SOFIA Postdoctoral Researcher, Astronomy

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Archive Date: 
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Post-doctoral Positions and Fellowships
Institution Classification/Type: 
SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association
Moffett Field
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

Applications are invited for a postdoctoral position to work on infrared science using data obtained from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

The positions are for a period of two years, with a possible third-year extension contingent on performance and funding.

Funding is available for travel to conferences, visiting collaborators, equipment, and publications.

Position Summary:

The postdoctoral scholars will work in one or more of the following scientific areas: 

  • Birth of Stars and Planets: determine the role of magnetic fields, turbulence, and feedback in star and planet formation; determine the composition and dynamics of protoplanetary disks to trace water to habitable zones and determine disk masses.  
  • Origins of Life: investigate the cosmic synthesis of molecules and particles necessary to create and sustain life; compile inventory of water and organics in protostars to understand chemical pathways from simple molecules to prebiotic species. 
  • Physics of the Distant Universe: calibrate high-redshift galaxies by detailed examination of nearby analogs, specifically, by measuring far-infrared lines and magnetic fields in local star forming regions, the galactic center, and nearby galaxies.
  • Evolution of Planetary Systems: infer the physical sizes, atmospheric structures, and chemical compositions of planets, comets, and asteroids; monitor temporal and spatial changes of planetary atmospheres in our Solar System as analogs to exoplanets; determine the molecular composition of comets as a possible source of the Earth’s oceans and organics. 

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Successful candidates will use data from SOFIA’s suite of instruments, which do polarimetry, spectroscopy, and imaging in the mid- and far-infrared. They will also be encouraged to develop research ideas that utilize the SOFIA data archive. 
  • Applicants must have a Ph.D. in astronomy or a closely related field as well as previous experience in astronomical observing and/or modeling leading to publications in refereed journals. Experience in infrared observing and/or modeling is highly desirable but not required.
  • Successful candidates may spend up to 20% of their time supporting the operation of the SOFIA observatory. Tasks may include (but are not limited to) reviewing proposals, analyzing calibration data, assessing instrument performance, planning and scheduling observations, representing SOFIA at conferences and workshops, and supporting in-flight observations.

Required Qualifications:


  • PhD in Astronomy, or related field


  • Experience with astronomical observing and/or modeling.
  • Good track record of publications in leading scientific journals.
  •  Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:  
  • Experience in astronomical programming (Python or similar).
  • Evidence of potential for high level of achievement as an independent researcher.
  • Ability to work as a team member to accomplish goals.

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. 


These positions are stationed at NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA. The successful candidates will be expected to travel to conferences and possibly participate in observing runs aboard SOFIA.

Please apply online using the link provided below and include the following attachments:

  • Application cover letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • List of publications
  • Short research statement (max 4 pages)

Candidates should include the contact information for two references in the cover letter. Application reviews and candidate interviews will begin immediately.

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

Effective December 8, all USRA employees must be fully vaccinated (2 weeks past final dose) unless they are entitled to a reasonable and legal accommodation. If you are not vaccinated, please consider getting your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact your HR Recruiter for further information.

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

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Selection Deadline: 
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis
Talent Acquisition
Zip/Postal Code: 
United States of America
Institution/Company Job ID or Reference Code: 
Universities Space Research Association
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis