Assistant Scientist

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Sunday, September 5, 2021
Archive Date: 
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Research Laboratory
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Street Line 1: 
520 Edgemont Road
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) mission is to enable forefront research into the Universe at radio wavelengths. In partnership with the scientific community we:

  • Provide world leading telescopes, instrumentation and expertise,
  • Train the next generation of scientists and engineers, and
  • Promote astronomy to foster a more scientifically literate society.

The North American ALMA Regional Center (NA ARC) is the science operations division of North American ALMA. It supports the North American astronomical community in using ALMA and, in collaboration with the ALMA international partners, provides scientific support for the operations of the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) in Chile. ALMA carries out routine science operations with more than 4000 hours of scientific observations scheduled for each of the upcoming observing cycles.

The NA ARC is seeking qualified candidates for a scientific staff position to support development of ALMA-related functionality for NRAO’s Science Ready Data Products (SRDP) Initiative. The SRDP project aims to facilitate science at radio wavelengths by delivering data products that are ready to use for scientific study by a wide range of astronomers, including non-experts in interferometry, thereby making radio astronomy more accessible to the broader astronomical community.

The successful candidate will work with the SRDP Project Scientist and the SRDP Heuristics Team to define and prototype new features to be included in ALMA/NRAO data processing pipelines, CASA software package, and the NRAO archive. Such features may include automated self-calibration, imaging with multiple array configurations, and Quality Assurance diagnostics for images. For a summary of the current SRDP features, please see

While the primary focus of the position is SRDP Development, staff scientists within the NA ARC are also involved in a variety of scientific support activities such as imaging data and developing imaging techniques; supporting investigators in obtaining, reducing, and analyzing data; engaging in community training activities; supporting the JAO in Chile on  topics such as technical data quality issues or the extension and optimization of ALMA’s capabilities; and supporting ALMA telescope operations in Santiago, Chile and at the Operations Support Facility near San Pedro de Atacama.

Position Details

NRAO staff scientists are expected to enable cutting-edge science by the community and to help enhance the scientific impact of NRAO telescopes in addition to contributing to the overall NRAO mission. They must be able to contribute positively to a collaborative environment that requires both individual leadership and teamwork. Staff scientists are also expected to be versatile and adapt to new challenges and opportunities as NRAO’s astronomical landscape and observatory functional needs evolve.

The successful applicant will become an integral member of the NA ARC and SRDP team and contribute to team activities under the direction of the SRDP Project Scientist.

NRAO staff scientists are expected to carry out an independent research program using 25% of their time and are provided travel and computing support. An applicant’s research program may be multi-wavelength in nature but is generally expected to be synergistic with the science relevant to NRAO’s current and planned facilities (e.g. ALMA), and with the mission of the NRAO. Active and engaged research is important because staff scientists are expected to push the telescopes’ capabilities, building on their own research and the needs of the broader astronomical community.

NRAO conducts a range of programs in education and public outreach, diversity and inclusion, and broader impacts, and encourages interested staff to participate in these activities. While NRAO is not a degree-granting institution, its programs for undergraduate and graduate student research experiences afford opportunities for staff to mentor and interact with students.

Location and Compensation

Appointments in residence at our NRAO headquarters located in Charlottesville, Virginia, are preferred; however, a remote work station may be considered for candidates with sufficient experience. In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective first day of employment. Our retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.

Job Duties Summary 

Appointment to the NRAO Scientist track is expected, with 25% discretionary research time and 75% functional responsibilities. The position is expected to be at the Assistant Scientist level. For functional work, the staff scientist will be a member of the NA ARC and will report to the SRDP Project Scientist. Functional duties are expected to include, but are not limited to, SRDP feature development. The hiring committee will consider all applicants who meet the minimum qualifications.

Position Requirements:

Minimum Education

Ph.D. in astronomy, astrophysics or a related field

Minimum Experience

At least one year of postdoctoral work experience or equivalent by the time the appointment begins

Preferred Experience

  • Two or more years of postdoctoral work experience or equivalent
  • Established record of independent research
  • Experience with radio/millimeter astronomy and interferometry and associated calibration and imaging techniques
  • Experience using Python or another scientific programming language
  • Experience with ALMA data reduction and analysis using the CASA software package
  • Familiarity with or interest in software development processes, including specifying software requirements and validating software
  • Demonstrated interest in broadening participation, scientific community outreach, and commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Preferred Competencies

  • Demonstrated problem-solving ability
  • Demonstrated ability to work both independently and in geographically-distributed team environment
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills (verbal and written)
  • Versatility and adaptability to a changing functional work environment

Additional Requirement

The Observatory requires staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to access our facilities. An offer of employment will be considered contingent until the selected applicant provides proof of vaccination. A selected applicant may request consideration for an accommodation for a disability or for a sincerely held religious belief.

Application Instructions:

For consideration, submit application materials using the NRAO Careers Page Select the “Apply” button. You will need to be prepared to upload a single PDF document consisting of the following items:

  • Cover letter stating why you are interested in this position – the letter should describe how your education and experience match the requirements, competencies, and qualifications described above (maximum 2 pages).
  • Curriculum vitae
  • List of refereed publications
  • Summary of past technical and/or observational experience relevant to this position (2 pages).
  • Description of research accomplishments and future research plans (maximum 4 pages)

Applicants should also arrange for up to three letters of reference to be sent to [email protected] by the deadline.

Application Deadline

The deadline for receipt of all application materials is October 15, 2021 at 23:59 ET.  Please direct inquiries to John Tobin ([email protected]).

Equal Opportunity Employer Statement:

AUI is an equal opportunity employer. Women, Minorities, Vietnam-Era Veterans, Disabled Veterans, Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities are encouraged to apply. To view our complete statement, please visit If you require reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or hiring process due to a disability, you may submit your request by sending an email to [email protected].

Included Benefits: 

In addition to competitive pay, the NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective first day of employment. Our retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.

Application Deadline: 
Friday, October 15, 2021
Selection Deadline: 
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Assistant Scientist Hiring Committee
Institution/Company Job ID or Reference Code: 
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
John Tobin
Job Inquiry - 4637