Scientist (Open rank)

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 up to two scientific staff positions within the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC). The focus of these positions will be working with the Telescope Interface and Diagnostics Group. The Telescope Interface and Diagnostics Group is the NAASC technical liaison to the JAO and is responsible for all ALMA telescope-facing activities including: reporting on and investigating technical data quality issues; maintaining familiarity with current technical issues reported by the JAO, including the online correlator and control software teams; contributing to the extension and optimization of ALMA’s capabilities; scientific support of ALMA development programs; supporting investigators in obtaining data; testing and providing scientific input into the various tools needed for program scheduling and execution; and supporting ALMA telescope operations in Santiago, Chile and at the Operations Support Facility near San Pedro de Atacama.

Although the primary focus of the position(s) is the Telescope Interface and Diagnostics Group, qualified applicants who have the potential to contribute to other groups within the NAASC will also be considered. Other groups include the ALMA Community Support Group and the Scientific Software Group. Staff scientists within the NA ARC are involved in a variety of other scientific support activities such as supporting investigators in obtaining, reducing, and analyzing data; imaging data and developing imaging techniques; and engaging in community training activities.

Position Details

NRAO staff scientists are expected to enable cutting-edge science by the community and to help enhance the observing capabilities of ALMA 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 candidate(s) will work closely with other members of the Telescope Diagnostics Group, the JAO, and the NAASC data processing team. They will become integral members of the NA ARC and contribute to team activities under the direction of the NA ARC Manager and Deputy NA ARC Manager.

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 will be in residence at our NRAO headquarters located in Charlottesville, Virginia. In addition to competitive pay, NRAO provides excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective on the first day of employment. NRAO’s retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay, and is effective the first full pay period after six months of employment. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.

Job Duties Summary 

Appointments will be on the NRAO Scientist track, with 25% discretionary research time and 75% functional responsibilities. The positions are nominally at the Assistant Scientist level but higher ranks may be considered based on the candidate’s experience. For functional work, the staff scientist(s) will be members of the NA ARC and will report to the NA ARC Manager or their designee. Functional duties are expected to include, but are not limited to, ALMA telescope diagnostics. 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/submillimeter astronomy and interferometry and/or associated telescope systems (instrumentation or software)
  • Experience using Python or another scientific programming language
  • Experience with astronomical observing, working in an observatory setting and/or commissioning telescope hardware or software
  • Familiarity with common software packages used for data processing and analysis in astronomical research (e.g. CASA)
  • Demonstrated interest in and/or familiarity with telescope systems or developing observing and calibration techniques relevant to ALMA
  • Demonstrated interest in broadening participation and commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Preferred Competencies

  • Demonstrated ability to comprehend and synthesize new and complex technical information
  • Demonstrated problem-solving ability
  • Demonstrated ability to work both independently and in a 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 You will need to be prepared to upload a single PDF document consisting of the following items:

  • Cover letter describing why you are interested in this position and how your education and experience match the requirements, qualifications and competencies described above (maximum 2 pages).
  • Curriculum vitae.
  • List of refereed publications.
  • Summary of past technical and/or observational experience relevant to the position (maximum 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 Catherine Vlahakis at [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: 
Scientist Hiring Committee
Institution/Company Job ID or Reference Code: 
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Catherine Vlahakis
Job Inquiry - 4611