Assistant or Associate Scientist

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Archive Date: 
Thursday, May 9, 2019
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Street Line 1: 
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) has an opening for a Staff Scientist at the Assistant or Associate level (depending on experience). The position will be initially associated with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) survey at the Mayall 4m telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). Over its initial 5-year mission, DESI will survey 40 million galaxies and quasars to precisely measure the expansion history of the universe and provide percent-level constraints on the equation of state of dark energy. DESI will also obtain spectra of about several million stars to investigate the Milky Way disk and halo.

The Scientist should have a demonstrated interest and ability to support astronomical instrumentation, conduct astronomical research, and possess the motivation and ability to identify and carry out technical projects to completion while assisting in the day-to-day operations and long-term planning of the observatory. The successful candidate should possess excellent team skills to work in collaboration with observatory technical and support staff, with visiting scientists, DESI Collaboration members and others on scientific research, as well as participate on Observatory committees and in national and international scientific organizations.

The primary role of the Scientist will be to serve as the DESI Observing Operations Supervisor, who will be responsible for the DESI operations at the Mayall on Kitt Peak. Tasks may include: review of night-time logs; coordination with instrument teams for any repairs and maintenance; review of night-time schedule; coordination, scheduling and training of observing scientists; carrying out day-time calibrations in coordination with the calibration scientist; coordination between Telescope Operators and Observing Scientists; system monitoring, tracking daily alarms and troubleshooting; coordination of maintenance activities with science observing (including hardware monitoring, problem troubleshooting and diagnosis). The Observing Operations Supervisor will also provide the organizational coordination between the different remote observing sites and be responsible for ensuring that the DESI Collaboration provides Observing Scientists to carry out the night-time observing. Staff Scientists may devote up to 20% of their time to personal research.

Staff Scientist will become a member of the DESI Collaboration and is expected to carry out a science research program aided by the supportive research environment available at NOAO and within the DESI science collaboration. NOAO Staff Scientists also have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from additional activities across the observatory. NOAO operates telescopes at both Kitt Peak National Observatory and at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, and runs the Community Science and Data Center, which includes the US National Gemini Office and the US Extremely Large Telescope Program. NOAO is also a founding member of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project.

NOAO aims to fill this position as soon as possible.

Essential Functions:

  • Providing scientific oversight for the observing operations with DESI at the Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak.
  • Scientifically assessing the performance and calibration of astronomical instrumentation.
  • Organizing and overseeing the execution of night-time observations at the Mayall telescope.
  • Interacting with and directing the work of observatory technical staff for observational support, telescope and instrument maintenance, and telescope and instrument upgrade programs.
  • Introducing visiting observers to the Mayall telescope and instruments and assisting them with night-time startup help when necessary.
  • Participating in commissioning and operations of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) and support facilities.
  • Participating in planning, organization and supervision of DESI observations.
  • Carrying out observations for the DESI survey or other programs.
  • Conducting observational and research projects (personal research).
  • Preparing and presenting scientific papers at astronomical meetings and symposia.
  • Preparing and presenting technical papers at astronomy-related meetings, e.g. SPIE symposia.

Other Functions:

  • Other observatory duties as assigned.
  • External professional service activities, e.g. service on review committees


  • Ph.D. in Astronomy or related field.
  • At least three years of experience in ground-based astronomical research and a strong interest in working at an Observatory and in instrument support.
  • Knowledge of astronomical observational techniques, specifically with optical spectroscopy, astronomical software and data reduction techniques.
  • Experience and facility with programming languages used in astronomy (e.g., Python) and astronomical instrumentation (e.g., C)
  • Scholarship and publications of significant value to the NOAO scientific mission.
  • Ability to work independently.
  • Ability to communicate collaboratively with a wide variety of observatory staff, visiting observers and remote investigators throughout the DESI community.
  • Excellent team player skills.
  • Motivation and ability to identify and carry out new projects in a team environment while participating in the day-to-day operations of the observatory.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Aptitude for dealing with practical problems and issues.
  • Willingness to travel internationally and work in a culturally diverse environment.
  • Ability to climb stairs and work at 6,800 feet altitude for sustained periods of time (day or night) in a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions.
  • Good visual and auditory acuity.

NOAO offers an excellent benefits package, competitive salary commensurate with experience, and a very attractive work environment.

Preference will be given to qualified internal candidates.

The application deadline is April 30, 2019, and the position will remain open until filled.

Submission materials: Applicants should submit their CV, a statement describing their relevant work experience and research interests, and 3 letters of recommendation with their application by the deadline. Please name any attachments with the following format: LastnameDocname.

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) manages several astronomical observatory centers (including the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory and the Gemini Observatory) and construction projects (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and Daniel. K. Inouye Solar Telescope) in the United States and Chile under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation.

EOE AA M/F/Vet/Disability

Preference granted to qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

Application Deadline: 
Friday, May 10, 2019
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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