Observatory Scientist

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Archive Date: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Universities Space Research Association
Moffett Field
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The Observatory Scientist enhances the scientific productivity of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy by communicating and working directly with the current and potential guest observers to develop observing projects and bring them to fruition. The Observatory Scientist participates in the entire observing cycle on behalf of the scientific community. The Observatory Scientist presents SOFIA’s capabilities and scientific results at workshops and conferences, performs technical reviews of proposals, works with the guest observers to generate their detailed observing plans, works with Instrument Scientists to executive observations, and helps resolve issues that stand between the performance of observations and publication of results.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

Science Outreach and Support

Provide scientific and technical support, advice, and guidance to guest observers from proposal to publication.

Develop and deliver clear and engaging workshops, documentation, newsletters, exhibits, and other presentations to the astronomical community and government stakeholders in the mission to inform the astronomical community of the scientific potential and results of the observatory.

Develop SOFIA-centric science conferences and events, and oversee advertising, logistics, and communication to stakeholders and participants

Engage individuals within the scientific community in research work through research collaborations and visits.

Develop science community support documentation using input from instrument teams and other SOFIA and NASA sources. Documentation includes: the Call for Proposals; Guest Observers’ Handbook; cookbooks; internal requirements; policy documentation; instrument documentation, etc.

Perform Technical Review of Proposals and manage the colloquium series.

Monitor, assess and report on scientific outreach progress and effectiveness, and recommend new initiatives as needed.

Instrument Science

Execute observations with SOFIA science instruments in queue observing mode.

Track and report on instrument capabilities and assist in repairs / adjustments as necessary.


Perform scientific research in astronomy, broadly relevant to SOFIA.

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 / astrophysics / physical sciences or equivalent is required. A science communications degree with an astronomical science background is highly desired.

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:

Knowledge of instrument hardware, data acquisition software, and astronomical data reduction.

Established research record commensurate with level of work experience as demonstrated by a track record of writing successful technical proposals, and publication in major journals and presentations at major conferences.

Ability to develop plans and meet deadlines in order to meet program deliverables.

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.

Ability to effectively use job knowledge and solid judgment to make quality decisions in a timely manner.

Experience working in a large / national research organization / observatory is desired.

Proficiency in Microsoft Office and its 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.

The job requires the ability to work onboard the SOFIA observatory, both on the ground and in flight. Significant parts of the job require night-time work, away from the home base.

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 significant travel is required to Armstrong Flight Research Center and international business travel for long lengths of time.

Applicants should apply to the posting at https://usracareers.silkroad.com/ and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita. Review of candidates will begin immediately. 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: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Selection Deadline: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Current Status of Position: 
No Status Given (Opted Out)
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Ben Tanis
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