Assistant Optical Engineer

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Friday, April 22, 2022
Archive Date: 
Friday, May 20, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Engineering
Institution Classification/Type: 
AURA NOIRLab - Gemini South Observatory
La Serena
Job Announcement Text: 

NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) and is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy. Principally sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NOIRLab operates as a matrix organization, providing services across a range of programs: Gemini, Rubin, MSO (CTIO and KPNO), and CSDC; with facilities in three geographic locations: Arizona, Chile and Hawai’i.

This time, NOIRLab is seeking an Assistant Optical Engineer to be part of the Optical Engineering (OE) group, within the Engineering Services (ES) division, a distributed team of 10 optical experts providing excellence in optical design and analysis, optical maintenance and coating for Telescopes. This position participates in testing, troubleshooting and maintaining optical systems and coating plants of the NOIRLab programs in Chile; and is responsible for providing expertise to all aspects of optics for telescopes and must apply his/her experience to maximize the performance of existing optical subsystems.The Assistant Optical Engineer will be primarily assigned to the Mid-Scale Observatory South (MSO-S) a Program of NOIRLab in Chile with regular collaboration with other programs (Gemini). It comprises Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope (SOAR) and the Small and Medium Astronomical Research Telescope System (SMARTS) on Cerro Tololo.

This position is based in La Serena, Chile; and the working time will be divided between the telescope site and the sea level base facilities. Travel to the US may be required to other NOIRLab facilities for short periods of time. 

Essential Functions:

  • Planning and execution of mirror cleaning and washing process.
  • Periodic telescope image quality checks and optical system performance follow-up.
  • Maintenance and testing of coating plants.
  • Participates in the coating process across NOIRLab programs.
  • Participates in planning and execution of telescope and instrument shutdowns; as well as optical integration and testing of delicate and complex astronomical instruments.
  • Troubleshoots malfunctioning optical equipment.
  • Analyzes data to characterize optical systems and identify causes.
  • Identifies technical performance gaps and writes technical reports.
  • Works in cross-functional project teams with colleagues in other branches of engineering (mechanics, electronics, software) and other NOIRLab programs.
  • Keeps up to date with developments in technologies.
  • Ensures safety regulations are met.

Other Functions:

  • Other duties as assigned by supervisor.
  • All AURA employees are responsible for the proper management and control of all AURA property within their work area, whether assigned to them or someone else. This responsibility includes reporting any known missing, stolen, or non-working property in their work area to their supervisor or the AURA Property Officer.
  • Responsible for ensuring compliance with government award terms and conditions assigned to this position or subordinates of this position as defined in the Vela Award Management system

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • University Degree in Experimental Physics and Photonics/Optical Engineering (Msc) or other Engineering Fields with demonstrated experience in Optics.
  • Good command of English and/or Spanish: oral, reading and writing
  • Knowledge of Optical aberration.
  • Ability to manipulate fragile components, dexterity.
  • Knowledge of Telescope optics. Some practical experience with alignment tools.
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary and international environment. Team spirit. Self-learning
  • Must have a valid Driver’s License; clean driving record; ability to drive a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Preferred Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • 3 years of experience in a similar position.
  • Professional certification in Optical system design with Zemax Optics Studio.
  • Knowledge of adaptive optics.
  • Knowledge of laser systems.
  • knowledge of opto-mechanics
  • knowledge with Optical engineering software and/or professional certification in Zemax.
  • Hands-on laboratory experience, or some observatory experience.
  • Familiarity with data analysis software (OriginLab, Matlab, Excel, Python).
  • Ability to present work in conferences.
  • Knowledge of mechanical software (SolidWorks).
  • Knowledge of mirror coating process.

Physical Demands:

There are basic physical requirements that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. This position is required to pass medical examination post offer and potentially at specified intervals while employed, if medically necessary.

Also, given the international nature of NOIRLab, occasional work at high elevation summit sites may be required (summit elevations range from 6,800 feet to 14,000 feet). 

Cerro Tololo: Able to climb stairs and work at 2,200 mts altitude;

Cerro Pachon: Ability to work at 2,700 meters altitude, sometimes during inclement weather.


If you would like to apply for this opportunity, please submit your CV/Resume along with a Cover Letter in English (PDF files). Also, kindly provide contact information of 3 professional references in your application, as references will be contacted later in the recruiting process. Please name any attachments with the following format: LastnameDocname. Incomplete applications will not be considered

For full consideration please submit your application by May 20, 2022. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to [email protected]

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

At NOIRLab we are committed to diversity and inclusion; our managing organization, AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, 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

COVID-19 POLICY UPDATE:  AURA has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy that requires all employees to be vaccinated, unless qualified for an exemption based on medical or religious reasons.  All new employees will be required to comply with this policy and will be required to present proof of full vaccination or submit a completed request (including supporting documents, if applicable) for an exemption at least five (5) business days prior to their start of employment. Individuals who fail to meet this deadline may have their employment start date delayed. 

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

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a consortium of over 40 US institutions and three 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 NSF’s NOIRLab, the National Solar Observatory, and the construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation and operations of the Space Telescope Science Institute under contracts with NASA. 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.

Included Benefits: 

AURA offers an excellent benefits package including paid time off and retirement plan contributions, competitive salary commensurate with experience, and a very attractive work environment.

Application Deadline: 
Friday, May 20, 2022
Selection Deadline: 
Friday, May 20, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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