LCO’s professional software development team. Current projects that LCO postdoctoral fellows can participate in (or lead) include spectroscopic data reduction, Target and Observation Managers (TOMs) -- community tools enabling efficient multi-messenger follow-up, and development of the data pipeline for a network of high-resolution spectrographs. Details of specific development projects are listed below. We expect that Fellows will split their time evenly between science and LCO project efforts.
Essential spectroscopic tools for astronomy
Astronomers today have an impressive suite of spectroscopic instruments, but astonishingly, a standard, general-use, set of spectroscopic reduction tools does not exist. To fully realize the potential scientific yield of these data we are building an open source spectroscopic tool set. It will be well tested on both synthetic and real data, robust for observatories to use in production, modular for users to plug the tools into their custom pipelines, and interactive for users to customize their analysis. The LCO implementation is for our FLOYDS low resolution spectrographs.
Tools to manage dynamic observing programs
LCO leads astronomy in enabling responsive, real-time observing programs for a wide range of science, and in making our advanced observing software tools available to the wider community. Our TOM Toolkit package is designed to make it easy for anyone to take advantage of these tools, and customize a powerful observing database system to their own science goals. A postdoctoral fellow at LCO will have the opportunity to work in partnership with our professional software engineers to extend the functionality of the Toolkit to support a greater range of science.
High Resolution Spectroscopy - NRES
Instrumentation at Las Cumbres Observatory includes the Network of Robotic Echelle Spectrographs (NRES). The NRES comprises four identical high-resolution (R~50,000), precise (≤ 10 m/s), optical (380-860 nm) echelle spectrographs, each fiber-fed from a 1-meter telescope. The spectrographs are located at the SAAO (South Africa), Wise Observatory (Israel), CTIO (Chile), and McDonald Observatory (Texas). A postdoctoral fellow could lead an independent research program in a field relevant to NRES (such as exoplanet science or stellar physics), participate in the continued development of the BANZAI-NRES data pipeline, and provide direct feedback to the operations team on performance and improvement possibilities.
Applicants should submit the following by November 16, 2021.
- Cover letter
- Curriculum vitae
- Research statement of no more than 3 pages
- Names and contact information for three referees that can provide letters of reference
All documents should be in a single PDF file. Applications received by November 16, 2021 will receive full consideration. A Ph.D. in astronomy, physics, or a related discipline is required by the start of employment.
The number of Fellows that will be selected is contingent on the available funding. Fellowship appointments will be for a three-year term starting in September 2022 or earlier. Fellows will be employees of LCO and the positions come with an employee benefits package and support for travel, page charges, and computing. The starting salary is $70,000. LCO is a private, non-profit corporation, based in Santa Barbara, California.
LCO is an Equal Opportunity employer. Our mission is to advance our understanding of the universe through science and education with our unique global telescope network. Our culture is global by nature and inclusive by design. Our people come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, providing the fuel that powers innovation and the success of our mission. We are actively engaged in building and nurturing a culture that is welcoming and inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds with regard to race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, disability and veteran status.