Operations Specialist I-III

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, April 28, 2022
Archive Date: 
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Research Laboratory
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Department Name: 
Array and Correlator Operations Division
Street Line 3: 
1003 Lopezville Road
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is recruiting an Operations Specialist to join our Operations team at the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico.  The Operations Specialist provides skilled technical assistance, under limited supervision, in the execution of astronomical observing programs, basic analysis and archiving of data. The Operations Specialist operates an array of 27 telescopes as one system ensuring the acquisition of data from the instrument delivers a high level of data quality while ensuring the safety of personnel and equipment.  Candidates with preferred experience and education will be considered for a higher level Operation Specialist ranking; duties and responsibilities increase with each level.  This is a “Safety Sensitive” position as described in the Position Requirements below.


The position is based at the VLA, 50 miles west of Socorro, NM. Socorro is a small, historical town in the Rio Grande Valley, 75 miles south of Albuquerque. In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective on the first day of employment. NRAO’s retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


Job Duties Summary

The essential responsibilities of an Operations Specialist include:

  • Operating and monitoring telescopes and supporting equipment;
  • Troubleshooting and taking corrective action when errors and faults occur;
  • Communicating with personnel working on the array and tracking activity, notifying personnel of dangerous weather conditions, monitoring fire alarm systems and responding to emergencies;
  • Initiating telescope control and preparing the antenna, receivers, clocks, recording systems, and other hardware/software for operation;
  • Receiving observing instructions from on-site or remote observers and executing observing programs including, but not limited to, processing incoming observe files, verifying against published schedules, annotating files on the observation schedule, executing observing programs, and sending pointing results to observers;
  • Providing assistance to, and accommodating requests from, observers, scientific staff, engineers, and technicians in regards to basic commands for telescope controls and data analyses;
  • Monitoring readings and alerts on multiple computer screens to detect unsafe equipment conditions and ensuring all systems are configured correctly and operating normally;
  • Monitoring fringe amplitude readings and data flagging codes to check data quality;
  • Performing system tests to measure values used to finely tune each antenna. Verifying antenna functionality and receiver performance and updating system parameters, following antenna moves or a major hardware upgrade, in consultation with a system expert;
  • Taking prescribed actions to protect telescope equipment;
  • Making necessary personnel call-outs when equipment safety is compromised and/or when major problems occur;
  • Maintaining an accurate observing log of failures, abnormal conditions, significant events, equipment status changes, procedural changes, or special instructions from observers or staff;
  • Writing detailed maintenance reports for hardware and software problems;
  • Documenting operational procedures and assisting with their upkeep;
  • Collecting meteorological data for the National Weather Service;
  • Driving daily shuttles to/from the VLA and the NRAO facility in Socorro;
  • Proactive compliance with all NRAO policies and procedures is required;
  • Other duties may be assigned.

Additional responsibilities of an Operations Specialist II include:

  • Providing advanced troubleshooting support and corrective actions when errors and faults occur;
  • Performing ongoing analysis of operator’s tools and methods, and documenting improvements;
  • Developing procedures and documentation for new equipment based on technical information supplied by engineers or supervisors;
  • Writing technical reports to describe operating characteristics, abnormal conditions, and functional limitations;
  • Providing input/feedback on related and proposed hardware/software developments/issues and assisting in troubleshooting any detected problems;
  • Training new operators;
  • Assisting scientists in basic data analysis;
  • Progressively taking on other duties generally assigned to senior and lead operators.


Additional responsibilities of an Operations Specialist III include:

  • Acting as liaison for array software including testing of new programs, providing feedback to the programming staff, reviewing and recommending changes, training operators in new procedures and providing documentation;
  • Managing operator tools and logs – changing, fixing, upgrading code and scripts as needed;
  • Troubleshooting array system issues, reporting and assisting scientists, programmers and engineers with solutions;
  • Compiling observing metrics and associated data, and generating periodic reports as needed;
  • Providing and monitoring operator training, including updates to the training manual;
  • Assisting and leading operators in the performance of their duties;
  • Assisting the Lead Operator as assigned.

Work Environment

The Operations Specialist will work as part of a team that supports a 24 hour / 7 day rotating shift pattern consisting of day, evening and night shifts.  A typical workweek is 4/10hr days with days off between shift changes. The work is indoors at a console with multiple computer terminals. Operators must be available for emergency call out and may be required to work overtime to cover vacant shifts or in emergencies until relieved.  The employee will work at high altitudes and self-drive an Observatory vehicle to the VLA site. The Operator may be required to drive at night and possibly in adverse weather conditions.


Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

Associate's degree (A. A.) or equivalent from an accredited two-year college or technical school with training in math, physics, science or a related technical field. 


Preferred Education

Bachelor's Degree in a related field.


Preferred Experience

Three or more years of experience in operating an industrial-sized astronomical telescope preferred.   


Competency Summary

Must be able to follow procedures and policies, be able to handle emergencies calmly, able to express themselves clearly both verbally and in writing, be attentive to detail, and able to work well with others, sometimes in stressful situations.  Must be able to operate a computer using process control software applications, and able to use a Windows computer and word processing and spreadsheet software.  Must have experience with a LINUX/UNIX operating environment.  Must have demonstrated ability to read and interpret documents such as schematics, operating and maintenance instructions, and procedure manuals.


Physical Requirements

The physical demands and the work environment characteristics described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position. The employee must occasionally lift and/or move up to 50 pounds. Specific vision requirements include close vision, distance vision, color and depth perception, and the ability to adjust focus.  The employee must be able to hear instructions and warnings.  All Operators must be available for emergency call out and may be required to work extended shifts of up to 14 hours, when needed.  Hearing acuity is required in order to perform work safely with instructions being given over radios and to respond to system alarms; visual acuity is required to read and understand written/graphic/data material on a computer screen and determine colors displayed on a computer monitor.


Additional Requirement

The Operations Specialist is required to hold and maintain a valid NM Driver’s License. The Observatory requires staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to access our facilities.  An offer of employment will be considered contingent until the selected applicant provides proof of vaccination.  A selected applicant may request consideration for an accommodation for a disability or for a sincerely held religious belief.


Safety Sensitive

The selected candidate must successfully pass a post-offer, pre-employment/pre-placement drug screen.  Failure to pass the Screen will disqualify the candidate from employment consideration for a period of six months from the date of the results. 


Application Instructions:


Apply online at the careers page.  You will need to be prepared to upload your current CV/Resume and a letter of application describing interest and suitability for the position.


Equal Opportunity Employer Statement:


AUI is an equal opportunity employer.  Women, Minorities, Vietnam-Era Veterans, Disabled Veterans, Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities are encouraged to apply.  To view our complete statement, please visit http://jobs.jobvite.com/nrao/jobs.  If you require reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or hiring process due to a disability, you may submit your request by sending an email to [email protected].

Included Benefits: 

In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective on the first day of employment. NRAO’s retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.

Application Deadline: 
Monday, May 30, 2022
Selection Deadline: 
Friday, June 3, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Matt Gardiner
National Radio Astronomy Observatory