Observing Specialist Manager

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Sunday, January 8, 2023
Archive Date: 
Sunday, February 5, 2023
To event remaining 3 days
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Management
Institution Classification/Type: 
AURA - Rubin Observatory
La Serena
Job Announcement Text: 

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory (Rubin Obs. hereafter) is an 8.4m telescope designed to conduct the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) - a multi-color optical imaging survey over much of the southern sky repeatedly over a 10-year period.  The data from the LSST will be unprecedented in scale and sensitivity to faint objects, and will enable a wide range of science from exploration of the Time Domain to Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Rubin’s Observatory’s LSST and future experiments are sure to fundamentally change how humanity perceives and understands the Universe in which we live.  

Rubin Obs. is now in the exciting phase of integration and commissioning. The 1.2m Auxiliary Telescope (AuxTel), meant for atmospheric calibration, is operational and routinely conducts bi-monthly observing campaigns. Following the same hardware and software design as the main Simonyi Survey Telescope (SST) as much as possible, the AuxTel is also currently used for initial integration and test. The SST is scheduled to follow suit and begin on-sky commissioning in 2024, with an expected transition to operation in late 2024. Until then, other telescope commissioning activities involving system integration, telescope and dome motion will be executed in 2023.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory is now seeking an experienced, energetic and qualified person to supervise and manage the Observing Specialist team, composed of personnel supported by both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Energy (DOE). This team currently consists of 6 members and is expected to grow to 11 members – including the lead – by 2024 in order to support first commissioning and then steady state nighttime (i.e. nightly) operations. The qualified candidate will divide their time between leading and supervising the diverse and multinational observing specialist team combined with fulfilling an observing support role themselves at a ratio of approximately 75%/25%, respectively. 

The team of Observing Specialists contains an array of skills ranging from understanding software scripts in Python to hands-on technical work with hardware. They are being cross trained to assist engineers, technicians and/or scientists in areas such as characterization of hardware performance, routine maintenance operations and data analysis.  The Observing Specialist Manager is expected to continue and enhance this established training program. In addition, the successful candidate will be tasked with organizing the observing activities and personnel to safely execute the prioritized plan of the night for both the Auxiliary Telescope and the Simonyi Survey Telescope. Finally, a key area of responsibility for the Observing Specialist Manager is the delivery of the documentation required to conduct observations.

Vera C. Rubin Observatory cares about fostering a workplace of kindness, continually striving to  develop, improve, and maintain an inclusive, respectful, and fruitful collaboration between all our Rubin project personnel across institutions, and our community. The successful candidate is expected to contribute similarly to our workplace culture. 

During the remainder of Rubin Construction the Observing Specialist Manager will report to the Commissioning Manager or designee in the System Integration and Commissioning group.  Once Rubin Construction is completed, the Observing Specialist Manager position will fully transition into the Rubin Observatory Operations (ROO) leadership team and functionally report to the Associate Director for ROO as the Operations Nighttime Manager.  The transition to operation will be gradual and the successful candidate will first be sharing their time between Rubin Construction and Rubin Operation, mostly planning the observation process optimization.  There is potential for the successful candidate to grow into this leadership position.

Once in Operations, the Nighttime Manager will be part of the NSF’s NOIRLab, which along with SLAC is responsible for the successful operation of Rubin. NOIRLab also operates telescopes in Chile and Arizona, and the Gemini telescopes in Chile and Hawai’i.

The position will be based in La Serena, Chile where the team of Observing Specialists reside, with occasional trips to the Tucson headquarters.

Essential Functions:  

  • Leadership Duties:
    • Supervision and management of the observatory specialist team composed of both AURA and DOE/SLAC members. Monitors group effort loading and performance;  assesses training and recruitment needs, provides or arranges mentoring functions for the Observing Specialist group;
    • Carries out annual performance reviews for Observing Specialist group members;
    • Working with the commissioning stakeholders to organize the night work, including ensuring that the hardware and software are ready, the maintenance was performed and required issues are resolved. It includes assisting engineering and science staff in testing and troubleshooting telescope and instrument systems;
    • Participating in daily as well as long term planning of observations and observing strategies; 
    • Report to the Rubin’s Construction leadership team of any issues happening at the summit and help prioritize the Jira tickets issued during the night to allow timely follow-up;
    • Lead the development and documentation of procedures associated with the operations of the main Rubin Observatory SST and its AuxTel and associated subsystems;
    • Be involved in the hiring process of additional Observing Specialists;
  • Support nighttime observing by safely operating the AuxTel and/or the SST at night;
    • Developing a thorough working knowledge of the Simonyi Survey Telescope and the Auxiliary Telescope operation including monitoring software and their respective GUIs; 
    • Monitoring summit weather conditions, and executing predetermined actions when conditions are adverse for operations;
    • Performing instrument and telescope calibrations when applicable;
    • Monitoring SST and AuxTel subsystems’ health through subsystems GUIs;
    • Basic evaluation of the delivered image and spectra quality;
    • The on-duty Observing Specialists are also the primary authors of the nightly observing report that consists of their nightly log entries and automated technical assessments derived from the Engineering Facility Database (EFD), including fault reporting.
  • Support of Nighttime Planning and Operations  
    • Define the final model for the rotation schedule of the Observing Specialists team and introduce the operation process within commissioning; maintain the process and schedule during operations;
    • In operations, work with NOIRLab’s Research & Science Services (RSS) to develop training and career development opportunities.     

