SKA System Scientist

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Archive Date: 
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Scientific/Technical Staff
Institution Classification/Type: 
Square Kilometre Array Organisation
Department Name: 
Engineering and Project Management
Street Line 1: 
Jodrell Bank
SK11 9FT
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Job Announcement Text: 

This is a unique role for a talented and motivated radio astronomer with the ability to work constructively with astronomers and engineers to commission and verify the SKA Observatory.

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a global project to build a multi-purpose radio telescope that will play a major role in answering key questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology.  Thirteen countries are now participating in the project, with others engaged in discussions regarding possible membership.  Facilities for the new telescope will be located in South Africa and Australia, with our headquarters in a purpose-built building at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, UK.  SKA HQ currently houses around 90 staff but has just undergone a major expansion to accommodate up to 150 staff as the project moves towards construction and operation of the SKA telescopes.

Negotiations between the governments of SKA member countries to establish the SKA Observatory as an Inter-Governmental Organisation (IGO) have recently concluded; the IGO is expected to be established in late 2020.

The Role

The SKA Programme Directorate is seeking to appoint a talented and motivated radio astronomer to work in the expanding System Science group.  The group, based at the SKA Global Headquarters in the UK, has three main roles:

  1. Planning for science commissioning and verification (evolving into leadership of these areas during construction).
  2. Acting as an interface between science and engineering, supporting requirements analysis and verification and participating in project reviews.
  3. Providing expertise and training in radio astronomical techniques within the SKA project.

During SKA contruction, science commissioning will be the main focus of the group's activity. Its members will work very closely with the individual SKA-LOW and MID commissioning teams (based respectively in Perth and Cape Town) and with the hardware and software engineering groups involved in construction, assembly, integration and verification.

The appointee will report to and work closely with the Senior System Scientist, Dr Robert Laing, and informal enquiries about the role may be submitted to


Key Responsibilities, Accountabilities and Duties

The postholder will take over responsibility for significant parts of the commissioning programme and associated development activities. In the short term, this will involve:

  • Expansion of the current Science Commissioning and Verification Plan.
  • Development (in collaboration with the Assembly, Integration and Verification Team) of detailed astronomical test procedures, focused on the early deployment of SKA-LOW and MID.
  • Evaluation of array calibration and performance, by simulation and/or analysis of data from prototypes and precursor arrays.
  • Participation in design reviews and optimisation.
  • Tests of prototype and pre-production equipment, including control and data-reduction software.

The focus of the position will shift in 2023-24 to leadership of SKA commissioning.  In this phase of the project, the key roles are:

  • Working with the Senior System Scientist and the Commissioning Teams in the host countries, lead the Science Commissioning and Verification of the SKA Observatory. Take personal responsibility for particular aspects of commissioning.
  • Manage external involvement in commissioning (from the SKA Regional Centres and the astronomical community in general).
  • Coordinate Commissioning and Science Verification with other activities across the SKA Observatory, particularly those located at GHQ.

Regular and effective communication with many different stakeholders across the SKA Project will be essential.

To view the mandatory and desirable knowledge, skills, and experience required for this role, please visit our recruitment portal.

Pay Compensation
Compensation Notes: 
Competitive salary with generous pension
Application Deadline: 
Sunday, March 1, 2020
Selection Deadline: 
Sunday, March 8, 2020
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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