Gemini AO Scientist

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, May 9, 2019
Archive Date: 
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
La Serena
Job Announcement Text: 

We are currently seeking an Adaptive Optics (AO) Scientist to participate in the development and operation of the AO facilities at the Gemini South telescope.

The AO Scientist will play a leading role in the development and operations of the GeMS Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics facility at Gemini South, including commissioning of the Natural Guide Star Next Generation System (NGS2) on GeMS. GeMS is the world’s first, and remains the only, Laser Guide Star Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics system operated as facility class system on an 8-meter class telescope. NGS2 will be a significant upgrade to GeMS, allowing access to a much larger fraction of the sky by allowing the use of significantly fainter natural guide stars than the original NGS sensors.

This position will be part of the Technology Development Department at Gemini, which includes our Adaptive Optics operations and development staff across both Gemini telescopes. This position will be based at Gemini South in La Serena, Chile. Frequent travel to the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachon will be required. The position will mostly work regular office hours, but night-shift observing duties will also be required, both physically at the telescope on Cerro Pachon, and also remotely from the base facility in La Serena. Occasional travel to international destinations including Gemini North in Hilo, Hawaii may be required. This position will be filled at either the Postdoctoral Fellow, Assistant Scientist, Associate Scientist, or Scientist level depending on the skills and experience of the successful candidate. The initial appointment will be for 3 years, with the possibility of extension or renewal based on satisfactory performance, operational needs and funding availability.

Interviews will be scheduled for candidates who meet the minimum qualifications and complete the application process as instructed. The position will remain open until filled. 

The Gemini Observatory is managed by The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), a consortium of over 40 US institutions and four 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 Gemini Observatory, the National Optical Astronomical Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation and NASA.

Essential Functions:

  • Supports the AO instruments and AO observations at Gemini, including daytime calibrations and tests as well as night time operations and support.
  • Coordinates with AO staff and Gemini Science and Engineering Operations to organize and manage upgrades, maintenance and improvements to Gemini AO systems.
  • Carries out observational/research projects and prepares results for publication.
  • Provides specialist advice to others on scientific exploitation of Gemini facilities.
  • Organizes commissioning and ongoing development of Gemini telescopes, AO instrumentation and support facilities.
  • Contributes to development of software for reduction and analysis of Gemini AO data.
  • Tests, calibrates, maintains and documents new and existing astronomical equipment, including AO instruments, observing systems and software, working with engineering staff.
  • Presents scientific and technical results at astronomical meetings and symposia.
  • Maintains an interest in the scientific mission of Gemini, its relation to the wider scientific context and to the public interest.
  • Participates in observatory committees and national/international scientific organizations and meetings.
  • Contributes to public outreach and communicating astronomy to the public.
  • Serves on interview panels.

Required Education/ Experience/ Skills/ Abilities:

  • Preferably have at least 3 years of experience working with Adaptive Optics systems, preferably at a major ground based astronomical observatory. This is not a requirement for hiring as a postdoctoral fellow, but is required at any of the scientist levels.
  • Must be able to work in small teams as well as work independently.
  • An ability to communicate with a wide variety of staff, visiting observers and remote investigators throughout the Gemini partnership is essential.
  • Requires excellent team player skills.
  • Must have excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • An aptitude for dealing with practical problems and issues is necessary.
  • Must have a willingness to travel internationally and work in a culturally divers environment.
  • Must possess the motivation and ability to identify and carry out new projects in a team environment while participating in the day-to-day operations of the observatory.
  • Ph.D. in Astronomy or related field.
  • Must have at least three years experience in ground-based astronomy.
  • Knowledge of theoretical and observational approaches to exploring the origins and astrophysical properties of celestial objects and the Universe.
  • Familiarity with spectroscopy, direct imaging and ground-based observing.
  • Proficiency with astronomical software and data reduction techniques.
  • Effective technical writing and public speaking communication skills.
  • Must be able to contribute to scientific research programs using Gemini.
  • Advanced computer literacy.

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.
  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to sit; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; and talk and hear.
  • The employee is occasionally required to stand; walk; reach with hands and arms and stoop; kneel; crouch; or craw
  • The employee must regularly lift and /or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds.
  • Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, depth perception and ability to adjust focus.
  • Must be able to sit for long periods of time; to drive various company vehicles and possess valid license plus a clean driving record. Must be able to work at high altitudes of 14,000 feet; to travel internationally and must possess or can obtain a valid passport
  • Must possess - sufficient mobility, strength, or dexterity in both arms and hands and both legs to a) reach upward, sideways, downward to work with paper files; b) sufficient mobility and dexterity to utilize computer systems, fax machines, copiers, and other office machines.
  • Must possess – 1) ability to read and understand instructions, drawings, safety guides, and other written materials necessary to perform job; 2) sufficient visual capacity to perform the applicable functions without assistance of visual aids other than eye contacts or eye glasses; 3) sufficient spoken aural capacity to hear and understand instructions, warning bells, fire alarms, or shouted instructions without assistance of auditory aids other than a hearing aid; and 4) ability to impart information orally so that others understand and can respond appropriately

All applicants must submit a cover letter with their CV that describes their interest in this position and their relevant experience. Please include a list of 3 professional references with contact information. 

Preference will be given to qualified internal candidates.

AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, is committed to diversity and inclusion. AURA 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

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.

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

Included Benefits: 

AURA provides a generous compensation package including health coverage, paid time off and retirement benefits.

Application Deadline: 
Sunday, June 9, 2019
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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AURA Human Resources
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