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:  

  • Bachelor’s degree in physics, astronomy, computer science, engineering or a closely related field; a Masters degree is preferable, particularly if it includes observing experience;
  • Demonstrated leadership experience or significant domain experience with a desire to transition to a leadership role, in particular of a multidisciplinary group;
  • Demonstrated outstanding judgment and ability to communicate firmly when issues of safety of personnel or the telescope are apparent;
  • Hands-on experience in at least one of the following areas is required
    • Operation of a major ground-based telescope;
    • Optical and/or infrared observing techniques;
    • Experience with Astronomical/Physics instruments;
  • Understanding of potential software issues related to observatory operations;
  • Must be fluent in English, including proficient in writing and editing procedural documentation in English.
  • Must be prepared to be responsible for the safety of people and equipment while working at night.
  • Must possess organizational and communication skills as well as the ability to learn quickly.
  • Must be reliable, dependable, and flexible - excellent attendance and commitment to work scheduled shifts is necessary.
  • Must be a self-learner and self-starter; requires above-average initiative.
  • Ability and desire to work productively in a multinational team.
  • Requires a valid driver’s license, clean driving record and the ability (or the willingness to learn how) to drive 4WD vehicles. 

Preferred Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:  

  • Issue tracking knowledge using Jira or equivalent
  • High level software scripting knowledge using Python (preferred) or equivalent
  • Knowledge of linux, git, and github
  • Ability to organize and lead meetings
  • Command of the Spanish language 

Physical Demands: The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • The work is mostly carried out in an office environment. Long periods of sitting and computer usage may be required.
  • Must be able to work either at day or night on the Cerro Pachón summit, which is at approximately 3,000m (9,000 feet)
  • Must be willing to stay at the summit for several days/nights on end (food and lodging provided)
  • Must be willing to work weekends and holidays as needed. Schedule is subject to change and varies by person within the group based on their responsibilities.
  • Some travel may be necessary both domestic and international

We are committed to diversity and inclusion at Rubin Observatory.  Our managing organization, AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at http://www.aura-astronomy.org/diversity.asp

AURA offers an excellent benefits package including paid time off and retirement plan contributions, competitive salary commensurate with experience, and a very attractive work environment. 

Details on benefits can be found at https://hr.aura-astronomy.org/employee-benefits-guide/

Preference will be given to qualified internal candidates.

Please list 3 professional references in your application (references will only be contacted later in the recruitment process) and attach: a cover letter and a CV or resume, PDF files preferred. Please name any attachments with the following format: Lastname Docname. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to [email protected].

For full consideration, please submit your application by February 3, 2023. 

Veterans, disabled individuals or wounded warriors needing assistance with the employment process should request assistance at [email protected]

COVID-19 UPDATE: Effective December 8, 2021, AURA will require all U.S. based employees to be fully vaccinated, including being up to date with boosters, for COVID-19.  Vaccination will be a condition of employment, with exemptions granted only for valid medical or religious reasons. This is requirement for all employees working onsite or from home (hybrid or remote work schedule).  Currently the vaccination requirement does not apply to any future AURA employees working in Chile, regardless of their nationality or type of contract.

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), is a consortium of over 40 US institutions and three international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories. AURA’s role is to establish, nurture, and promote public observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research. AURA is responsible for managing the operations of the NSF’s NOIRLab, the National Solar Observatory, and the construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation and operations of the Space Telescope Science Institute under contracts with NASA. 

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA and all of the centers, do not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our record keeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

Application Deadline: 
Sunday, February 5, 2023
Selection Deadline: 
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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