Director of Mid-Scale Observatories (MSO)

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, October 11, 2018
Archive Date: 
Thursday, November 8, 2018
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Management
Institution Classification/Type: 
Street Line 1: 
950 N Cherry Ave
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

REVISED 10/10/2018

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is seeking a talented Director of Mid-Scale Observatories (MSO) for NSF’s National Center for Optical-Infrared Astronomy (NCOA). NCOA will be the U.S. national center for ground based optical-infrared (OIR) astronomy.

NCOA will be an AURA-managed center headquartered in Tucson, Arizona that will lead the operations of Gemini Observatory, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), and elements of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in the United States and in Chile.

The MSO is experiencing an exciting and extraordinarily productive phase. Blanco hosts the world leading Dark Energy Camera. Mayall (with DOE) is embarking on the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) experiment, a five-year survey with an eight-square degree field of view 5000 fiber positioner focal plane. WIYN (with NASA) is deploying a state of the art precision Doppler spectrograph, NEID, to follow up NASA TESS observations, and SOAR is looking to the time domain now and in the LSST era with collaborators Gemini and Las Cumbres Observatory.

The Director of MSO reports to the Director of NCOA and is responsible for leading the NCOA Mid-Scale Observatories (MSO) which operates, maintains, and improves the 4-m class systems and instrumentation suites at Kitt Peak, Cerro Tololo, and Cerro Pachón on behalf of the National Science Foundation (i.e., Blanco, Mayall) and/or telescope consortia with NSF/NCOA involvement (i.e., SOAR, WIYN). The primary work location will be Tucson, Arizona, or La Serena, Chile. Applicants who wish to locate in Chile are especially encouraged to apply. Domestic and international travel will be required.


  • Provides day-to-day management oversight and leadership for MSO and ensures MSO activities are well-supported within the annual NCOA Program Operating Plan and established strategic priorities.
  • Supervises the Directors for Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO).
  • Working with the NCOA Director, Deputy Director, and the Directors of KPNO and CTIO, establishes plans and priorities for MSO that reflect a shared allocation of resources within NCOA and effectively leads challenging activities. Coordinates operations and resource usage with the NCOA service directorates.
  • With the Directors of CTIO and KPNO, develops future plans for high impact science programs to be executed on the mid-scale 4-m telescopes, often in partnership or collaboration with other research consortia including national labs funded by the Department of Energy.
  • Establishes and maintains regular reporting to provide information to the NCOA Director and NCOA Deputy Director on the areas that fall within MSO.
  • Demonstrates for all audiences a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Requirements and Qualifications:

  • A Ph. D. in Astronomy or closely related field
  • Experience in strategic planning, budgetary planning and financial management.
  • Demonstrated strategic and visionary leadership abilities.
  • Demonstrated critical analysis, problem solving, and conflict resolution.
  • Ability to develop and administer effective business and operations plans to meet the needs of NCOA.
  • Ability to handle multiple priorities.
  • Strong communication abilities, both verbal and in writing, including being able to present and communicate ideas effectively.
  • Distinguished record in astronomy or astrophysics, or domain-appropriate equivalent, preferred.

Qualified candidates will be able to demonstrate their skill in leadership, adaptability, teamwork, problem solving, and project management. Must be honest, responsible, dependable, self-motivated, and have proven ability to operate effectively in a complex organization.

If you wish to pursue this opportunity to join the NCOA team, please list three professional references in your application and attach a cover letter and CV or resume (PDF files preferred) describing your skills, relevant experience, and prior work history. Review of applications will begin on November 30 and the position will remain open until filled.

Please name any attachments with the following format: LastnameDocname. Application documents that are not uploaded as part of the application may be sent to employment@aura-astronomy.

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 does 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. The statements below as well as the requests for self-identification are required pursuant to these regulations. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our recordkeeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

Application Deadline: 
Monday, November 12, 2018
Current Status of Position: 
Reviewing Applicants
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