Scientist, Astronomy (Observatory Scientist)

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Archive Date: 
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
To event remaining 67 days
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association
Moffett Field
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The Observatory Scientist will be part of SOFIA’s Community Engagement team. The team’s main goals are to:

  • Sustain the visibility of SOFIA science in the astronomy community at large.
  • Engage, support and grow SOFIA’s user community.
  • Enhance SOFIA’s scientific productivity (publications) and impact (citations).

The primary responsibility of the Observatory scientist will be to inform, engage and support current and potential SOFIA users. In particular, he or she is expected to develop and maintain effective, engaging and accurate documentation facilitating the use of SOFIA data; to help individuals resolving issues that hinder their timely publications of results; to present SOFIA’s capabilities and scientific results at workshops and conferences; to provide information on SOFIA’s capabilities and support on data analysis during webinars and community events. In general, the Observatory Scientist is expected to be a key contributor to the team’s overall strategy, by evaluating the effectiveness of current programs and designing new initiatives supporting the team’s goals.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Manager the SOFIA Help Desk, providing scientific and technical guidance to current and potential users in coordination with the Science Operations Team.
  • Maintain data analysis cookbooks, and create new online materials on archival data, data analysis and scientific interpretation, catering to a wide range of users from different scientific backgrounds.
  • Develop and deliver clear and engaging materials for workshops and conferences, to inform the astronomical community about SOFIA’s results.
  • Develop and deliver clear and engaging materials for community events on SOFIA’s capabilities, archival data, data analysis and scientific interpretation.
  • Engage individuals within the scientific community, for example through research collaborations, partnerships and personal invitations and suggestions.
  • Manage the SOFIA colloquium series.
  • Contribute to the overall suite of science community support documentation using in coordination with SOFIA teams and institutional partners.
  • Contribute to the design, production and targeted advertising for SOFIA’s events and initiatives, including exhibit booths and webinars.
  • Contribute to the design of community-wide communication materials (newsletters, social media posts, archive highlights, AAS booth materials.)
  • Contribute to the identification of communities of potential users, and to the development of professional partnerships.
  • Develop metrics to assess the effectiveness of ongoing programs and initiatives. 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 operation in an effective, cost-competitive, and professional manner.
  • Complete required trainings as scheduled.

Required Qualifications:


  • PhD in astronomy / astrophysics / physical sciences or equivalent is required.


  • At least 2 years of experience in astronomical research and/or observatory service.

Required skills and knowledge:

  • Established research record in astronomy (commensurate with level of work experience) as demonstrated by a track record of publications in peer-reviewed journals .
  • Proficiency in major astronomical data reduction tools 
  • Knowledge of infrared data calibration principles and interest in scientific topics addressed by infrared observations 
  • Demonstrated excellent verbal and written communication skills. Ability to effectively convey complex concepts to a diverse professional audience
  •  Good knowledge of US and worldwide professional astronomy communities, and community communication platforms and venues 
  •  Interest for a broad section of astronomy sub-fields, and ability to stay informed about major scientific developments, professional events and opportunities 
  • Versatility, specifically ability to comprehend and synthesize new and complex technical information and methodologies. 
  • Demonstrated ability to work successfully as part of a team, in a collaborative environment including scientists and other specialists .
  • Ability to quickly adapt to changes in internal strategies and external constraints.
  •  Ability to set priorities and work in a multi-project environment.

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. 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. Some Travel will be required.

Applicants should apply to the posting at USRA Careers and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita. Additional information on USRA can be found at

USRA is an Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities / Females / Protected Veterans / Disabled / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity.

Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Selection Deadline: 
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis
Talent Acquisition
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis