Observatory Scientist, Manager

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, January 14, 2021
Archive Date: 
Thursday, May 6, 2021
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Management
Institution Classification/Type: 
SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association
Moffett Field
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The Observatory Scientist/Science Outreach Manager will lead the Science Outreach team and the strategic oversight necessary to grow and build SOFIA’s scientific community.  The Observatory Scientist promotes the scientific discoveries from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a variety of ways, which can include (but are not limited to): organizing scientific workshops and conferences, generating strategies to reach a broader astronomical community, working with partner observatories to establish collaborations and/or joint observing programs, writing SOFIA science highlights targeted for astronomers and the general public; giving colloquia and public talks on SOFIA science; communicating directly with the current and potential guest observers to develop observing projects and bring them to fruition; performing technical reviews of proposals; and helping to resolve issues that might delay the publication of scientific results.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities: 

Essential Functions:

  • Develop the strategic direction of the Science Engagement group to increase the size of SOFIA’s scientific community.
  • Develop innovative strategies to build SOFIA’s scientific community.
  • Develop clear and engaging materials to educate and inform the scientific community of SOFIA scientific results and research capabilities
  • Organize and implement SOFIA-centric science conferences and analysis workshops, including advertising, logistics, and communication to stakeholders and participants
  • Engage individuals within the scientific community in research work through collaborations and visits
  • Create and maintain database of scientific engagement and output
  • Oversee the science community HelpDesk and ensure questions are answered and issues are resolved in a timely manner.
  • Monitor, assess, and report on scientific outreach progress and effectiveness.
  • Recommend new outreach initiatives as needed
  • Lead and manage activities for the community outreach group
  • Complete all administrative tasks in a timely manner: timecards, request for time off, EA/ER approvals, etc.
  • Participate in management meetings
  • Recruit and hire diverse staff who add value and achieve organization goals
  • Lead / manage staff to set and achieve department objectives
  • Communicate pertinent information to staff in a timely manner to ensure staff have a clear understanding of organizational goals and desired results
  • Create a work environment that encourages creative thinking, collaboration, maintains program focus, and produces results
  • Provide an inclusive and safe workplace that fosters the development of others to their full potential
  • Facilitate collaboration, cooperation, teamwork and support constructive resolution of conflict
  • Direct, monitor and evaluate the work of employees, providing performance feedback and development opportunities and intervening to correct performance problems.

Additional Duties:

  • Perform scientific research in astronomy relevant to SOFIA.
  • Coordinate with Human Resources for recruitment and hiring activities associated with the group, including support for writing position descriptions, reviewing resumes, conducting applicant interviews and working closely with the human resources.
  • Review timesheets, expense authorizations and expense reports of personnel in the group; ensuring compliance with USRA policies and procedure.
  • Conduct performance reviews and support professional development for assigned personnel, including support of career path planning and rewards and recognitions.
  • Support compliance with USRA and contract specific requirements by group members, including travel requirements and publication requirements   
  • Ensure the protection of NASA and USRA intellectual property with respect to commercial and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) concerns through disclosures, patent applications, and adherence to NASA’s scientific and technical information dissemination guidelines.
  • Support efforts by USRA Management to ensure that USRA conducts its business operations in an effective, cost-competitive, and professional manner  
  • Complete required trainings as scheduled.

Other job-related duties as assigned

Required Qualifications:


  • PhD in Astronomy or a closely related field.


  • Minimum 5 years prior experience leading and overseeing staff in a scientific/research function, to include supervisory experience
  • Prior or current NASA  leadership and experience working with at least one NASA Center, is highly desirable
  • A minimum of 5 years of experience in astronomy research
  • Astronomy communications experience is highly desired.
  • Experience in scientific / technical community engagement is highly desired.
  • Experience working with US Government Agencies desired.

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:  

  • Strong knowledge of astronomy, with an ability develop and maintain proficient understanding of infrared astronomy and how the SOFIA program serves to advance research in this area.
  • Ability to develop plans and meet deadlines.
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills and the ability to comprehend and synthesize complex technical information and methodologies.
  • Experience developing and delivering progress reports, requirements documentation, and presentations to diverse stakeholders and upper management.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills and the ability to effectively convey complex technical concepts to a diverse population.
  • Demonstrated ability to work successfully as part of a team in a collaborative scientific environment.
  • Experience working in a large / national research organization / observatory is desired.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office and its applications, as well as current technology / apps to communicate online with science community.
  • An effective communicator at all levels in the organization, with strong oral and written skills and a willingness to share information.  A collaborative and flexible style. Excellent written and oral communication skills. Ability to work effectively with a diverse group of scientists, management, engineers, and administrators.
  • Champion continuous improvement
  • Proactively identify risks and provide innovative solutions
  • Must possess soft skills to diffuse conflicts and build relations
  • Good communication skills are a must to motivate team to work towards common goals
  • Must be a role model to the team and possess high degree of integrity
  • Maintain good relations with NASA, DLR and DSI
  • Must clearly articulate team concerns and issues to the management
  • Hire, develop, and lead an inclusive team.
  • Advocate professional growth within the team and mentor team members
  • High level computer skills, including above average knowledge of the Microsoft Office applications.

Working Conditions:

This job primarily operates in a professional office environment. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers, etc. Extensive online usage. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand; walk; sit, use hands.  Keyboarding for large time spans each day will be a significant part of this position.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee may occasionally be exposed to fumes or airborne particles.  The employee may be exposed to moving equipment, vehicles and mechanical parts.  The noise level in the work office environment is typically mild.  The environment on the aircraft during flight operations may become noisy and tiring. The employee must be capable of performing all duties in a technical / scientific setting including offices, laboratories, shops, and aircraft maintenance facilities as well as on the aircraft / observatory, both while on the ground and during flights.  The employee may need to lift and / or move up to 50 pounds.  


This position is based at NASA AMES Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, but travel to Armstrong Flight Research Center as well as to national and international conferences is required.

Applicants should apply to the posting at USRA Careers and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita. Additional information on USRA can be found at www.usra.edu

USRA is an Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities / Females / Protected Veterans / Disabled / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity.

Application Deadline: 
Friday, April 30, 2021
Selection Deadline: 
Friday, April 30, 2021
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis