Project Director, US Extremely Large Telescope

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Archive Date: 
Thursday, July 21, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Management
Institution Classification/Type: 
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

NSF’s NOIRLab is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy. The mission of NOIRLab is to enable breakthrough discoveries in astrophysics by developing and operating state-of-the-art ground-based observatories and providing data products and services for a diverse and inclusive community. NOIRLab is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) which operates as a matrix organization, providing services across a range of programs: Gemini Observatory, Vera C. Rubin Observatory, Mid-Scale Observatory (Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and Kitt Peak National Observatory), and the Community Science and Data Center; with approximately 400 employees at facilities in three geographic locations: Arizona, Hawai’i, and Chile.

The US-ELT at NSF’s NOIRLab leads the effort to realize US community participation in a system of 30m class telescopes built around the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) (collectively the US ELT Program, or US-ELTP).  The US-ELTP is a collaborative endeavor of NOIRLab and the organizations building the TMT and GMT.  The Program’s goals are to complete construction of both observatories and to enable all US astronomers to carry out transformational research that takes full advantage of the diverse capabilities of both GMT and TMT as well as the two-hemisphere system.  

NOIRLab’s contribution to the US-ELTP will be to develop a software suite for all users of TMT and GMT, including the US community, to support the entire Scientific Data Life Cycle from submission of proposals to observations, to data processing, to data analysis and publication.  NOIRLab will the focal point for community engagement with the US-ELTP, including administration of community access, and is developing tools to amplify research inclusion with US-ELTP data.  NOIRLab’s federally funded, software- and community-oriented role in the US-ELTP is designed to enable high-impact, inclusive science to be done with the TMT and GMT.  

The US-ELT Project Director (PD) is the strategic leader of NOIRLab’s US-ELT project.  The PD reports to the NOIRLab Director and is a member of NOIRLab’s leadership team. The PD will build and lead a team that develops requirements, operations plans, software, and user support functions for open access users of TMT and GMT. The PD will be responsible for ensuring the preparation and execution of funding proposals and leading the project through a rigorous set of reviews as part of NSF’s MREFC process in close coordination with the two telescope projects.  The PD will represent the project to federal agencies and the scientific and technical community and will be an advocate for the program at multiple levels.  As appropriate, the PD will work with the Gemini Director and AURA HQ on Hawaiian governance issues.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Set the strategic vision and priorities for the US-ELT project
  • Build and manage the US-ELT project team with the appropriate mix of skills for each phase of the project
  • Ensure preparation of proposals and lead the program through a rigorous set of reviews as part of the NSF’s MREFC program
  • Ensure the development and maintenance of documentation that illustrates the scientific potential of the US-ELT Program.  Ensure that the US community is engaged and informed regarding the US-ELT Program in the context of the 2020 decadal survey report.
  • Ensure coordination with the GMT and TMT project teams on the development of proposals, review preparations, project plans and budgets and other materials needed for advancement through the MREFC process
  • Act as NOIRLab’s main point of contact for the US-ELT project with NSF, AURA Corporate, and the NOIRLab Director's Office
  • Represent US-ELTP in public and scientific settings, and at AURA and NOIRLab oversight and governance committees. Represent NOIRLab in the US-ELTP Executive Committee
  • Work with AURA Headquarters leadership to drive and support coalition building among the three US-ELTP partners, and to key stakeholders and decision makers in US science policy and funding as they relate to the US ELT Program.

Other Functions:

  • Other duties as arise during the evolution of the program.

Required Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Doctoral degree in Astronomy, Physics, or a related field.
  • Distinguished record of published scientific research, preferably in fields relevant to ELT transformative science.
  • Ability to provide scientific leadership and mentoring to peers and junior colleagues.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Experience in strategic planning for large and diverse organizations and stakeholder communities.
  • Experience in the management of large scientific projects.
  • Experience working with US federal agencies.
  • Demonstrated critical analysis, problem solving, and conflict resolution skills.
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion, including mastery of the skills needed to manage the efforts of a large, diverse workforce.

Preferred Education/Experience/Skills/Abilities:

  • Experience managing direct reports.
  • Experience in the management of construction projects and/or astronomical facilities with capital costs in the $100M range or larger.
  • Experience managing geographically dispersed teams.

 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. 
  • Travel may be necessary in or outside the contiguous United States.

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

At NOIRLab we are committed to diversity and inclusion; 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

Preference will be given to qualified internal candidates and qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O'odham reservation.

Please list three (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].

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

The position will remain open until filled. To be considered in the first round of reviews, please submit your application by July 15, 2022. 

COVID-19 Policy Update: AURA has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy that requires all employees to be vaccinated including being up to date on boosters, unless qualified for an exemption based on medical or religious reasons. All new employees will be required to comply with this policy and will be required to present proof of full vaccination or submit a completed request (including supporting documents, if applicable) for an exemption at least five (5) business days prior to their start of employment. Individuals who fail to meet this deadline may have their employment start date delayed. 

This is a requirement for all employees working onsite or from home (telework or hybrid 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.

AURA currently offers a mix-model workspace (office & virtual) and stimulating environments for all, with most staff working virtually from home during the COVID-19 crisis. The safety of our staff and community is our top priority. We will continue to interview and screen candidates in this new virtual landscape and offers of employment can be extended and new hires will onboard virtually. Employees are required to be residents in their base job location within a limited time from their start date.

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 does 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. The statements below as well as the requests for self-identification are required pursuant to these regulations. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our recordkeeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential. 

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, July 21, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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